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Air Museum in McMinnville Oregon Features Legendary One-Flight Plane

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The Air Museum in McMinnville Oregon, called the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, offers an up close and personal view of planes and space equipment. This museum is perfect for any aviation fanatic, aspiring astronaut, or just plain history buff. The large windowed building also holds one of the most unique planes ever created—the one-flight wonder, Spruce Goose, a must see for anyone planning an Oregon vacation.

McMinnville Air Museum’s Crown Jewel: The Spruce Goose

The McMinnville Air Museum in Oregon provides a home for a little over 100 unique planes, but most notable is the 23 million-dollar one flight wonder, The Spruce Goose. During World War II, metal restrictions were at an all-time high while large planes were at an all-time low.

The US government commissioned the Hughes Aircraft Company to build what they described as a “flying boat” that could transport troops, materials, and equipment across the Atlantic Ocean. Howard Hughes, the founder of the aircraft company, was known for his state-of-the-art aircraft designs and daring feats in aviation.

side view of Spruce Goose in McMinnville Air Museum
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The Spruce Goose, which was made of wood, was the largest aircraft of its time. The design was thin birch veneer laminated in layers with resin to create strength, durability and lightness. Some elements of the plane were also covered in fabric. The Spruce Goose boasted 8 wing engines and a wingspan of over 320 feet.

The massive flying boat had room for two M4 Sherman tanks, 750 troop members, or 150,000 pounds. The plane’s development began 16 full months after the contract was initiated, and by the time the plane was completed, the war was over.

This did not stop the first flight from occurring, however. For its public debut, the plane was disassembled into three pieces and reassembled in Long Beach California in a hangar that allowed the “flying boat” to be launched directly into the harbor.

View of the engines on the Spruce goose
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For its first and only flight, the Spruce Goose carried a total of 36 passengers, a far cry from the 750 it was designed to carry. People on board included crew, mechanics, and members of the press. The wooden plane lifted off the ground to an elevation of 70 feet and flew about a mile in 26 seconds, with the speed reaching 135 miles per hour. It may have been the first, but it was also the last flight the Spruce Goose ever made.

With metal restrictions and war time at an end, there was sadly no need for a wooden plane such as the Spruce Goose. The revolutionary design was shot down by critics who said the wooden structure could never compete against more modern metal frames.

Unable to let it go, Hughes kept the Spruce Goose hidden in secrecy inside an air conditioned, temperature-controlled hangar, where it was maintained in flying condition by a large crew. Hughes paid over a million dollars per year to keep his dream of flying the Spruce Goose alive until his death in 1976.

Interior of the Spruce Goose in the McMinnville Oregon Air Museum
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After the death of Howard Hughes, ownership of the behemoth wooden aircraft was widely debated, with the idea of sectioning the plane off for different aviation museums. Luckily the plane saw an easier and kinder fate, resting inside a dome structure in Long Beach beside the Queen Mary.

The plane became a popular tourist destination by day, and an event space by night. In 1988, the Walt Disney Company purchased the land on Long Beach as well as the attractions and decided they no longer wanted to maintain the large aircraft and dome. After searching, the Air Museum in McMinnville Oregon was chosen to be a permanent home of the Spruce Goose.

Additional Aviation Exhibits at the Air Museum in McMinnville Oregon

In addition to the massive structure of the Spruce Goose, the Air Museum in McMinnville Oregon features planes from the beginning of aviation to modern day aircraft.

The McMinnville Air Museum collection demonstrates an assortment of planes from all walks of life. In the museum entrance, you will see examples of aviation in its infancy. Moving forward, the displays show you how planes became popularized among farmers for short transport and then became mass produced for business and military use.

Military plane on the hangar floor of the air museum in McMinnville Oregon
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Military Aircraft

The military equipment displayed ranges from helicopters to airplanes, including bombers and fighters. In the museum, you’ll find aircraft from World War II, the Vietnam War, and the Korean War. Some aircraft were used for rescue missions, and some even for training pilots.

The museum also has one of the largest collections of World War II planes in the U.S. Alongside these planes you will find plaques with stories about each as aircraft and the people who piloted them. The World War II sections also features uniforms from the time, off road wartime vehicles, and other artifacts that are related to the world-wide battle.

One of the newer military exhibits is the C-47. The C-47 at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum carried the 101st Airborne Division’s, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment to a drop zone in France on D-day. This aircraft is currently in the process of a multiyear restoration.

aviation history in the Air Museum in McMinnville Oregon
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Aviation prototypes are also a prominent feature of the air museum in McMinnville. You’ll find specimens from all eras, including the SR-71 Blackbird. The Blackbird is the fastest plane ever created. It has a top speed of over 2,000 miles per hour and was used for reconnaissance missions.

While most of the aircraft on display are cordoned off from direct contact, visitors are allowed to get within a few feet of most of the planes or helicopters. However, guests are allowed enter the legendary Spruce Goose as well as select military planes.

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Space History at the Air Museum in McMinnville Oregon

McMinnville’s Air Museum offers more than just aircraft and aviation history. In the adjacent building, you will find a deep history of the human race’s experience into pace. The adjacent space museum contains detailed accounts of different Space excursions as well as the gear required for each.

Unmanned and manned space craft displays are scattered about with detailed plaques explaining how and when each piece of equipment was used. Different rockets and boosters are also displayed, including the Titan II Missile, a massive booster rocket.

Space craft in the adjoining museum to the air museum in McMinnville Oregon
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The Titan II Missile display sticks up from the floor of the museum and allows you to descend stairs to the bottom of it which puts you inside the missile silo.

The air museum in McMinnville Oregon is must-see for any air or space enthusiast and provides a very detailed interesting glimpse into our journey into flight.

Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk

Inside the Space portion of the Evergreen Aviation museum, the Nighthawk has become a new addition. While it undergoes its restoration process, this unique aircraft will be on display for all to see.

The Nighthawk is an important piece of stealth aviation history. It was the world’s first stealth fighter, and had a huge hand in starting operation desert storm. It flew 39 important stealth missions from 1985 to 2007, before being retired.

Flight Simulator

The McMinnville Air Museum Evergreen Air Museum) is proud to offer a flight simulator for those over 42″ tall. The MaxFlight Flight Simulator allows up to two guests to experience a flight, combat flight, or a rollercoaster.

Guests can choose to fly the Spruce Goose, an F-18 fighter jet, or a World War II fighter plane.

Children between 42-48″ tall can ride, but must be accompanied by an adult. Anyone over 48″ tall can ride solo. The flight simulator is $10 per person, and can hold a maximum of 2 rides, and 500 pounds.

What to Know Before You go to the McMinnville Air Museum

  • The Museum is open 9am to 5 pm daily and closed on major holidays.
  • Ticket prices include admission to both museums and one movie and are:
    • $22 per adult
    • $18 for seniors and veterans
    • $12 for ages 5-16
    • Children under 5 are free
  • Guided tours are available, just ask one of the volunteers.
  • The movies offered in the theaters change occasionally and often are documentaries based on space and aviation

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Ali Patton

Ali is a travel blogger for Seconds to Go, where she shares her experiences traveling the U.S. with her co-blogger Mom, Kathleen. She is also an avid Disney travel enthusiast, and with multiple Disney World trips under her belt, is a knoweldgeable resource for all things related to Disney vacations. Ali can be found managing the Seconds to Go social media accounts as well as the famed Double Z Farm pages on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok.

Thanks for Joining Our Adventure

Kathleen Hesketh and Ali Patton, mother daughter travel bloggers

We're Kat and Ali, a pair of mother-daughter travel bloggers exploring the U.S. We're sharing our experiences, tips and insights to help you more easily get out and explore the beautiful landscapes and places of this nation.

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