Friday, April 21, 2017

Tillamook Air Museum

Hi Everyone,

Imagine you're driving down the road (in the rain) and you see this...still about four or five miles away.

You get closer, and see the enormous hanger for the Tillamook Air Museum in Tillamook, Oregon.

You get closer, and you say "DAMN.  That's one big building."  And it is.  It's a wooden hanger constructed by the US Navy in 1942, during WWII, for the Naval Air Station in Tillamook. It housed blimps used for anti-submarine patrols in the Pacific.  The Naval Air Station was commissioned in 1942 and decommissioned in 1948. 

At 1,072 feet long, spaning 292 feet (almost as wide as a football field is long), and 192 feet high, this hangar is the largest clear-span wooden structure in the world.

If you look at the bottom of the fourth door panel (just right of center) that black thing at the bottom is me for scale.  Its big.  Real big.  That hideously ugly plane is called a Mini-Guppy, and is designed to handle awkwardly big loads.  There's a picture of it loading a Sikorski Sky Crane in the museum.

Here are some pictures of pictures they had at the museum.  In this one, they've erected the first frame.  If you can believe it, it took them only 30 days to erect the entire building.  It was built in 1942.

It's so big inside that the puny flash on my camera wasn't strong enough to let you see the inside.  It's scary big.  Here, you can see a little bit of the wooden trusswork.  For scale, that's a full-sized steam locomotive engine beside that white cloth.

I remember the museum as being full of planes, with a lot of WW II planes.  I didn't understand why it seemed so empty, till I did some research and learned that the private owner of most of the WW II planes moved them to another museum, leaving this one pretty empty.  I guess they started allowing people to store their RV's here to make a little extra money.  You can see the main door is cracked open at the far end, about 700 feet away.

Here's a war-time picture of blimps in the hanger.  I'm not afraid of heights at all, but it would be a gut check to be up in this high scaffolding.  For you rock climbers, realize that you could dangle your entire 50 m rope down, and still be 10 m shy of reaching the floor!

Here's a war-time areal view of several  K - blimps around the hanger.  These blimps were used for submarine patrol and could be out for several days at a time with a crew of 10-13.  They were equipped with depth charges to drop on submarines when they found them.  They're 252 feet long.  You can learn more about them at the Wikipedia K Class Blimp entry.

Wartime picture of a blimp flying over the hanger.  Note that there are two hangers in this picture.  The one on the left is Hanger B, the one the blimp is behind is Hanger A, which burned in the early 1990's.

You get an idea of the blimp size by the guys standing near the door.  You can also see the gondola with its twin engines and glass front.

This is a cool shot that shows the crew of navy airmen pulling lines to turn the blimp around.

All that's left of Hanger A are the concrete posts that formed the sides of the hanger doors.  There's another set like these to the left of this picture.

I've been to this museum several times before, but this was pretty depressing for me, in a lot of ways.  First, I got to watch the museum's collection being built up till it was a really nice collection nicely displayed with a story to tell.  Now, it's pretty much a mess of poorly maintained and poorly displayed aircraft.  And the building leaks and drips and drips and drips.  You had the feeling of watching something decline from its glory days.

Second, the whole extravagant scene just emphasizes how utterly stupid war is.  I look at this facility, all the old fortifications on the Columbia River and along the coast, and in fact all across the country and the world, and I think about the effort, time, and money people put into building them.  Most of these are more or less useless 30 or 40 years or in this case, just 3 years later.  And it doesn't seem like we learn.

Interesting, worth seeing, but depressing.

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