The gigantic Hangar B, once home to a squadron of patrol blimps, now houses the Tillamook Air Museum.
For more on the museum, the building and the blimps stationed there, check out Ghost blimps haunt a humongous hangar at the Tillamook Air Museum.
My trusty rental car, after bravely letting me drive it through snow and sleet, offers some perspective of how big this building is.
This is from the same spot. It keeps going and going...
Inside is quite dark. There are lots of lights, but the space is so huge and the surfaces so dark, that they don't do enough.
Stairs let you look inside the cockpit of this F-14, but the low light and reflections didn't make for a very good photo. On the right you can see the museum's collections of other cockpits and cockpit trainers.
This particular aircraft was built in Italy, flown by the US Air Force for five years, and then after some time mothballed at AMARG, it was sold to a private owner, who loaned it to the museum.
The hangar is quite dark, so when the sun breaks through the Pacific Northwest clouds, the windows becoming blinding (and a hassle for photography).
A 1944 Seagrave ladder truck, with an 85-foot/26m ladder and a 185hp 14.9-liter V12.
It was raining when I first arrived, and after a brief downpour while I was inside, the skies cleared. Hangar B looked far more ominous with the cloud cover, however.
The doors are 120 feet (36.6m) high. Each of the six segments weigh 30 tons.
I love weirdly proportioned cargo aircraft, and the Aero Spacelines Mini Guppy is certainly that.
The Mini Guppy was the smaller, younger sibling to the original Pregnant Guppy and larger Super Guppy specialized cargo craft. There's a Super Guppy at the incredible Pima Air and Space Museum, which we've also toured.
The Mini Guppy's fuselage was built from scratch, and is wider than the 377 it's based on.
The cockpit is basically the same as a 377. The nose on the Mini Guppy is fixed, with a swing-open tail for cargo. The Mini Guppy Turbine, using more advanced engines, had a swing-open nose.
As large as the Mini Guppy is, it's dwarfed by the giant Hangar B.
Here's the first in a series of historical photos I've included to provide more context for this fascinating museum. Hangar B was the first of two blimp hangars built at Naval Air Station Tillamook, and was completed in 1943.
Due to wartime metal shortages, it was constructed almost entirely of wood.
Hangar B was constructed first, and took 10 months to build.
Without the weather and other delays that plagued that construction, Hangar A took less than 6 weeks. It was destroyed by fire in 1992.
Unlike most larger airships, the K-class was small enough for its mooring mast to be mobile, towed by a tractor in this case. (Catalog #: 80-G-K-13314)
Blimp K-87 attached to a mobile mooring mast at NAAS Quillayute, Washington, circa 1944-45. This is now the Quillayute Airport. (Catalog #: 80-G-K-2448)
The Balao-class USS Sea Poacher towing K-86, circa 1952-1953. (Catalog #: L45-259.05.01)
A K-class in the background, taken from the deck of the USS Matanikau. (Catalog #: 2015.22.088)
A K-class on antisubmarine patrol above merchant cargo ships. (Catalog #: 80-G-K-13894)
Most K-class blimps were powered by two nine-cylinder Pratt & Whitney Wasp radial engines. (Catalog #: 80-G-K-13309)
A K-class above an anchored USS Missouri circa August, 1944. We toured the Missouri, which is now a museum ship in Hawaii. (Catalog #: 80-G-K-4576)
Tillamook's Squadron ZP-33 had eight K-class blimps.
Now we're back to current photos I took myself during my visit. Not filled with big blimps, the 7-acre (2.8 hectares) floor space seems to go on forever.
Some other blimp hangars had clamshell-style doors. Hangar B's ride on railroad tracks.
Seeing up close that it's made from wood makes it even more peculiar -- and impressive.
W-a-a-a-a-a-a-y up near the top, you can just make out two narrow catwalks that run the length of the hangar.
The museum is currently restoring the fuselage of a Convair 880. This is a pretty rare airliner, and this is the only example on the West Coast.
This is taken from about halfway down the hangar. The rest is currently used for storage.
The only blimp... well, balloon, in the museum. This is much smaller than the K-class blimps that lived here.
The K-class is a blimp, or non-rigid airship. Essentially it's a formed balloon with a fixed control car.
Semi-rigid airships have a stiff keel, but the rest of the gas-holding envelope is only supported by its own internal pressure.
Rigid airships, colloquially "Zeppelins," have an internal metal framework.
Most of the museum's remaining aircraft are housed in a tent erected within Hangar B.
The Hangar's original helium pump room. Helium is heavier and more expensive than hydrogen, but infinitely less dangerous.
The museum's Cessna 180 is one of two planes that landed at the North Pole, the first light aircraft to do so.
Another oddball aircraft in a museum that has a lot of them, this is a Fouga CM.170 Magister, a French two-seat trainer jet. This specific example was actually built in Finland.
Tucked in at the very end of the hangar-within-a-hangar is a lovely A-26. I wish it was easier to get a better look.
The Tillamook Air Museum is small, ironically in a huge building. The history of that building and several of the aircraft make it worth a visit, if you're nearby. I combined it with a mac and cheese lunch at nearby Tillamook Creamery and the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon (phototour coming soon) for a busy but excellent day.
For more info about this tour, Hangar B, and the patrol blimps that called it home, check out Ghost blimps haunt a humongous hangar at the Tillamook Air Museum.