Chicagoland's Only Aviation Museum

Classic Flight: Museum and Airport News

Notice: this article has been reproduced as originally published. 

Welcome To Tillamook

By Jim Fall

Looking for a little more aircraft and exhibit space in your museum? Maybe this building would help:

That's Tillamook, Oregon N.A.S. Museum, housed in a WWII blimp hanger. It is the world's largest free span wooden structure, built in 1942. The for profit museum opened as The Blimp Hanger Museum in 1992, and in 1994 became Tillamook N.A.S. Museum with the delivery of military aircraft.

Current inventory is a collection of 28 vintage aircraft, most of them privately owned operational Warbirds. Standouts in the collection include: P-38 Lightning, F4U-7 Corsair, Mk VII Spitfire, Bf 109 Messerschmitt, PBY-5A Catalina, FM-2 Wildcat, J2F Duck, SBD Dauntless. A second P-38 was lost in early June. Aviation historian and writer Jeff Ethell was killed during a landing approach at Tillamook. The cause of the accident hasn't been determined.

Museum Manager Larry Schaible said Tillamook is launching ambitious and expensive projects that would preserve two significant aircraft. The shattered remains of a B-17 that crashed in Alaska have been recovered and delivered to the museum. Engines and tailgunner position are the most recognizable pieces of the ship. Part of the history of the plane is that, after crashing, the crew sawed down the propellers on one engine, started the engine, and used it to generate power for the radio. Their signal was picked up, and the crew rescued. Restoration will be a daunting job.

A second goal-a dream, really- is to acquire Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose seaplane, assemble and restore it for static display. The plane is owned by a private party in Oregon, who is storing the dismantled plane outdoors, covered in plastic sheeting. Oregon weather is beginning to deteriorate the plane. Tillamook proposes to assemble the Spruce Goose inside the blimp hanger, which will easily accommodate the huge plane. It would remain on inside display; once assembled, its wingspan would be too large to clear the 220 foot wide hanger door opening.

As I poked around the museum, I found a dismantled A-7E Corsair II, which may have been a Desert Storm shipmate of Air Classics' plane. Tillamook's plane is weathered, but the Bluehawk Squadron VA-72 markings are visible, along with mission insignia (camels and armament) on the nose. I shared this information with Larry, and the plane may become a restoration priority for the museum, if it's confirmed as a Desert Storm veteran.

The blimp hanger alone is worth a visit to the museum, but the Warbirds are icing on the cake. Lighting inside the hanger is very dim, but visitors can get up close to the planes for a good look at beautiful examples of aviation history. The museum is at Highway 101 and Highway 6, near the Oregon coast. Nice vacation country; if you're traveling that way be sure to stop by.

Air Classics Museum of Aviation
43W624 US Route 30
Sugar Grove, IL 60554
Phone: (630) 466-0888

Web site supported by: Roth's Consulting 

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