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Fri, Dec 21, 2007

Gone West: Palm Springs Air Museum Founder Robert Pond

Former Naval Airman Was 83

ANN has learned a former naval aviator, who later founded the Palm Springs Air Museum to honor World War II airmen, recently passed away at the age of 83.

Robert Pond said he first fell in love with airplanes at age 10... and, eight years later, told a Navy recruiter he'd be forced to take radical action if they didn't admit him to the Navy Air Corps program in 1942.

"It wasn't easy," Pond said in his biography, provided by the museum. "I had to threaten that I was going to join the Army. It was a bit of a devious way."

After the war, Pond graduated from the University of Minnesota, and bought a Cessna 180. That was in 1948.

The Palm Springs (CA) Desert Sun reports over the years, Pond built collections of both warbirds and vintage cars. In 1996, he moved with his wife, and his collections, to California. He opened the Palm Springs Air Museum on Veteran's Day, November 11, 1996.

Pond opened the museum to "educate, promote and remember all the people during World War II that made great sacrifices, particularly airmen,"said Museum Vice Chairman Ken Miles. "Bob was an avid aviator."

Pond stepped down in 2005, and was named chairman emeritus by the museum's board. "He was very proud of the air museum and particularly proud of all the volunteers at the air museum who gave their free time to support it," Miles said.

"He just had a love of planes," added museum board member Gloria Greer.

Robert Pond was also well-known in sporting circles, as the namesake of the Pond Racer, designed by Burt Rutan and Scaled Composites. Pond commissioned the design in the late 1980s, to compete alongside vintage warbirds in the Unlimited Class at the Reno air races. The all-composite twin-engine aircraft paid homage to the Lockheed P-38.

Pond's former secretary said Pond suffered a fatal brain hemorrhage, and died at Desert Regional Medical Center last Friday. He is survived by his wife, Jo Rose Pond, four kids, three grandsons, and two great-grandkids.

And, may we add, generations of grateful Americans. We wish your spirit well on its journey into the setting sun, sir.

FMI: www.air-museum.org

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