For anyone that is an aviation buff, the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Oregon is a must see. The collection is not as extensive as some museums, but it is varied and interesting. And it has something that no other museum in the world has. Evergreen Aviation Museum is home to the famous H-4 (HK-1) Flying Boat. For those who know it by its unofficial name, it is the “Spruce Goose” made famous by Howard Hughes.
Built by the flamboyant and later reclusive Howard Hughes between 1942 and 1947, the “Spruce Goose” is the largest wooden airplane with the longest wingspan ever built. Flown only one time, on November 2, 1947. The prototype now on display was the only plane of the model that was ever built. It was designed to be a personnel and supply carrier going across the Atlantic. The German U-boats that were sinking Allied ships were wreaking havoc when the “Spruce Goose” was first envisioned. But by the time it was ready to fly, it was no longer needed.
An interesting bit of information about the “Spruce Goose” is that it is made almost entirely birch. And Howard Hughes hated the name the press had given his aircraft. He stored it away in a special hangar for thirty-three years. His employees kept the plane ready to fly, at an estimated cost of one million dollars per year.
After the death of Howard Hughes in 1976, the plane was purchased by an aviation group that built a massive domed hangar next to the ocean liner “Queen Mary” in Long Beach, California and put the “Spruce Goose” on exhibit. The owners of the exhibit, the Wrather Corporation, was purchased by the Walt Disney Company who later sold the plane to the group responsible for bringing it to Oregon.
With its four engines on each side of a boat bottomed fuselage, the “Spruce Goose” is an awesome sight. But there are other wonders in the museum too. There is one of only a handful of B-17’s left in the world. The “workhorse” bomber of WWII once darkened the skies over Nazi Germany. The P-38, the Corsair, a Messerschmitt 109, a P-51 Mustang, a Spitfire Supermarine-these are just some of the WWII planes on display. Many are in flyable condition.
The progression of aviation from its very start through to the space age is represented at the Evergreen Aviation Museum. A MiG 17, a F-15, and an SR71 Blackbird spy plane are some of the jets on display. There is even a Russian “Photon” space capsule that flew a space mission in 1990.
There are events planned at the museum throughout the year, with a special emphasis on honoring Veterans. There is an IMAX theater currently under construction. And McMinnville is close to many other attractions, from the coast (about an hour away) to world class wineries and the city of Portland, which is less than an hour away. If you are traveling through Oregon on Interstate 5, McMinnville isn’t that far off the freeway, and is a fun side trip. For the true aviation buff, the Tillamook Air Museum is only about an hour away and has some excellent exhibits too!