Thursday, May 19, 2011


Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon is the new home of the Spruce Goose. We came to see it and we got oh, so much more. The building above houses the Goose. It’s impossible to frame a picture of this gigantic air boat.  I settled for sections of the Goose and resorting to old pictures of pictures. The building is filled with airplanes dwarfed by the Goose, all with interesting histories of their own.

From the farthest upstairs corner of the building,  I captured a portion of the fuselage with the cockpit and two engines visible on an out-of-sight wing.  The wide-angle isn’t terribly wide on my camera.

The Goose on its test run. It had to taxi at 95 mph before it could lift off.  Howard Hughes was the pilot. It lifted off and flew one mile, which was unplanned. Sadly, its one and only flight.

My photo of the tail.

An  old photo of the inside of the cockpit. The K/H-4 (the official name) was the idea of Henry Kaiser who partnered with the government and Hughes to make a plane big enough to carry 750 soldiers, a couple of tanks and other equipment to the war zone because our troop ships were getting badly torpedoed by the Japanese. The government couldn’t spare metals for this ship, so it had to be made from wood. Mostly light weight birch went into its construction, and only 1% spruce. But, it was labeled by the press and the name Spruce Goose stuck.

Hughes finished the air boat with his own money. The war ended before the air boat was completed. Hughes kept it in a specially built hangar tuned up and ready to go for 33 years at $1,000,000 a year. His colorful part in the design, and building of the Goose is well told in video’s and pictures in the museum. The video of moving the Goose from Southern California, taking it apart, shipping it to Portland and then lifting 259 power lines to get the super wide caravan to McMinnville is another fascinating video story.

I said there was oh, so much more. Aviation history,  starting with this replica of Leonardo da Vinci’s flying device clear through the modern space program,  is on display here through planes, photos, artifacts and historical monologues. The docents, some retired pilots, tell a few  hair-raising stories of their own.

A stunt plane hangs upside down from the ceiling.

Single person flyers were well represented here. This one with a rotary blade.

I liked the Great Lakes Baby and the Alley Cat. The double winged Baby could rise 2000 feet in five seconds. Cost in 1969? $750. I want one!

The Flying Tigers, the story of women wartime pilots, the WASPS, a Japanese Zero fuselage with 140 bullet holes in it. If you’ve heard of a plane, it’s most likely here.
The second building at Evergreen is an Imax Theatre that shows three major aviation films. We arrived at 9:00 a.m. and only completed one building by 11:00. We skipped the theatre and went to the Space building.
After seeing the space museum at the Smithsonian, I wondered if this could compare. I haven’t been to D.C. for many years, so I can’t really answer that, but I can tell you this space museum was thorough. From the first Russian Sputnik (above replica), that isn’t much bigger than a beach ball with steel whiskers, the complete history is beautifully and fairly told from every Russian conquest, the virtual race, the mistakes, the secrecy, the surrender of Wernher von Braun and his scientists to an American Private, the atomic bomb… Stuff I never thought we would see is here.

A heat blackened recovery capsule.

Weightless dental work.

Cosmonauts at play. Besides Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, and Valentina Thereshkova the first woman in space, the Russian Cosmonauts hold many other space records. The United States was bent on surpassing their accomplishments and did. But, the space program is shared by 18 different countries and promotes cooperation and peace.

It was exciting to see a televised space launch with all of the breath holding expectancy we collectively felt when the launch really happened. The Mission Control Room replica is here. The computer filled a whole room and wasn’t as powerful as the common laptop we use today.

A replica of moon buggies and the vehicles that explored the surface of Mars; thirty-eight ply tires;  the Black Bird; the un-piloted drones, all here. And, astounding snippets of early thinkers who first envisioned that man would take wings to the moon. Make it a point to take your children to McMinnville and visit the Evergreen Complex of Museums. This summer, their fourth building will open. It is the only known building with a plane permanently implanted on the roof.  A water slide starts in the fuselage of the plane.
They grow wine grapes and hazelnuts on the grounds. We tasted their wine and bought a bottle of Spruce Goose Pinot Grigio.
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