You would not be alone if the word Tillamook conjures up mental images of luscious melting cheese on buttered, grilled bread. Mmmm! After all, Tillamook, Oregon is home to the century-old Tillamook County Creamery Association, the dairy co-op that ships 130 million pounds per year of aged cheddar cheese to grocery stores across the country.
Fortunately, this newsletter is not about cheese.
If you find yourself in Tillamook, Oregon you’ll be about as far west as you can get in the lower forty-eight. Driving south from town along coastal Highway 101, you would soon spot an unmistakable old hangar plunked firmly down in the farmland between the mountains and the sea with the fading words “Air Museum” visible across its arched roof. What makes it unmistakable is its sheer size. Over 1,000 feet long, 296 feet wide, 15 stories high, and constructed of 2 million board feet of lumber, it’s the largest clear-span wooden structure in the world. Trust me, you can’t miss it.
NAS Tillamook blimps inside hangar
Built by the US Navy in 1943, Hangar B and its twin, Hangar A, (destroyed by fire in 1992)housed 8 blimps each, used for anti-submarine patrol along the entire Pacific coast. Today, the blimps are long gone and it is home to the Tillamook Air Museum.
Inside the Tillamook Air Museum today
The hangar now looms over an eclectic collection of some 30 warbirds, a half-dozen antique fire trucks, a couple of rotorcraft, a retired Aero-Spacelines Mini-Guppy that may have once carried the Pioneer 10 spacecraft, a handful of notable homebuilts including a Rutan Long E-Z, the forward fuselage of a Convair 880, one Learjet, a 1938 Bellanca Aircruiser that missed it’s chance at making history (see the following story, Almost Famous below), a rather lost-looking 1917 Heisler locomotive, and a Douglas A-4 Skyhawk that lives on a post along Hwy. 101. (See Planes on Posts).
So, imagine yourself driving along the coast of Oregon with your souvenir one-pound brick of cheese on the seat next to you, staring in awe at an immense hangar in the middle of nowhere, thinking, “What the heck does this have to do with EAA Chapter 932?”
Capt. Jeff Hill, Boy Pilot
As it turns out, our own long-time chapter member, Jeff Hill, flew Convair 880s for TWA during the early 70’s. He has recently been consulting with the Tillamook Air Museum’s Curator, Christian Gurling, on the cockpit restoration of their 880, providing the museum with checklists, control panel diagrams and other useful information.
Ongoing Convair 880 Restoration (Photo courtesy of the Tillamook Air Museum)
The plan is to restore the forward fuselage so visitors can walk through get a peek at the cockpit, lavatory, and buffet. Though there is much more work to be done, the museum hopes to open the unfinished restoration for viewing later this summer. You can follow the museum’s restoration progress at: http://www.tillamookair.com/convair-880-restorationn/
Hey Jeff, we hope be able to post a new photo of you sitting in the left seat of that 880…maybe with a grilled cheese sandwich?
For more information on the Tillamook Air Museum, please go to the museum’s website at http://www.tillamookair.com/
Editor’s note: Aviation museums like Tillamook are care takers for the dreams of those that have gone before. Providing that care begins with quality donors, enlightened sponsors and generous benefactors. But such places live or die by their ability to draw dedicated volunteers and donations from aviation enthusiasts like you and me. I encourage you to seek out these living repositories of ideas and imagination and to take the time to visit when you happen on them. They need and appreciate your support.
Special thanks to both the Tillamook Air Museum and its Curator, Mr. Christian Gurling, for his cooperation and permission to use two of the photos in this issue, and to our own Jeﬀ Hill for providing the connection that sent me searching thru my old photos and memories from a years ago road trip along Hwy 101.