There are more than 700 air and space-related museums in this country.
Each Monday, we highlight one of them. Eventually we’ll hit them all.
This week: The Tillamook Air Museum in Tillamook, Oregon.
The museum has about three dozen aircraft in its collection, but I’ve chosen to highlight it this week because of history of the building that houses the museum.
During WWII, the U.S. Navy stationed a fleet of blimps along the east and west coasts. Each airship was 252 feet long and filled with 425,000 cu. feet of helium.
These “K-class” blimps had a range of 2,000 miles and could stay in the air for three days at a time, so they were ideally suited for anti-submarine patrol and for escorting ship convoys out to sea. The blimps also trailed targets for fighter-plane practice.
To store off-duty dirigibles, the Navy built 17 seven-acre blimp hangars.
They used the exact same blueprint for each building, and each clear-span wooden structure was 15-stories high, more than 1,000 feet long, and built with fire-retardant lumber.
Tillamook’s dairy land was chosen as the site for two of those hangers in part because the countryside offered mild weather and the largest flat area on the Oregon and Washington coast.
Unfortunately, Tillamook’s Hangar A burned down in 1992. (It turned out that the chemicals that make wood fire-retardant eventually leech out.) But Hangar B is still around and now shares the title of World’s Largest Clear-Span Wooden Building with the six other still-intact blimp hangars around the country.
Hangar B is now also home to the Tillamook Air Museum, which houses a flight simulator, a collection of more than 30 WW II “War Birds,” and historical films and displays about the construction of the building and the blimps that were once based here.
Blimp Hangar Bio
Length: 1,072 feet
Height: 192 feet (over 15 stories)
Width: 296 feet
Area: Over 7 acres (enough to play six football games)
Doors: 120 ft. high, 6 sections each weighing 30 tons. 220 ft. wide opening. The sections roll on railroad tracks
Catwalks: 2 catwalks, each 137 ft. above the hangar deck
Do you have have a favorite aviation or space museum? If so, let us know where it is and why you like it. Your museum pick may be featured on a future edition of Museum Monday here at StuckatTheAirport.com.