SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Miramar's Flying Leatherneck Museum is set to close permanently due to budget constraints, according to the museum and MCAS Miramar.
It wasn't immediately clear when the museum will close its doors for good, but retired Reserve Marine Corps Colonel Victor Bianchini, Chairman of the Board of the Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation, told ABC 10News that the decision was made "based on finances."
"It's sad and disappointing that this decision is being made despite all of the benefits the museum brings to San Diegans. From education and promoting the tradition of the Marine Corps aviation, the museum is a part of the fabric of San Diego," Bianchini said. "This decision to close the museum has been devastating to our Board, to our supporters and a big loss to San Diegans who love their military history, Marine Corps Aviation, and our greater San Diego military family."
In a statement to ABC 10News, MCAS Miramar says it costs more than $400,000 annually to fund the museum, adding that the money is needed for "higher priority missions," like emergency gear. The statement adds that the USS Midway Museum and San Diego Air & Space Museum are among the new homes being considered for exhibits:
"Late last year the Commanding Officer of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar made the decision to withdraw funding and close the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum. The air station annually pays over $400,000.00 to the museum’s salaries and operations and that money is now being planned for reallocation toward higher priority missions; breathing apparatus equipment for flight line firefighters and rescue, for example.
This was a decision that was long in the making.
Stretching back to 2003, the staff aboard the base and the foundation worked together to find viable, long-term alternatives for funding and operating the museum to no avail. We are now working with other aviation and Marine Corps museums, to include the U.S.S. Midway Museum and the San Diego Air and Space and Museum, to find new homes for the artifacts and decommissioned aircraft so that they may be enjoyed by others for years to come."
In a separate statement, MCAS Miramar Commanding Officer Col. Charles Dockery said he's confident the base will be able to find a new home for the exhibits.
"I am confident that the story of Marine aviation will continue to be told and represented well through the museums, organizations, and places that will be receiving our museum exhibits," said Col. Dockery.
The Flying Leatherneck Museum started in 1989 on MCAS El Toro in Orange County, before it was moved to Miramar when El Toro was closed in 1999. The museum's more than 30 aircraft line Miramar Rd. offering passersby a peek at the country's military history. Museum employees and volunteers maintain and restore the vintage aircraft.
While the museum was no longer able to offer guided tours due to the pandemic, it did pivot to offering schools remote tours of the grounds. But much like other museums in San Diego County over the last year, the site has had to adjust its operating times and periodically close due to pandemic restrictions.
The museum says it will be permanently closed on April 1.