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Walt Disney’s Airplane Returns to Palm Springs

Walt Disney’s Airplane Returns to Palm Springs
Walt Disney’s Grumman Gulfstream I plane will travel from D23 Expo 2022 in Anaheim to Palm Springs, California

The D23 Team

Walt Disney’s Grumman Gulfstream I plane will travel from D23 Expo 2022 in Anaheim to Palm Springs, California, where it will be celebrated October 15, when it is displayed alongside the Palm Springs Air Museum collection. The announcement of the plane’s next stop was made by Bob Chapek, Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company, at a media preview of D23 Expo Thursday evening in Anaheim, California.

A new exhibit will be constructed at the Air Museum, set to open on Walt Disney’s birthday, December 5. The new exhibit will highlight the history of the plane—affectionately known as “The Mouse”—and showcase its significance to The Walt Disney Company’s history and its relevance to the Palm Springs Area.

The Cotino community near Sunnylands will be the first Storyliving by Disney development, and the location was selected in part due to the personal connection Walt Disney had to the Coachella Valley

“We are so happy to have Walt’s plane make a ‘landing’ at the Palm Springs Air Museum, just a few miles from where Walt and his family had vacation homes at Smoke Tree Ranch,” said Walt Disney Archives director Rebecca Cline of the plane, which will be on long-term loan to the museum. “It is the ideal setting for this incredible icon.”

The newly repainted plane with updated wing edges and windows will be on view along with rarely exhibited items from the aircraft’s interior, including a customized instrument panel originally located near Walt’s favorite onboard seat (allowing him to monitor flight conditions); a telephone handset (giving Walt a direct line of communication to the pilot in the cockpit); a flight bag featuring an image of Mickey Mouse sitting on the tail of the iconic plane; and more.

For D23 Expo, Walt’s plane returned to the West Coast for the first time since October 8, 1992, when the aircraft landed on World Drive near Orlando, Florida, at the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios), where it resided as a part of the Studio Backlot Tour until 2014. The recent exterior repaint and finishing work, along with the cross-country move of the aircraft, was made possible thanks to collaboration and support from Walt Disney Imagineering. The exhibit of the plane at D23 Expo was presented by Amazon.

“It’s an honor for us to be here today to introduce Walt’s Plane to all of you,” Chapek said at the D23 Expo Media Preview. “As you can see, our friends the [Walt Disney] Archives and our friends at Imagineering have restored [the aircraft] to its full original glory, and we had it transported here so it could be a focal point for our celebration this year.  After it leaves here, it’s essentially going back to its roots, and it will be celebrated, obviously, by all the folks who get a chance to see it.”

In 1963, Walt acquired the iconic Gulfstream that would come to be known as “The Mouse.” The interior of the plane, initially designed with creative input from Walt and his wife, Lillian, seated up to 15 passengers and included a galley kitchen, two restrooms, two couches, a desk, and nods to the mouse who started it all, including matchbooks and stationery adorned with a silhouette of Mickey Mouse. Mickey’s initials were eventually included in the tail number of the plane, too, as N234MM, in 1967.

Throughout its 28 years of service to The Walt Disney Company, the plane flew 20,000 hours and transported an estimated 83,000 passengers before it was grounded.

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When they visit the Palm Spring Air Museum, guests will have the opportunity to learn about the role this iconic plane has played throughout the company’s history, including:

  • In 1963, Walt, members of his family, and company executives took off on a demonstration Gulfstream aircraft to explore potential locations, including Central Florida, for a proposed development often referred to as “Project X.” After Walt received his own Gulfstream in early 1964, he made several trips to Florida that ultimately laid the foundation to bring the magic of Walt Disney World Resort to life.
  • Walt’s plane flew a total of 277,282 miles back and forth between Burbank and New York to oversee preparations before and during the 1964–1965 New York World’s Fair, an event that brought iconic attractions such as “it’s a small world” to an East Coast audience and, later, to Disneyland.
  • The plane also took Disneyland Park to new heights as Walt found inspiration for the look of the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction as he flew over the El Moro fortress in San Juan, Puerto Rico, while conducting research for the now fan favorite.
  • “The Mouse” has a star-studded past, having been used for promotional tours for Disneyland as well as for classic movies such as The Jungle Book (1967), as well as making appearances in The Walt Disney Studios films The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969) and Now You See Him, Now You Don’t (1972), both of which starred Disney Legend Kurt Russell. The aircraft has also transported notable guests including Disney Legends Julie Andrews and Annette Funicello, as well as former U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.
  • Painted blue and white in 1985, Walt’s plane embarked on goodwill tours and character visits to children’s hospitals, adding to the company’s history of giving back to the community.

The Palm Springs Air Museum is a living history museum that contains more than 75 vintage airframes from the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, across the spectrum of military aviation, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the F-117 Stealth Fighter inside the new Jim Houston Pavilion, to significant civilian aircraft such as Clay Lacey’s Lear 24. The planes are housed inside 91,000 square feet of open hangars and on the tarmac at a 10-acre facility. To learn more visit PalmSpringsAirMuseum.org or call 760-778-6262 during business hours.

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