PCAM History – The First Thirty Years (Chapter 1)

February 1, 2019

by Lynn Hunt

A question sure to be asked more than a few times during this 30th year might be “how did PCAM get started?” The answer is slightly complicated but still vivid in the memories of the dwindling few who were there to see it all unfold. While reaching back in time to dust off those old memories it is only natural to remark about the thirty years that have elapsed and how quickly they have passed. However, those thirty years are interlaced with many memorable key events that make up PCAM’s history. The following  blog posts will revisit some of these special events that form the essence of our identity in an effort to document and pass on to our current members the remarkable heritage that we enjoy.

So, how did we get started? It was a gradual process and not attributed to a particular event. There was no Big Bang or a visit from a prophet. It started as an idea that was probably cultivated around a BBQ or on a bar stool. It continued to evolve in living rooms and hangars before it finally emerged. But to really understand how it came to pass, let’s go back even further and study the aviation landscape as it was during the 1980’s.

In the 1980’s, things were really happening over at EAA 124. New builds were being finished at an alarming pace. The Chapter was thriving and there was activity everywhere. All elements of the EAA were represented although most of the energy was consumed by the growth of new composite designs. Down at Lloyd Hamilton’s hangar the crew was busy building an unlimited racing Sea Fury with a corn cob R4360 engine. Lloyd’s operation and the crew that trained there formed the spawning ground for what would later comprise the founding members of PCAM. A careful examination of PCAM DNA will clearly show the presence of large traces of EAA 124.

Through the 80’s there had been a steady growth of warbirds and antique aircraft as more and more people joined the ranks. The 1980’s also boasted many more air shows than we enjoy today and it was normal for a large contingent of Santa Rosa-based aircraft to attend. These large numbers helped to provide a critical mass that made our early attempts at public events successful. We might not have been a proper museum in those early days but we sure looked and acted the part. Also, knowing there is strength in numbers the Santa Rosa warbird contingent over time became a close-knit group and frequently relied on the group’s synergy to problem-solve. This group also provided an attractive forum for others with similar interests to join with as they found their presence welcome.  From this concoction emerged what would become an essential ingredient in forming a museum, that being large doses of goodwill when it came to old, cool airplanes.

Another factor that initially contributed to the level of interest in forming a museum was the potential financial benefits that might come from organizing one. We watched from a distance as what was then the Confederate Air Force appeared to flourish with the interest and financial support from large donors. While none of us were accountants or tax attorneys, our collective best guess was that somewhere could be found financial incentives and a possible return on our investment given the substantial amounts we were spending on these airplanes each month. While this proved to be a great motivator it never came to fruition and fortunately several other redeeming values kept the momentum alive.

A FAMILY-FRIENDLY PLACE WITH HISTORY YOU CAN TOUCH!

There’s always something great going on at the Pacific Coast Air Museum. We have Open Cockpit weekends once a month,  special events throughout the year, and regular hot dog lunches. We host school field trips, special group tours, birthday parties, and family get-togethers, all among our collection of historic aircraft and educational exhibits.

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