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There's A Curator In The Cockpit

METROPOLIS / SOSOCAL

June 24, 2001|THOMAS MCKELVEY CLEAVER

The president of the "Planes of Fame" Air Museum at Chino Airport doesn't lack for job qualifications. If you've watched television or gone to the movies in the past 25 years, chances are you've seen Steve Hinton flying. "When I was 5, I saw the movie 'The Hunters,' about fighter pilots in the Korean War," remembers the 49-year-old film and race pilot. "I fell in love with the F-86 Sabre and just knew I wanted to fly one."

Thirty years and 10,000 flying hours later, Hinton has flown nearly 200 different airplanes, ranging from a World War I Sopwith Camel to that F-86 Sabre. Currently, Hinton can be seen flying a B-25 Mitchell bomber off the deck of the retired U.S. aircraft carrier Lexington in a re-creation of the Doolittle Tokyo raid in Disney's "Pearl Harbor."

As a Claremont second-grader, Hinton met classmate Jim Maloney, who would be his friend and flying partner until Maloney's death in a flying accident in 1983. The classic WWII planes collected by Jim's father, Ed Maloney, are among more than 150 historic planes--most in flying condition--housed at the Chino museum and its satellite location at Arizona's Valle Airport.

Today Hinton--now Ed Maloney's son-in-law--oversees piloting and maintenance for all those war birds and programs such as the museum's exhibition flights and monthly history seminars. His restoration company, Fighter Rebuilders, has put more than 40 World War II-era airplanes from around the world back in the air. "Flying airplanes like these was the only job I ever wanted," he says, "and it's the only job I've ever had."

"Planes of Fame" air museum at Chino airport, 7000 merrill Ave., Chino; (909) 597-3722.

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