Official opening of Aviation Museum
of Santa Paula celebrated

August 15, 2014
Santa Paula News

Short bursts of rain couldn’t dampen the celebration for the official opening of the Aviation Museum of Santa Paula held at the recent First Sunday Open House at Santa Paula Airport.

“The museum is a great asset to showcase another rich facet of what Santa Paula has that makes our city so unique,” said City Councilman Martin Hernandez. 

The backdrop of history was perfect for showing off the Aviation Museum of Santa Paula where photos, costumes, videos and genuine artifacts from the 1930 opening of the airport are on display and still cause for celebration 84 years later.

Although the String of Hangars Museum has been open for years, the now-permanent building detailing the history of the airport is still considered Hangar #1. Others dot the airport where generous hangar owners open their doors once a month to show off their unique personal collections for the touring public.

Bruce Dickenson, whose grandfather Ralph partnered with Dan Emmett in 1928 to raise the funds to open the airport, is now Vice President of the AMSP Board.

He noted Board President Judy Phelps was attending the famous aviation event in Oshkosh.

Dickenson and Emmett “recognized the need for an airport,” after their own airfields were washed away in the St. Francis Dam Disaster, which also left the stripped area that became the airport.

“In two weeks my grandfather raised $19,000,” to create what is now referred to as the “Gem of Santa Paula... it has a rich-rich history,” now showcased at the museum.

It was the late Bob and Sally Phelps and Bruce and his wife Janice Dickenson who initiated the idea of a museum.

“The participation of Bob and Sally was phenomenal,” and Dickenson said the public responded with donations and the support that made the Chain of Hangars and the now permanent museum building possible.

“This airport is a museum in itself,” he noted and, “We’re incredibly thankful,” to all who helped make the museum a reality.

Jim Phelps said his late father Bob was the museum’s “First and only president” who once “mentioned he had one dream... to have a central focal point, a regular museum building.”

The effort began in 1998, the same year Bob started teaching Judy Phelps, his son Clay’s wife, how to fly; Judy is now a nationally acclaimed aerobatic instructor.

Jim Phelps said when father’s health declined in 2008, “Judy occupied the left seat and became the pilot in command,” of the museum.

Bob Phelps’ 90th birthday was celebrated in the building that became the museum; he died two weeks later in April 2009, followed by the death of his beloved Sally - a behind the museum scenes dynamo - in November.

Wrote Judy in a note read by Jim: “Today we are celebrating the day Sally and Bob had been waiting for and they would be proud... “

“Janice has been the spark to finish the museum,” said Bruce Dickenson. “She took over where Sally left off... “

Councilman Martin Hernandez, representing the city, addressed the crowd, as did representatives of Rep. Julia Brownley, State Senator Hannah Beth Jackson, Assemblyman Das Williams and Supervisor Kathy Long. 

Janice Dickenson said many physically labored to create the museum, while others such as Christine Wells and Judy McCarthy donated memorabilia, “Such wonderful treasures,” and/or support in publicity and fundraising.

Chamber of Commerce CEO/President Fred Robinson said the business organization “Partners with the airport,” on many levels, and the museum “Is a wonderful attraction for even more visitors... “

“This was a dream for some of us, a passion for others,” said Bruce Dickenson. “It’s financially sound, and self-sustaining.”

But the airport is much more than the aircraft that once garnered it the title of Antique Airplane Capital of the World: “It’s not the tin, not the fabric, not the engines... it’s the people that make our airport have a life of its own, and it’s something Santa Paula can be proud of.”

The museum - “Where local aviation history comes alive!” - is open to the public the First Sunday of each month from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Airport is located at 800 Santa Maria St.

For more information call 805-525-1109, or visit

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Tel: 805 525-6048


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