PLANES OF FAME
|Valle is about halfway between Williams and the Grand Canyon at the junction of highways 64 and 180. This small but impressive collection of vintage aircraft, many of which still fly, is an off-shoot of an original flying museum concept that got started almost 30 years ago over in California.
Bob Reid manages Planes of Fame. "We've destroyed so much of the past," he says. "This is kind of our way of preserving a part of the past. You know, you look at all these planes that the young people can come in and look at. And, to me, it's better than looking at pictures in a book."
Well, if you like tromping around where major characters of history once tromped around, there's an old Lockheed Constellation, the stage where one of the century's greatest acts of vanity played out. It was General Douglas MacArthur's personal command plane during World War II, and he was on his way to give his famous "Old Soldiers Never Die" speech.
"He circled Guam." Bob Reid chuckles at the story. "He refused to land until President Harry Truman landed. It was his thing. He wanted Truman to greet him instead of him greeting Truman. And Truman sat on his airplane and refused to get off until MacArthur's landed."
Inside the big hanger they keep other rare and unique aircraft.
"Kind of our show piece here is our A-Model Mustang. It would cruise at 400, 420."
There is an Oka Suicide Bomber used in World War II by the Japanese. It's a sort of one-flight-only, non-returnable aircraft.
"It was launched from a mother ship about 50 miles from the target. It could get up to about 500 miles an hour on the way down. They would release it and once it got over the target it would drop at about a 50 degree angle and it dived straight at the target which would probably be a carrier. It was a kamikaze mission...flew it right into the ship."
Well, none of these aircraft was flying the day we were here, but many of them still take to the air occasionally. And that's where they should be. Up there in the sky, where they helped write the history of the world.
Valle (pronounced "valley" by the locals) is 28 miles north of Williams on Highway 60 and 51 miles from Flagstaff on highway 180. Valle is at the junction of the two highways.