Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum

The Spruce Goose!

Today I made a leisurely drive from Beaverton, Oregon to McMinnville, just to visit the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum.

The drive down was only 40 miles, but the route went through several populated areas. Due to traffic, it took about an hour.

The draw of the Evergreen Museum is the one and only Spruce Goose. The museum campus is huge. As well as an Air Museum, there is an Aerospace Museum, IMAX Theatre and a waterside complex.

Built by Howard Hughes for the war department, the Spruce Goose is the largest wooden airplane ever constructed, and it was only flown once. The project to build this aircraft was born out of a need to move troops and material across the Atlantic Ocean during WWII. Due to the US government’s restrictions on materials critical to the war effort the plane was constructed of wood.

The Spruce Goose was originally designated HK-1, but later re-designated as the H-4 “Hercules”. In fact, Howard Hughes did not like the name “Spruce Goose” as the press invented the nickname and they insisted on using it. In fact, the plane is made almost entirely of birch.

By the time the plane was complete it was clouded in controversy. Hughes was under investigation for how he handled the government contract, however Hughes wanted to prove that the plane was functional, so he took the flying boat out into Long Beach harbour to perform a taxiing and maneuvering test. After these initial tests, and to the surpise of reporters on hand, Hughes actually took the plane up to speed and flew it a distance. Mind you, he only flew a few feet off the water but he proved that his plane could fly.

In fact, that day in Long Beach was the only time the Spruce Goose ever flew. After the war, Hughes kept the plane locked up in a hangar in Long Beach, CA. After his death the plane was put on display. It remained in Long Beach until about 10 years ago when it was barged up to Portland and trucked into the new museum in McMinnville.

The Spruce Goose is the centerpiece of the museum. It is so large it fills the space, with other planes residing around it and under its wings like a mother goose to her ducklings.

You can go inside the Spruce Goose, however visitors only get to go inside the planes cargo area. To go up the spiral staircase to the cockpit costs $25 extra. An interesting feature of the cargo area is that it contains a pile of beach balls. As the story goes, Hughes had the cargo area filled with beach balls as special flotation in case the plane started to sink.

Among the Spruce Goose there are many other planes which were remarkable such as a Mig 29, Mig 23, F15 Eagle, WWII Corsair, P38 Lightning, and a B17 Bomber.

In a separate building there is also an Aerospace museum featuring an actual Mercury Capsule and replicas of the Gemini and Apollo mission equipment. There is also a SR71 Blackbird and a Israeli drone to gawk at.

McMinnville is a beautiful area. There are many vineyards in the area to visit. In fact, the museum itself sports a very large vineyard in the area between the buildings and the highway. The Museum also bottles wine and sells it in a special store within the museum.

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