Friday, 29 July 2011

Hunting the Spruce Goose

One of the major attractions we had planned to visit during our stay in Portland was the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum. Like us, you may never have heard of this particular museum as it is not as well known as some of the major museums of this kind such as the Smithsonian in Washington or the NASA museum in Florida. In fact it isn’t located in Portland at all, but about an hour out of the city on the outskirts of a small town called McMinnville. Here you will find an impressive collection of aircraft from the earliest days of flight through to modern space exploration. However, the centrepiece of the museum is an aeroplane that only ever actually flew for one minute…it’s the Howard Hughes designed and built H-4 Hercules, better known as the ‘Spruce Goose’. If you have ever seen the Martin Scorsese film ‘The Aviator’ you will know the story behind this gigantic wooden flying boat and how it became the billionaires obsession. Built in the 1940’s, this huge silver bird was a prototype for a heavy-duty troop transporter that Hughes continued to develop well after the war was over. A more recent and equally amazing chapter of the Spruce Goose story is how this much publicised aeroplane managed to make its way to a little town in Oregon. It turns out that in 1993, the Evergreen Museum won the bid for the aircraft after the Walt Disney Company decided it no longer wished to display the plane in Los Angeles. In fact they built a hanger to house the monster flying machine and surrounded it with an array of other wonderful exhibits of aviation. Things have now moved on at Evergreen as they have recently built another large hanger for their collection of jets and rockets and are currently awaiting the arrival of a space shuttle to add to their collection, which will in turn further enhance the reputation of this outstanding museum. Jules and I spent several hours walking around and we found the attendants (who are mainly air force veterans) very friendly and informative. The aircrafts were beautifully restored and maintained and the displays were first rate. Yet like most of the people there, it was the Spruce Goose we had come to see and we were amazed at its design and scale. With the wingspan of a football field, it truly is an impressive flying machine. While it only fleetingly became air born, it is certainly surrounded by the mystique of Howard Hughes and is testament to his ambitious vision. We certainly enjoyed tracking it down and learnt much about many other aspects of aviation and space travel in the process.

No comments:

Post a Comment