Tillamook Air Museum
© Gary Horrocks

Gary is surely one of many of us with a love of aircraft, as well as ‘our kind of cars’. There is a link here to Sebring (and Portland too), as you’ll see, but simply this is an opportunity too good to miss to present material on something other than sports / GT cars. Ed.

There are some times that you just have to get out of town. You know the times. The walls are closing in on you. The kids are at each others’ throats.

OK, maybe it is cabin fever. I live here in the Northwestern part of the United States, and for those of you that know the area, it tends to be wet. Not Daytona, oh my god, type of wet, but a steady drizzle wet where even slow moving cats can mould. Having a nice stretch of weather, meaning we actually got to see that alien looking yellow thing in the sky, and having all previously scheduled weekend activities cancelled, I saw the opportunity for a road-trip. Go and check out the local beaches and surf shops for possible summer plans.

Some quick calls Friday night led to a room and off we go Saturday. Now let me give you some background here. In planning for Sebring, I was looking at actually doing something besides going straight to the track and back. I was looking at hitting an airplane museum or two, when the thought came to me that there are actually some pretty good ones here in my so-called backyard. One of those is in the Oregon costal town of Tillamook, which is about two hours away from home and might just be a good side-trip when the ALMS comes to Portland in July.

After doing the obligatory stops for food, shopping and inspection of the ocean, we headed towards our destination for the night; Tillamook. Why Tillamook? Well, at the last minute, especially on a nice weather weekend in February, rooms at the coast can really book fast, and with this being a last minute trip, I wasn’t willing to sell one of my children to get a room for the night, so Tillamook it was. Not the greatest tourist destination, as it is actually inland a bit and away from the beach, but it worked.

Now some of you might be aware of what Tillamook is famous for, but for those that are not, it is cheese. Think back to what cheese is made from. Right, milk. And milk comes from cows, but what other by-product comes from cows? Think of that nice “dairy-air”. Well, that was the first thing that hit us when we got out of the car to go to out hotel. Wow, it was bad; I mean it was really bad. So bad that my kids actually ran into the hotel to get out of the “fresh” air. We must have been looked out for though, as the pool and jacuzzi was out of order, and the hotel was glad to make amends and let us call another hotel. This new place was much better for us, as it had a functioning pool and much more bearable air. The next day, when it was light, we realized the problem of our original destination. It was literally built on a dairy. The cows could almost walk up to the parking lot. Nice planning.

Of course it is drizzling on Sunday morning when we get up. After breakfast, it is off to the Tillamook Air Museum (www.tillamookair.com), which is located in one of the few remaining Blimp Hangers that were constructed for WWII. This thing is freaking huge. It measures 1072 feet long, 296 feet wide and 192 feet tall. It covers an area of over 7 acres. The thing is so large that at an airshow in 1950, an AT-6 was flown through the hanger. The photos do not do it justice. It is huge.

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dailysportscar.comOutside of the museum is the Mini-Guppy, which is an old Boeing 377 Stratocruiser, extensively modified to accommodate large cargo such as components from the Apollo Space Program. This plane was derived from the Boeing B-29, with most parts being common except for the fuselage. Despite its age, there are still examples of this aircraft being used today. Bizarre looking, but I guess it worked. Function over form?

dailysportscar.comInside is a very impress-ive collection of aircraft, most of which are actually flyable. The aircraft are displayed in two distinct areas, as a section of the hanger is roomed off to protect the restored aircraft from the ravages of nature, such as droppings from owls and other flying objects.

In the main hanger at this time, the workhorse DC-3 (above, left) is just sitting there, looking like it is ready to go up in the air again, and it is surrounded by many others, such as the B-25 and A-26 twin engine bomber / attack planes.

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The F-14 and A-7 Corsair II are on loan from the Navy, and are a little rough looking, but do a good job of demonstrating the progress made in aircraft design.

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The size of the Neptune is impressive, as is the additions of various bumps and protrusions on the plane, all necessary for the various tasks that this aircraft was called upon to perform.

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Inside the “plastic room” were some of the stars of the display. The crowded room made clear views of the aircraft rather difficult, but it is a very impressive line up of aircraft. Being a Naval Air Station back in its day, it is not surprising that there are some very impressive Naval WWII vintage aircraft on display. It is not every day that you see a Dauntless, an Avenger or a Wildcat.

dailysportscar.comExtremely rare is the Mauler (right), which is one of the few remaining examples from the original 151 that were built. For a single engined aircraft, the size of both the Mauler and the Skyraider are impressive, being quite visibly larger than the already large P-47 Thunderbolt and F-4U Corsair.

Dwarfed by all of this is the SPAD (below), looking extremely fragile and vulnerable and then there is the Duck, looking rather, well, ugly.

 

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To me, the special planes of this display had to be the P-38 Lightning, the Catalina and one that I have always had a special feeling for, the Spitfire. The P-38 is just so unique and different in appearance. It is just too bad that there is not adequate room to really get a feel or a clear view of this unique design.

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The same goes for the Catalina, which absolutely dwarfs many of the aircraft present. In many ways it is so ugly, but think how beautiful that plane had to be to a downed pilot in the ocean, awaiting rescue.

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As for the Spitfire, I don’t think that there was ever a more beautiful design ever flown. This example is a twin cockpit example, which is not quite as attractive, but the rarity of this example more than makes up for the loss of ascetic beauty.

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In a collection like this, the appearance of two P-51 Mustangs gets lost, but like the Spitfire, the lines of the Mustang are just classic. Yes, aerodynamics were at play back then, but there was some obvious elegance and grace designed into aircraft back then. I can think of none finer that the Spitfire and the Mustang when it comes to functionality and beauty.

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In the short amount of time that I had, it was not possible to take in everything that was there at the museum. Just the size of the hanger is impressive enough by itself. To do the museum justice, plan on spending a few hours, and don’t worry, I was not affected, at least that I can tell yet, by the dairy air.

It was then off to lunch and shopping for wetsuits. Try trying on four wet suits in a day, in the warmth of a shop. Not good. Not everybody can be lucky like Russell and live near warm water. And then it was back home. Back to the daily routine of work and rain. Oh well. It was quality time as a family, and that is very rare these days.

Sometimes it does take a while to realize that there are indeed treasures close by home. It now looks like family time will be spent near home this year, in search of waves. Yes, cold waves, very cold waves, but they are still waves. And I don’t have to travel hundreds or even thousands of miles to get there. Now if I can find some nose plugs for that drive through Tillamooook…

 

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