Originally established in 1974 as the Douglas Museum and Library, the Museum first opened in 1979 at 2800 Airport Avenue. The Museum was founded by Donald Douglas Jr, the second President of the Douglas Aircraft Company. The collection consisted primarily of artifacts and the ephemera of Donald Wills Douglas Sr., the Founder and President of the Douglas Aircraft Company, however the collection did not include any aircraft.
In the late 1980’s a discussion began between Donald Douglas Jr. and a local entrepreneur, David G. Price. It was agreed that a new building would be constructed on the north side of the Santa Monica Airport as the future location of the renamed Museum of Flying. The new Museum opened in 1989 with the original collection and the compliment of many vintage aircraft with an emphasis on World War II fighter aircraft.