Friday, April 27, 2012

Side Views: The Spruce Goose Up Close at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum

A visit to the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum was like living a childhood dream. I remember being so fascinated with the legendary fighters of World War II as a child, and seeing these beautiful machines up close was an amazing experience. Located in McMinnville, Oregon, the museum houses some of the best preserved military and civilian aircraft. I was able to visit the museum two years ago, and here's a short walk through some of my favorite flying machines...

The legendary Spruce Goose, one of the largest aircraft ever built, is truly an impressive sight. Built mainly from wood (mostly birch, actually, and not spruce), this mammoth aircraft was designed primarily to airlift troops and cargo across the Atlantic during World War II. Designed by the eccentric visionary Howard Hughes, the Spruce Goose remains one of the classic icons in aviation history.

Check out the impressive wingspan, with four propellers on each wing, dwarfing all other aircraft in the museum. Pretty awesome sight.

Inside the Spruce Goose, the interiors continue to impress, designed to airlift massive loads of cargo. Emergency floatation devices are also displayed.

The aircraft was featured in the film The Aviator, based on the life of Howard Hughes.

This magnificent aircraft flew only once, piloted by Howard Hughes himself in 1947. Airborne for roughly a minute and only over a mile, the plane never flew again. Today, the Spruce Goose is the centerpiece in the museum's collection, a fitting tribute to this unique and amazing icon of aviation history.

The B-17G Flying Fortress, a legendary heavy bomber known for its daring daylight bombing raids over Europe. The aircraft was also featured in the film Memphis Belle.

This particular Flying Fortress also had an interesting history. I was informed by the guide that this particular plane continued to operate after World War II in long range recon missions out of Clark Field in the Philippines during the Korean War in the early 50s. It's amazing that this magnificent aircraft survived the air wars over Europe and later the Korean War, and is now home at the museum.

The TBM-3 Avenger, a carrier based torpedo bomber engaged in many naval battles in the Pacific during World War II. It's also credited with sinking the most Japanese ships in the Pacific.

The P51-D Mustang, the "Cadillac of the Skies" and my favorite fighter. This sleek, beautiful machine gained fame for its long range escort missions with the bombers over Europe and Germany. The plane was also featured in my favorite scene in Steven Spielberg's Empire of the Sun and the new film Red Tails. The classic bubble top canopy, the impressive armament, and its clean lines, probably the best fighter aircraft of World War II.

The P-38 Lightning, one of the most unique multi-role fighter bombers of World War II. Dubbed the "fork-tailed devil" by the German Luftwaffe with its innovative twin tails and dual engine configuration, the Lightning proved effective in both the European and Pacific theaters of operations during World War II.

The classic Supermarine Spitfire, the icon of the Battle of Britain. The Spitfire successfully defended England against the Luftwaffe in a defining moment of World War II, "their finest hour." A fitting testament to the brave young men who flew this beautiful machine.

The F4U Corsair, with its distinctive gull wings, was a formidable carrier based fighter bomber in the Pacific during World War II.  The plane was also featured in Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima.

The SR-71 Blackbird, created by the legendary "Skunk Works" of Lockheed. The fastest aircraft of its time and a pioneer in early stealth technology, this high altitude recon plane was the only way to penetrate the Iron Curtain during the Cold War.

The Douglas C-47, the work horse during World War II, and made famous by airborne operations in Normandy and Holland. The C-47 is featured in the old film A Bridge too Far and the HBO mini-series Band of Brothers.

The Sopwith Camel, one of the pioneers in early fighter technology. If you're a fan of Peanuts, you'll know that this is Snoopy's plane of choice in his imaginary hunt for the Red Baron.

One can't help but feel awed by these beautiful machines, and also by the brave men who flew them. Each plane tells a story, an amazing glimpse into the past. Just touching these machines reconnects you with your childhood dreams. There's just so much more to see, and if you are an aviation buff, you can probably spend all day here at the Evergreen Space and Aviation Museum. For additional details, visit the museum's website at

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  1. Fantastic pics! I remember seeing the Spruce Goose in Long Beach when I was about ten years old, and then it moved to my home town (McMinnville) when I was in middle school. Thanks for the memories!

    1. Hi Aaron, she's just awesome! There may be other aircraft that are bigger then her today, but the Spruce Goose is still tops in my list. Glad to hear the post brought back some good memories, and thanks for visiting!


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