Photos © Ruud Leeuw

USA Southwest 2008

Milestones of Flight museum - Lancaster-Fox Field, CA

Milestones of Flight air museum
In 1997 I had visited Lancaster-Fox Field too, but found the museum closed. This time I was more lucky and ran into Jim Vancil who is the caretaker & guide and who lives in a trailer here, with his wife Cheri, taking care of business for the past 6 years or so.

The museum is privately owned, under ownership of Frank Roberts (Chairman of the Board), Barbara Lilley (President) and Mac Mendoza (Vice President & Curator). Mac's name came up a number of times in the information Jim spilled over me, as the owner of various planes.
The large building is a former A&P hangarschool.
Here is a page of Bob Ogden's excellent guidebook on North American Air Museums and Collections listing details of the museum and the collection.

I remember seeing a photo in a 1981 copy (Vol.12) of Propliner magazine, an 1968 aerial shot, of 64 stored propliners here at Fox Field: 32 L.1049 Constellations and 22 DC-7's among them... now those were the days!
Sure glad there are people concerned with preservation of aircraft, hope you enjoy this report.

Fairchild C-119B Flying Boxcar N13745 (c/n 10304, ex/ 48-0322)

Tanker 82, C-119 N13745 - up for auction
The museum has closed and aircraft are being disposed of, e.g. this C-119 being offered through auction

MY 2018 REPORT shows the condition of this C-119 has deteriorated considerably...

My tourguide, Jim Vancil
Jim Vancil showed me around and had plenty to show and tell. There was tragedy too, this day: Jim was calling out for his cat, Tiger, but it seemed it had fallen victim to the coyotes (like 3 other cats of his).
Jim is a former P&W engineer and he is a fountain of knowledge!

Armstrong Whitworth AW660 Argosy C.1 N1430Z (c/n 6779).
The museum has installed engines now but hasn't found any props as yet.

Boeing C-97G Stratofreighter 53-0272 (c/n 17054)
A cargodoor has been swapped for equipment to remodel it into a tanker (the boom not yet installed)

Hughes' B-25 Mitchell
This B-25C Mitchell bomber (N3968C), with its executive interior, was once owned by Howard Hughes.
Jim told me an anecdote: 'when Mr Hughes took his wife for his honeymoon to New York they departed the California in this Mitchell but when the weather over the Midwest turned bad he set her down somewhere and continued by train. Month later, the airport manager phoned the Hughes company and asked when mr Howard Hughes was going to collect his plane... When the message was relayed to Howard Hughes and learned the name of the airport, his remark was: "Oh, is that where I left it..!?!"
Jim also told me that the museum had received a request to swap this plane with some other aircraft and they were seriously considering doing it; the new owner was interested in changing it back into WW2 appearance.
As you can see by below update, that did not happen.

Update as read in Scramble magazine (nov.2015 #438):
N3968C was reg'd 19Aug2015 to San Simeon Air LLC (San Francisco,CA).
The aircraft is a very rare B-25C (41-13251), once operated by Howard Hughes; it is to be restored to the corporate transport configuration while operated by Hughes Tool Inc. in 1953.
A bit of history on this unique warbird-gone-executive-
After delivery to the military in 1942 it was sold to the Texas Railway Equipment Corp. of Houston,TX in 1946.
A year later it was registered as N75635, for one Robert harlow of Houston.
The Mitchell went abroad to operate with Fuerza Aerea Dominicana, as FAD 2502, until 1952. It then went through the ownership of two more civilian operators before landing with Hughes Tool Inc. and reg'd as N3968C in Jan.1953.
In July 1974 it ended up here in Lancaster,CA with Antelope Valley Aero Museum.
Neither this museum nor its successor, Milestones of Flight Museum, did much to restore the B-25 one way or another.
Apparently the museum was recently closed and its assets were available for disposal.
It is expected that the restoration of the B-25 will take place on a different location.

I read the following update on 07Aug16 (WIX):
"The restoration would seem to be progressing at Ezell - there was a photo I saw on Facebook taken at Ezell's last month, showing the fully paint-stripped cockpit section of the B-25C.
There always seems to be a lot happening at Ezell's - up until just a few weeks ago, they had a total of four Corsairs in the shop at one time (2 restorations, 1 annual, 1 in for repairs), among other projects."
That would be in Breckenridge, Texas (Stephens County Airport).

Scott Thompson wrote the following clarification on WIX forum (august 2016):
"... this may only be read here by a few, and I just can’t stand it any more. Thirty plus-Decades [sic] ago, I read a lot about Howard Robard Hughes and the people that were his most trusted associates.
I also learned a little about this B-25C which many believe was owned and operated by the brilliant Howard Robard Hughes.
Howard Hughes never entered the plane, he never flew the plane.

Howard Hughes owned the B-25, since he owned the Hughes Tool Company and his money bought the Mitchell, which owned another B-25, which was NL75831 (subsequently N2825B) which was being phased out of service by the Hughes corporation.

N3968C was to be the VIP transport aircraft for Mr. Noah Dietrich who was a brilliant man in his own right, and actually saved Howard Hughes’ butt many times.
Mr. Dietrich was the right hand man, the bag man, for Howard Hughes; in fact Mr. Dietrich was the Director-Vice President of the Hughes Tool Company, Director-Chairman of the Board of the Executive Committee of TWA, Chairman of the Board of RKO Pictures, and the Director of Hughes Aircraft. He was trusted by Hughes and carried out the written and telephonic requests of Hughes.
Mr. Dietrich was a Company man, believed in and trusted Hughes, who believed in and trusted Noah Dietrich.
Mr. Dietrich decided one day, that he needed a later model VIP transport. Without running the purchase of this B-25C by Howard Hughes, Mr. Dietrich bought the plane and had it delivered for refit to VIP configuration.
Hughes subsequently saw a bill regarding the B-25Cs new interior, and was told that Mr. Dietrich had authorized the refurbishment of the plane. Hughes went ballistic and blew a couple of jugs because he had not 'authorized' a project of which he had no control over. Hughes was a control freak (among other mental disorders). He ordered his chief mechanic to take the plane to the strip where he had his other planes parked (which had to be moved regularly and turned into the wind), and grounded in Culver City, which is where it set until acquired by Antelope Valley Air Museum of Lancaster.
Hughes began to wrongfully distrust Dietrich, and eventually forced him from the company.
Hughes was known to favor the Lockheed Loadstar. The Boston Havoc also owned by the Hughes Corporation (also acquired by the Antelope Valley Air Museum), was actually flown by Hughes, but very rarely.
The B-25C N3968C was to be the VIP transport of Mr. Noah Dietrich, the Chief Executive Officer of the Hughes empire, but never pressed into service by the corporation."

Guess I like the earlier anecdote, of the B-25 abandoned mid-West during Hughes' honeymoon better! -Webmaster.

Click here to go to (slide) presentation
There is more, much more... So click on the above image to go to a presentation that will take you through the 2 buildings and inside the C-119, Stratocruiser and the Argosy. Enjoy!

Thanks to Jim Vancil for his time and all the information he poured into me!

See MY 2018 REPORT, from outside the fence for the museum was closed years ago.

The Road Goes On... back to US Southwest 2008

Reactions / comments welcomed.