Lyon Air Museum (LAM) proudly displays vintage WWII aircraft and vehicles along with a handful of classic cars. A world class museum, Lyon Air Museum also provides hands on learning experiences with interactive displays. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to sit in an actual cockpit? What a view out of an actual C-45 windshield looks like? What the instruments look like in an airplane? Well now you can make the connection and see all of these things and more when you sit in the museum’s fully restored SNB-5 (C-45 Twin Beech) cockpit. As a wonderful learning tool, you can experience the instruments, seats, levers, controls, switches, and buttons of an actual cockpit, a true piece of history.
This cockpit and plane has a unique history and is somewhat a celebrity. Few will recognize this particular airplane is the one used in a Hollywood movie called Amelia Earhart: The Final Flight. Released in 1994, the movie starring Diane Keaton and Bruce Dern, went on to be a very successful film. Although this plane was not the actual type Amelia flew (she flew a Lockheed Electra 10E) it looked close enough to pass Hollywood standards. The plane also had to be modified slightly by installing a top hatch that did not come on this particular model. It was sent to Fighter Rebuilders in Chino California, who at the time provided props for the movie industry. A very young A&P mechanic who worked there cut a hole in the plane and installed a makeshift hatch. Ironically, the plane was purposely crashed during a scene in the movie to simulate an accident during takeoff, an event that really happened.
The museum president, Mark Foster visited the Fantasy of Flight Museum in Florida. There he came upon the concept of an open cockpit for patrons to enjoy. Upon return, he assigned the task of locating and restoring a cockpit to a qualified volunteer, Matt Walker. Matt located a potential plane at Aero Trader, an aviation company with a boneyard full of various planes and parts. They acquired it and Mark traveled to look at the fuselage of the SNB-5 Twin Beech (Navy version of a C-45) to use as the educational display he had in mind. While inspecting the piece, he noticed the crude top hatch. Could it be? Yes it was! A smile crept onto his face and a twinkle was in his eye. He was the young A&P mechanic who installed the hatch so many years earlier. Needless to say, the cockpit area was skillfully restored with complete instrumentation by Matt Walker, George Scott and others. It now is proudly displayed at Lyon Air Museum in full view of its president’s office window.
Matt Walker stands with SNB-5 Fuselage
Docents George Scott, Bob LaFramboise, and Dennis Arrobio pose next to the SNB-5 during their restoration efforts
What are the odds? There were over 9,000 planes of that type built and distributed throughout the world. Twenty years later, one of those planes reconnects with a young A&P mechanic who is now the president of an aviation museum where it has been brought back to life and displayed for people to enjoy. So please, come to Lyon Air Museum and take the time to sit in the cockpit and make the connection.