The non-profit Chico Air Museum was founded in 2004 by a group of local residents who were concerned that the rich, local aviation history was being lost to time. Founders included Vic Alvistur, Jim Babcock, Brian Baldridge, Norm Rosene, Gary Thompson, and Noel Wheeler. In 2004 the museum accepted its first two aircraft donations: a Lockheed P-2V Neptune Navy anti-submarine aircraft and the largest production biplane ever built, a Russian Antonov AN-2 Colt. In May 2005 the museum officially opened its doors to the public in a small WWII Army Airfield building at the Chico Municipal Airport.
In 2015 the museum moved to a large WWII Army Air Corp hangar that was built and used during WWII. With generous financial support from the community and many hours of donated time and work, the site was cleaned, refurbished, and upgraded to modern operating standards. Today it houses 19 aircraft (with more being added all the time) and over a dozen permanent displays.
The museum has a board of directors and is completely staffed and operated by volunteers with no paid employees other than the director, installed in 2021. The Chico Air Museum has hosted thousands of visitors since opening in 2005. In the last five years, since moving to a much larger facility, nearly 39,000 members of the public have visited the museum.
Funding has been provided by California Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.