On Sunday when I drove from Yachats to my next stop in Nehalem, Oregon I drove through the town of Tillamook, which I knew was the home of Tillamook Cheese (and Ice Cream!). I didn’t know this museum was here until I saw this, sitting quite a ways off to the right as I drove up Highway 101:
Kind of hard to miss….
Turns out this was one of 10 blimp bases built by the US Navy in 1942 to house blimps used to detect enemy aircraft and submarines. There were 3 such bases on the west coast and 7 on the east coast and along the Gulf of Mexico. There were a total of 17 hangars (combined) at all those locations and today, only 7 remain. You are looking at “Hangar B” at the former US Naval Base – Tillamook. There was an identical “Hangar A” until it burned in August of 1992.
This hangar is huge: 1,072 feet long, 296 feet wide and 192 feet tall at it’s highest point. And it is made of wood! To this day, it is the largest free-span wooden structure in the world.
Here are some more photos from outside:
To give some perspective to the photo above, here is a man walking between the airplane and the little white house on the right:
And the aircraft you see is an Aero Spacelines Mini Guppy:
Here is what the buildings looked like from the air, “back in the day”:
Now let’s pay our money and go inside:
There were several large aircraft inside, military jets, prop planes and ordinary single-engine planes. There used to be a lot more aircraft here until Mr. Erickson decided to move much of his collection to another location (the big plane with his name on it has 4 flat tires so it is still here…).
To give you some idea of size, look for the red and white helicopter a little below and to the right of the center of the photo above. Here’s what you’re looking for:
That is probably the most identifiable thing that most people can relate to. It is a Bell TH-57C SeaRanger but is virtually identical to the classic Bell 206 JetRanger that State Police departments all over the country use, as well as many TV news and “scenic flights for tourists” outfits. That should give you some idea how big this building is. Let’s look at another example.
Here is a poster showing the sizes of various blimps:
The two most famous are the ill-fated Hindenburg (at the top), and the Goodyear blimp (near the bottom), seen by many people at sporting events around the country. This Naval station housed K-Class blimps, about 1/4 larger than the (old) Goodyear blimp, and 8 of them could fit inside each of the two buildings here (nine if they had been a little smarter on placement!):
After looking around the inside of the hangar I went outside and took a look at the “Mini Guppy”:
If the name “Erickson” on the side looks familiar, you may have seen it on the TV news coverage of the various wildfires burning around the country lately. Erickson is a huge sub-contractor of aircraft for construction (huge Sky-Cranes) and fire-fighting (both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft) to both the National Park and US Forest Service. Here is what the inside of this plane looks like: