PCAM History – The First Thirty Years (Chapter 2)

March 1, 2019

By Lynn Hunt

The very first official PCAM meeting was held on February 4, 1990. Initially our meetings were filled with the normal tasks like choosing a name, investigating articles of incorporation, developing a mission statement and an organizational chart. We needed a board of directors and a set of by-laws. The meetings continued in a quaint location, the ground floor room in the base of the control tower at the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport (KSTS). It was only about 10’ by 20’ but we seemed to have plenty of room for those in attendance. We began to have regular monthly meetings there and unlike most air museums we have continued that tradition to this day. One of our members worked in a print shop and was anxious to start a newsletter, another tradition that continues. Other members began working on by-laws. At one of our earlier meetings we brainstormed a list of names and through consensus picked the one most popular. At another meeting we took on the task of crafting a mission statement, a sentence or two that would act to define what the organization was about. We entered into discussions about acquiring aircraft. Things seemed to be falling into place but something was missing. We didn’t have a home.

PCAM’s current headquarters began life during construction of the Santa Rosa Army Airfield as a dope and fabric shop. During the 1980’s it housed a fiberglass facility and was later abandoned. At that time it was just a shell of a building with a leaky roof and mounds of hardened resin on the floor. What is now the gift shop office was just sitting nearby and not even connected to the main building. All of it was unheated and in need of work and it was available for rent from the county.

Enter one Larry Rengstorf. At the time, Larry worked for the FAA and frequented the airport front office which gave him opportunities to speak with management about renting the facility. After some badgering and arm-twisting Larry negotiated the rent to be $300 per month. We were also told that whatever we spent to rehabilitate the building could be deducted from the monthly rent. So, at least now we had a home, so to speak.

Enter one Russ Etchell. Russ was also a founding member and was well experienced in the construction trades. In fact, we were about to find out that Russ could do just about everything. In looking back, about the only thing we had to pay for was the dumpster which was quickly filled. Sheet rock showed up courtesy of Lee Donham, a museum member. Russ floated in a new concrete floor rather than deal with the old resin. In a short period of time we had new wiring, walls, paint and a roll-up door, and a new furnace was installed.

Russ was the key to all of it and made sure we had a nice home. We were soon holding our monthly meetings in what is now the gift shop. It seems small now compared with our current facility but at that time it worked just fine. Now we would be able to turn our resources toward acquiring and restoring aircraft – but, that’s another story.

Be sure to tune in next month for the continuing story of PCAM History: The First Thirty Years.


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.