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Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum Coming to the Great Park


Rendering of the future Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum obtained from a City presentation

The Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum is preparing to land at its new permanent home in the Great Park.

The Irvine City Council recently approved a pre-development agreement that should lead to the groundbreaking for the museum as early as next year.

A state-of-the-art 100,000 square foot museum is being built in the Cultural Terrace area of the Great Park, adjacent to the existing Sports Complex. It will feature more than 40 aircraft as well as related artifacts and displays — including an ejection seat, radar, night vision and air traffic control exhibits. There will also be a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education facility.

Meanwhile, aircraft for the new museum are being housed and refurbished in Hangar 296.

The pre-development agreement is the penultimate step in the return of the museum to the land that is now the Great Park. The Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum began at the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in 1989. When the base closed in 1999, the museum’s aircraft and artifacts were moved to the Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego. In 2022, the museum and the City of Irvine signed a memorandum of understanding to bring the aviation museum back to the site of the former El Toro base. The museum’s aircraft, artifacts and machinery were packed up and moved to the Great Park in December 2023.
The agreement lays out the steps the museum and City will now take leading up to the City granting a ground lease to the museum, the final step before construction, said Steve Torelli, the City’s manager of administration and operations. These steps include site work by the City, finalizing financing, construction plans and a contractor for the project, and preparing to issue permits.

“We’re really excited about the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum,” said Mayor Farrah Khan.
“The Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum has had a long journey back to its home here in Irvine,” said Vice Mayor Larry Agran, “but this is becoming a reality — aircraft have already returned. I am confident it is going to be a wonderful amenity in our Great Park, and the aviation museum will help in so many ways to connect younger people, and older people as well, with our City’s rich military history.”
Both Khan and Agran noted that a helicopter on display at the recent CicloIrvine/Open Streets community event proved very popular, which bodes well for the planned aviation museum. “It drew families like a magnet,” said Agran.

To view the aviation museum plans, click here.

Roger Bloom


Irvine, CA
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