The Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum was initially established in 1989 on the grounds of MCAS El Toro in Orange County, CA. When the base closed in 1999, all the aircraft and artifacts were moved to MCAS Miramar where the famous movie Top Gun with Tom Cruise was filmed. The Flying Leatherneck is the only museum in the world exclusively dedicated to the preservation of Marine Corps aviation history. The outdoor exhibit includes over 30 aircraft and other military vehicles and equipment. The small indoor facility has memorabilia from WWI to present day and also includes a section on Marines in the NASA space program.
All aircraft on display are very well preserved and range from WWII (General Motors FM-2 Wildcat, North American SNJ-5 Texan) through Korean conflict (McDonnell F2H-2 Banshee, Grumman F9F-2 Panther), Vietnam era (McDonnell-Douglas A-4M Skyhawk, McDonnell-Douglas F-4S Phantom II), cold war (Northrop Grumman EA-6B Prowler, Grumman A-6E Intruder) to the present day (Sikorsky CH-53A Sea Stallion, McDonnell-Douglas F/A-18A Hornet).
The museum’s Boeing Vertol CH-46E Sea Knight is also known as “Lady Ace” and flew the last Ambassador of the United States to South Vietnam out of the country in 1975 prior to the Fall of Saigon. Another aircraft in the collection, the McDonnell-Douglas A-4M Skyhawk II with a characteristic blue paint job, was the last A-4 ever produced. It is also featured on a large welcome banner at the museum’s entrance.
When planning a visit in the summer make sure to check the schedule for the Open Cockpit Days and don’t forget to put the nearby MCAS Miramar Air Show on your calendar. It usually occurs in September.
Museum admission is free, however donations are greatly appreciated.