“Mickey Mouse One” also known as Walt’s Plane, a Grumman Gulfstream I, is on its way to its new home in Palm Springs. This comes after it made its grand return at the D23 Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center. From September 9 – 11, Walt Disney’s plane could be seen on display along with an accompanying exhibit that included many mementos, photos, and other historic artifacts. Its new home will be the Palm Springs Air Museum, where it will be on a long-term loan. The arrival of the plane is to be celebrated in mid-October with a new exhibit being built at the museum and then opened on Walt Disney’s birthday, December 5, 2022.
“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. “It is the ideal setting for this incredible icon”
At the Palm Springs Air Museum, visitors will be able to see the plane that has been repainted and given updated wing edges and windows. There will also be rarely exhibited items from the aircraft’s interior on display. This includes a customized instrument panel that was originally placed next to Walt Disney’s favorite seat on the plane. This would allow him to monitor flight conditions. There will also be a telephone handset that gave Walt a direct line of communication with the cockpit and pilot. Along with these artifacts, there will be a flight bag with the image of Mickey Mouse sitting on the tail of this iconic plane and more.
The plane, also known as “The Mouse” was purchased in 1963 by Disney. The inside of the plane was initially designed with the creative input of both Walt and his wife, Lillian. It could seat up to 15 passengers and also included a galley kitchen, two restrooms, two couches, a desk, and also nods to Mickey Mouse. This included matchbooks and stationery that had the silhouette of the mouse who started it all. Mickey’s initials were eventually included on the tail number of the plane as well as the number N234MM in 1967. The plane was in service to The Walt Disney Company for 28 years. Through that time, it flew over 20,000 hours and is estimated to have transported 83,000 passengers before being grounded.
The return of “Mickey Mouse One” comes after an extended stay in Florida at Walt Disney World Resort. The plane had left the West Coast and landed on World Drive near Orlando Florida, at Disney MGM Studios on October 8, 1992. There it remained for decades as a part of the Studio Backlot Tour until 2014. It remained in Florida until the move West for D23 Expo 2022 and then on to the Palm Springs Air Museum. To prepare it for display Walt Disney Imagineering collaborated with D23 to repaint the plane and move it across the country.
Walt’s Plane had quite the story as it was a part of Disney’s history throughout its time flying for The Walt Disney Company. Below are a few of its highlights:
- 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 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 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, who has ties to the Desert. 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, also frequent visitors to the Palm Springs area.
- 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 home to over 75 vintage airframes. This includes aircraft from the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, military planes from World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. There are also significant civilian aircraft on display as well. Many of the aircraft are still airworthy and flown regularly. The planes are housed inside 91,000 square feet of open hangs and also on the tarmac of a ten-acre facility. There are also additional displays and memorabilia showcased throughout different hangers. The museum is open from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM daily. More information about the museum can be found at PalmSpringsAirMuseum.org.
Palm Springs Air Museum is located at:
PALM SPRINGS AIR MUSEUM
745 N. Gene Autry Trail, Palm Springs, CA 92262
(760) 778-6262 / www.PalmSpringsAirMuseum.org
What do you think of Walt’s Plane going on display at the Palm Springs Air Museum? Have you been there before? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!