Brigadier General Michael J. AguilarTo our Many Supporters, Donors, Aviation Museum Enthusiasts and Friends of the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum,

This is the first of a monthly series of articles that I will be providing to update you on our efforts and progress on the relocation of the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum (FLAM) to the City of Irvine’s Great Park, the former MCAS El Toro.

First, I want to thank Congressmen Issa and Peters. Both provided personal and active support in our efforts to help keep the MCAS Miramar Command Museum open when we were informed by the Commanding Officer that he planned to close the museum. Unfortunately, we were unable to reach an agreement with the Marine Corps; but their support and and ongoing efforts are greatly appreciated.

 Prior to the Command Museum closing its doors on April 1, 2021, we were approached by the City of Irvine with an offer to help relocate the museum and its entire aircraft and artifact collection to Great Park, the original home of the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum.

Throughout the spring and summer, and with the support of Representatives Katie Porter and Lou Correa from Orange County, the Marine Corps accepted our proposal for the relocation of the museum to Great Park. This was acknowledged in a Letter of Intent and support signed last December by the Marine Corps.

Accomplishments leading up to the Marine Corps’ support of the relocation plan included a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City of Irvine and the Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation outlining the responsibilities of the two parties for the refurbishment and restoration of the new museum facility and the establishment of exhibits and displays. The formulation of a detailed business plan, financial profit and loss projections, and an initial budget are required for the opening of the museum.

The Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum is now a California registered 501(c)3 corporation. We are awaiting IRS recognition and approval. A FLAM Advisory Board and committees to outline and plan for the creation and operational requirements of the new museum have been established.

The City of Irvine has continued to move forward with their part of the project by recently entering into a $6.8 million dollar contract with an architectural and engineering (A&E) firm for the design and planning of the 120 acres of the Cultural Terrace, which includes the new museum facility.

Finally, a “soft” major fundraising campaign plan targeting a goal of $5 million to be raised over the next two years has been launched. I am pleased to share with you that, after only nine months, we have raised $4.8 million in actual donations and pledges. I hope you can appreciate the full extent of the effort that went into accomplishing these tasks.

We are now in the process of reviewing the draft MOU, which will be signed by the City of Irvine, USMC, and FLHF or FLAM. This MOU will commit each party to the relocation and establishment of the museum.

We are scheduled to meet with the engineering team later this month to begin discussion on exterior and interior design requirements for the museum. We are partnered with a very experienced firm, Siteline Productions, to help our Advisory Board committees with the design and layout of the museum’s display and exhibits, office and workspaces, and visitor support activities and accommodations.

Cleanup of the surrounding areas and the hangar is scheduled to begin in four or five months. This includes the relocation of the city’s contracted recycling and mulching operations, which will be completed by early next year.

As is typical with any project of this size and complexity, there is a great deal of planning and coordination that needs to take place prior to any visible change taking place within the Cultural Terrace Complex. With the commitments from the City of Irvine and the USMC along with your continued support, we will have a world class museum in the not-too-distant future. The Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum will honor the history and legacy of Marine Corps Aviation, highlight Marine Corps Aviation’s contribution to the development of Orange County and the surrounding area, and provide opportunities for our youth to experience and be inspired by the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math disciplines necessary for them to succeed in the workplace and keep our nation at the forefront of an ever competitive and multifaceted world economy.

Thank you again for your ongoing interest and support of the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum.

Semper Fi,

BGen Michael Aguilar, USMC retired

President, Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum

Photo: Aerial View of Hangar 296 at Great Park, Irvine, CA, the future home of the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum.