It seems like most places that we travel we find some kind of jewel that was unexpected. It was no different on our latest trip to the Portland, OR area. We stayed in McMinnville which is about 40 miles or so from Portland and in the middle of wine country. Well, to our surprise, it is also home to one of the most interesting aviation museums that I have seen. It certainly doesn’t receive the notoriety of the Air and Space Museum in Washington or the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, but it is well worth your time and the entrance fee of $25 to visit it if you are in the Portland area. In addition to the aviation section that has exhibits back to the Wright brothers, the facility features an entire building devoted to space flight starting with the first rocket. There is also a separate water park area that is very popular with families. I’m not sure how a water park fits with the aviation theme, but I guess you would have to say that it has a little bit of something for everybody.
Without a doubt the crown jewel of the entire exhibit is Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose. I have seen pictures and read about the plane, but to see it in person is unbelievable. It dwarfs all the other surrounding exhibits with a wing span of just over 300 ft.
It was developed to be a WW II transport plane, but was never completed in time to be a factor in the war. In fact, it only flew a very short distance in 1947 before the project was abandoned. The entire fuselage was made out of birch to keep the weight down and because of a shortage of and restrictions on the use of aluminum during the war. It is the largest plane ever built, with a wingspan the length of a football field and eight Pratt and Whitney engines capable of developing 3000 HP each.
There are many other interesting and fully restored aircraft from both the military and commercial services on display. It is easy to spend an entire day here reading about each one and the role it has played in aviation history. Then you can walk a short distance to a building housing the space portion of the museum’s exhibit.
This portion of the museum is thoughtfully organized from the first rocket experimentation all the way through the space shuttle program. It chronicles the space race with the old Soviet Union and John Kennedy’s determination to have the United States be the first nation to walk on the moon. It is an incredible tribute to the political and technical will, of the time, along with American ingenuity.
You can find out more at https://www.evergreenmuseum.org/