In February 2020, I visited a lovely aviation museum in Santa Ana, Greater Los Angeles: the Lyon Air Museum is named after its founder, Major General William Lyon, who unfortunately passed away a few months after my visit. Here is a review of the museum, which has been created by the former World War II pilot, who was by the way also a chairman of the American Air Museum on the IWM Duxford site in England.
Lyon Air Museum – Location & Admission
Lyon Air Museum is located right West of John Wayne Airport, Santa Ana. It is located in a former airport’s hangar and is thus comparably easy to find by car from the I-405 Interstate. As the airport’s terminal is located on the opposite side of the runways, walking to the museum from there is at least very challenging. There are no other public transport options.
The museum is open 10:00 to 16:00 hrs, daily. General Admission is 13 USD at the time of writing. During my visit, there was a member’s event, so that the setup of the museum may be slightly different than you will find it when visiting Lyon Air Museum.
Lyon Air Museum – The Visit
The museum is more or less one huge exhibition area space. The museum is not purely an aviation museum, but also features (civil) automobiles as well as military vehicles and motorcycles. There are minor exhibits at the walls of the building and at a gallery on the upper level, which also leads to a lovely view. Especially the planes and cars are well well described.
Lyon Air Museum – The Cars / Motorcycles
To be straight, I have rather been interested in the planes of Lyon Air Museum. Maybe also as I undeniably just prepared less for the cars and motorcycles before my visit, I was amazed by the collection of vehicles and their great condition. Don’t get confused by the highlight selection on the museum’s website – this place owns some mroe real gems of transport history.
Without a doubt, the most impressive car (maybe even the most impressive exhibit of all) is a 1939 Mercedes-Benz G4. you might already see on the pictures that the car comes with some special equipment: bullet-proof windows and pistol holster tell you that this car has originally been delivered to Adolf Hitler, who also used the it in the Obersalzberg region. A very civil, but still absolutely amazing exhibit is the 1940’s Divco Helms Bakery Truck.
Lyon Air Museum – The Planes
The planes at Lyon Air Museum were just amazing. The first pictures are taken of the Douglas DC-3, which you find rather frequently in museums. The interesting thing about this plane is the special Flagship Orange County livery. Another aviation museum classic was the Douglas C-47 Skytrain (or: Dakota) in military colors.You can enter both planes, which is of course a nice experience.
The museum, however, features some other really cool planes. The North American Aviation B-25 with its two cockpit-alike cabins in the front is likely as iconic as the livery of the 1950’s Cessna O-1E Birddog. The chromium-metallic look of the AT-6/SNJ-6 is another beauty on the museum’s premises.
There are also a bunch of other minor items, for example war memorabilia and explanations about the plane movements during WWII.
Lyon Air Museum – My View
Wow, I did not expect such a good and detailed place right next to John Wayne Airport. To be honest, I was shocked that there is an original Adolf Hitler car in display, that far away from its original home location. The planes are in perfect condition, the staff was really friendly and were very keen that I had a good time in Santa Ana. I definitely recommend this place to you if you are around.