Construction has begun on a new Museum of Flying at the Santa Monica Airport.

Members of the Museum of Flying Board of Directors, along with Museum of Flying Chairman David Price and Santa Monica Airport Director Robert Trimborn officially broke ground Friday, Jan. 21 at the future museum site at 3100 Airport Ave., Santa Monica.

After a nine-year absence, the Museum of Flying will return to Santa Monica Airport at a location adjacent to the DC-3 Monument and statue of Donald Douglas, founder of the Douglas Aircraft Company. The Museum of Flying first opened in 1989 on the north side of the airport but due to economic challenges, the facility was forced to close in 2002. The collection and many of the aircraft have been stored in hangars at the Santa Monica Airport or were loaned to other museums.

Since the temporary closure, museum officials have been working with the city of Santa Monica on an effort to reopen the museum. The resulting plan calls for remodeling and expanding an existing building by 8,000 square feet to provide ample space to exhibit a collection of aircraft, artifacts, aviation art, and expanded educational offerings with hands-on interactive exhibits.

The 22,000-square foot, $3 million museum will feature nearly two-dozen aircraft chronicling the history of flight, from a Wright Flyer replica to aircraft from the jet age, said museum spokesman Dan Ryan.

The Museum of Flying is dedicated to preserving the rich history of the growth and development of aviation and aerospace in Southern California, with special emphasis placed on the history of the Douglas Aircraft Company and Santa Monica Airport. As the former home of the Douglas company, the Santa Monica Airport was the birthplace of the Douglas World Cruisers, the first aircraft to circumnavigate the globe.

In the early 1930s, the airport witnessed the first flights of the famous DC-3 aircraft that virtually changed the field of commercial aviation and air travel worldwide.

“We want to teach the community what the blessings of this facility are and about the company and the people who created so many things,” Price said.

Ryan said the museum will continue to develop and expand its educational programs through special programs, presentations and a lecture series. Among the featured exhibits will be a Children’s Interactive Area where children will be able to access the cockpit simulator of a T-33 jet trainer.

“We want to create a home for the kids but also all the neighbors and retirees,” Price said.

The museum will also become the official home to the California Aviation Hall of Fame.

Trimborn said some of the most storied figures in the history of aviation at one point called the Santa Monica Airport home.

“The museum represents that legacy that the airport still embodies,” he said.

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