Walt Disney’s Grumman Gulfstream I aircraft will debut in its new home at the Palm Springs Air Museum on Saturday, October 15.
The company’s flagship, refurbished by Walt Disney Imagineering and The Walt Disney Archives, was affectionately known throughout its storied history as Walt’s Plane and The Mouse.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek has unveiled the restored Mickey Mouse One to its “full original glory” as the centerpiece of the D23 Expo in Anaheim, California.
“This little beauty has been basking in the Florida sun for about 40 years,” Chapek said at Expo D23.
From his cabin window, Disney surveyed the brush-filled swamps of central Florida in the 1960s that would become Walt Disney World – then known under the codename Project X.
“Walt made several trips to Florida to view the property and to go back and forth with his Imagineers,” said Becky Cline, director of the Walt Disney Archives. “It wasn’t just Florida they were looking for with Project X. They wanted to do a Disneyland on the east coast. They looked at a number of different places on the east coast.
A custom instrument panel with an altimeter, true airspeed indicator and Mickey Mouse clock allowed the aviation enthusiast to monitor flight conditions from his favorite cabin seat.
A nearby telephone handset gave him a direct line of communication with the pilot in the cockpit.
Walt never became a pilot, but that didn’t stop him from getting into the cockpit. “A lot of times he would get in and sit in the co-pilot’s seat and watch the plane fly,” Cline said in a phone interview. “He was fascinated by all modes of travel.”
The flight crew always kept a Mickey Mouse matchbook next to the plane’s Duk-It ashtray for the boss – a longtime smoker.
Passengers traveling on The Mouse received a flight bag featuring a silhouette of Mickey lounging on the tail of the Gulfstream.
The cocktail napkins featured pilot Mickey and stewardess Minnie flying on a patched cartoon plywood airplane version of N234MM – the same tail number as Mickey Mouse One.
Disney pilots would often change the air traffic controller call “Two, Three, Four, Metro Metro” to “Two, Three, Four, Mickey Mouse” when approaching an airport.