I love historic planes and explore the feeling of flying in a historic manner. For example, I am really happy to state that I twice flew the Lufthansa Junkers Ju-52/3m before the German airline unfortunately retired it from actively flying. One of the planes, which was very high on my bucket list is the Douglas DC-3. Despite the age, the plane is still rather actively used, but in comparably remote locations (at least, from Central Europe). My late 2023 USA West Coast trip brought me to Palm Springs, whiere the Palm Springs Air Museum gave us the opportunity to have a flight with the C-47 Skytrain, the military version of the flying legend. Of course, I had to take this chance – and share my experience with you in this review.
Palm Springs Air Museum – Location & Admission
The Palm Springs Air Museum is located on the East side of the runways of Palm Springs International Airport (PSP). The museum has a rather large parking lot. Especially as the main terminal is on the opposite side of the runway, you need to have a car or another kind of individual transport to get there, e.g. a taxi or Uber. There will be an additional posting about the museum.
Our flight was scheduled at 10:00, right at the time when the museum was about to open on that day. As you should be at the facility half an hour before the scheduled departure, you could enter the facilities beforehand (e.g. to sign the liability waiver etc.). The C-47 Skytrain is the cheapest of the so-called Warbird Experiences. It is also the only experience which does not come with weight restrictions (I wouldn’t be allowed to do other flights they offer, see below).
Palm Springs Air Museum – Warbird Experiences
The 2024 price for flying a C-47 Skytrain is 195 USD. You pre-book the time slot, they are selling relatively well, so that you definitely should book (rather well) in advance. A flight is having five to ten passengers. In case they are less than five bookings, they will try to move or merge your experience with another date. Of course there are also restrictions in regards of weather or mechanical issues (see also below). You should not bring major luggage to the flight, which is rather obvious, it is a round trip anyway. At the time of writing the C-47 Skytrain experience is offered every Sunday, featuring two flight times, 10:00 and 11:30.
However, the museum does have quite a lot of other flight experiences you can do. These Warbird Experiences are private, you are the only passenger onboard. As all planes are some sort of fighting jets, you can also fly quite interesting and unique planes like a T-6 Texan (595 USD). The most exclusive Warbird Experiences are the P-51 Mustang (1,995 USD) and the first US jet fighter, the T-33 Shooting Star (4,995 USD).
Palm Springs Air Museum – Douglas C-47 Skytrain
The C-47 Skytrain was likely the most famous aircraft for carrying freight and paratroopers before and during World War II battles. It is the military version of the Douglas DC-3. The C-47 Skytrain used in Palm Springs entered the war rather late, being delivered in March 1945. Later, it was used by the French, Belgian and Israeli air force. After it retired from military service in 1997, it served for the US airline Cascade Air. The Palm Springs Air Museum purchased the plane in 2003 and quickly turned it into one of their Warbird Experiences.
The C-47 has two roughly 900kW engines and can cruise at a maximum speed of 226mph. Rated cruise speed is 140mph, though. It could climb up to more than 26,400 feet – however, the museum flights take place at a significantly lower level. As a cargo plane, the C-47 can carry up to 4500 kg. For the Warbird Experience flights, there are three crew members, two pilots and a security officer, who is also doing all the procedures with the passengers before / during the flight.
Views of the Plane
Here are some more views of the C-47 driven by the Palm Springs Air Museum. The plane is registered as N60154, you can spot it on tools like Flightradar24. The pictures have been majorly taken from a test flight the plane is performing without passengers in the morning before the in fact Warbird Experience is taking place. A few snaps are also available from the second flight of the day. As you see, even though the museum has its own hangars and maintenance, the plane is using the same taxiways and runways as the commercial jets operating from Palm Springs International (PSP).
Palm Springs Air Museum – Our Ride
Our flight has been scheduled for 10:00 (on 26th December 2023). However, there have been minor hydraulic problems on the plane, so that there was a delay of some 90 minutes for maintenance, check and the ferry (empty) test flight the museum is taking. This was not too bothering, as we could spent the time walking around the museum. The staff was very clear in messaging, so that we always had a good status. Before the flight, there was a short safety briefing. The C-47 Skytrain is a military jet – so there are just benches on each side. Interesting that some of the seats used military style seat belts. There is first come-first serve seating. Depending on the weather etc., you might have preferences to sit on the left or on the right side. However, I would not see that as too important.
After being airborne for some five minutes, we were also able to unbuckle and walk around the cabin This also included a short visit at the cockpit, which was very interesting. As the plane is not flying too high, you have a great view over Coachella Valley / Greater Palm Springs. The windows have quite a lot of scars, though, which reduces the view and picture quality. During our Warbird Experience, the wind and thermal conditions lead to a very calm flight. Nonetheless, especially take-off and landing are a very interesting (and different from nowadays) experience. The total net flight time without taxiing was about 20 minutes, which lead to a longer flight experience than I expected at booking.
Palm Springs Air Museum – Service
The museum offers a souvenir store as well as bathrooms, which might be helpful before the flight. Any staff we met was very welcoming and friendly. On the other hand, the flight felt to be driven very professionally.
Palm Springs Air Museum – My View
Flying the C-47 Skytrain was an absolute dream to me. The experience was well-managed, the plane was in great condition, I felt safe throughout the whole morning. Even when there were maintenance issues, the Palm Springs Air Museum handled the situation very calm and in a structured way. I also liked that there is a test flight without passengers. The experience was a very fine value for money, so that I overall can only absolutely recommend to have the flight with the museum’s Warbird Experience as well.
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