By Jim Robinson,
Metroland Media/WheelsTalk.com -
Looking up at the statue of Capt Michael King Smith, it is impossible not to feel a twinge of regret that men like him are, sadly, getting fewer and fewer.
The late Capt. King was a founder of the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon, before being killed in a car accident.
I really enjoy aviation museums like the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., our own in Ottawa and the Pima Air Station in Tucson, but nothing prepared me for Evergreen and the treasures inside and out.
Driving up, you see one building with a Boeing 747 perched on the roof that has been converted into a giant water slide. Next there are dozens of jet age fighters on the lawn, from U.S. Navy Blue Angels to Super Sabres and even a MiG29.
But that’s nothing compared to what is inside.
In the main building is the one and only Spruce Goose seaplane built by Howard Hughes in World War Two, as a giant, eight piston-engine transport to carry men and materials to war zones anywhere on the globe.
Bigger than a 747, bigger than an Airbus 380, the sheer size boggles the mind.
Like everyone else, I thought it was still in Long Beach, California. When Disney bought the Hughes’ land they wanted the all-wooden aircraft gone.
The Evergreen bought it, had it shipped by barge from Long Beach to Oregon and the up the Columbia River as far as the barge would allow. Then it was dismantled, shipped by truck to McMinnville and lovingly reassembled by a hoard of volunteers.
Today the Spruce Goose (which is fully open on the inside for viewers) sits among 150 aircraft and exhibits.
There is a functioning Titan II missile launch control room, where you can press a button and be part of a five-minute launch situation.
There is a sinister SR-71 super spy aircraft, one of the fastest ever built, down to a Wright Flyer and Curtiss pusher from the dawn of the air age.
If you are anywhere in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, you must visit. For more information visit www.EvergreenMuseum.org.
And when you do, stop at the statue of Capt. Smith and say thanks for preserving this legacy.