Lyon Air Museum hosts royal visitor

Lyon Air Museum, a Southern California showcase for vintage military aircraft and automobiles, played host on Thursday, Dec. 1, to Prince Edward, His Royal Highness, The Duke of Kent. The English royal family member traveled to the U.S. with key people from the American Air Museum in Britain as part of a fundraising trip.

Prince Edward, 76, who carries out royal duties on behalf of his first cousin Queen Elizabeth II, flew into John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana aboard a private charter jet and spent a few hours touring the facility as the guest of Lyon Air Museum’s founder, Maj. Gen. William Lyon, USAF (Ret), who serves as the U.S. chairman of the board of trustees of the American Air Museum in Britain.

The Duke of Kent gave his hosts the impression that Lyon Air Museum was one of the highlights of his visit to the U.S. due to the facility’s unmatched offerings and its uniqueness among vintage aircraft museums worldwide. Following the brief tour, Prince Edward and his entourage joined Gen. Lyon and his family, as well as Lyon Air Museum President Mark Foster and others, for dinner at the Lyon estate in Coto de Caza.

Prince Edward is a patron of the American Air Museum in Britain, which stands as a memorial to the 30,000 American airmen who gave their lives flying from UK bases during World War II, and also honors those who fought in Korea, Vietnam, Libya, Iraq and other conflicts and battles of the 20th and 21st centuries. Accompanying Prince Edward were Richard Ashton, director and executive vice president at the American Air Museum and Imperial War Museums (IWM) Duxford, Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Squire, president of the American Air Museum board of trustees, and Maj. Gen. James Eugene McInerney Jr., USAF (Ret), a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars and America’s most highly decorated pilot.

The group was in the U.S. on behalf of the American Air Museum in Britain’s “Honor & Educate Campaign.” The campaign is designed to improve the physical museum, create a virtual “museum without walls” on the Web, and develop learning programs to bring stories of sacrifice and courage to current and future generations.

The Lyon Air Museum, which celebrated its second anniversary Dec. 10, is located on the west side of the runway at John Wayne Airport in Orange County. The 30,000-square-foot museum opened in December 2009. The facility represents the fulfillment of a dream of Gen. Lyon, who held the position of Chief of the U.S. Air Force Reserve from 1975 to 1979. Currently, Gen. Lyon is Chairman of the Board and CEO of William Lyon Homes, Inc., Newport Beach, Calif. His passion for aviation history and youth education is the driving force behind Lyon Air Museum. In establishing the museum, Gen. Lyon sought to create a world-class facility that would be available to the local community and would offer educational displays to inspire young people. The museum has on exhibit some of the world’s rarest operational aircraft and vehicles.

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