The Spruce Goose, SR-71, spaceplanes and MiGs at Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum

Here's a look in and around dozens of incredible historic aircraft at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum.

Geoffrey Morrison
Geoffrey Morrison is a writer/photographer about tech and travel for CNET, The New York Times, and other web and print publications. He's also the Editor-at-Large for The Wirecutter. He has written for Sound&Vision magazine, Home Theater magazine, and was the Editor-in-Chief of Home Entertainment magazine. He is NIST and ISF trained, and has a degree in Television/Radio from Ithaca College. His bestselling novel, Undersea, and its sequel, Undersea Atrophia, are available in paperback and digitally on Amazon. He spends most of the year as a digital nomad, living and working while traveling around the world. You can follow his travels at BaldNomad.com and on his YouTube channel.
Geoffrey Morrison
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Oregonian Evergreen

When you first enter the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, you're greeted by the wing and pontoon of one of the largest aircraft ever made, the Hughes H-4 Hercules, aka the Spruce Goose. I just love how it seems like it's about to step on this little Curtiss Robin C-1.

For more about this amazing plane, and many of the others at this museum, read: Inside the amazing Spruce Goose at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum.

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Spruce Goose

The Spruce Goose is, of course, made of birch. 

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And it's a boat

As if the size of the H-4 wasn't bizarre enough, it's a flying boat.

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Size of this lad

Just look how massive this thing is. The first powered flight of the Wright Flyer, of which there's a replica in the foreground, was shorter than the H-4 is long. 

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Absolute unit

The size makes it unlike anything of the era, and the overall design and seemingly endless smooth surfaces make it seem futuristic even today.

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In awe

Each of its eight Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Wasp Major engines had 28 cylinders, and developed 3,000 horsepower. So those 224 cylinders and 24,000 hp would have been able to get the H-4 to an estimated top speed of around 200 mph.

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In theory the H-4 would have been able to carry 750 troops, or two Sherman tanks, 3,000 miles (4,800 km).

This is the cargo hold. I asked that guy if he was real and he said no.

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Even more cargo

Looking forward in the cargo bay. Had the H-4 entered production, this area too would have been for cargo. The stairs were a later addition to aid visitors like me up to the flight deck.

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Originally the H-4 was to have huge clamshell doors in the bow to help speed up cargo transfer. Hughes felt that in an emergency these might open enough to flood the aircraft. So it's solid now.

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Now those are windows

I was disappointed to learn the windows aren't original. How incredible would it have been flying with such a view?

They were put in by the previous owners so people could see into this area from a balcony outside.

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This is one of the widest, most spacious cockpits I've ever seen. 

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Flight engineer

Very few aircraft have had more than four engines. Can you imagine having to monitor all this? 

And if you think that's bad, the B-36, from this same era, had six piston plus four jet engines.

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Throttle up

Despite the size and complexity of the aircraft, it doesn't look overly complicated for the pilot. Though it's hard to make out, the throttles are labeled "E" and "H." Engines 1, 3, and 7 had generators to run the electrical systems. Engines 2, 4, 5, and 6, powered the hydraulics. The joystick is for adjusting trim.

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More toggles

Additional switches for the pilot, including hydraulic systems, autopilot and so on.

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While in the pilot's seat you can stand (not on the seat, of course) and put your camera through an open window above and get a shot like this down the length of the H-4.

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I'm on a boat

I made a 5.7K 360-degree video from up here and in the cockpit.

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The seats here are from the one and only flight, when Hughes invited journalists and aircraft industry VIPs to help corroborate that the H-4 was in fact a real aircraft and not some ploy to secure war funds.

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Out the window

To put it in perspective, the H-4 would have theoretically carried only slightly less cargo than a modern C-17... a four-engined jet built 44 years later.

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This is a photo of inside the right wing. Mechanics could walk through here and perform some maintenance while airborne. 

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Wires and fuses

With so much space available, many of the important relays, fuses and junctions are conveniently up here on the flight deck.

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The spine

A look into the structure down the spine of the aircraft. The H-4 isn't entirely birch, of course, there's a bit of spruce in there too. And some metal. 

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This massive 189-gallon oil reservoir is at the back of the flight deck, between the wings. It helps makes sure all the moving parts keep moving.

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Second greatest span

From its launch until 2019, the H-4 had the widest wingspan of any aircraft ever flown. That record is now held by Stratolaunch, which is over 60 feet (20 meters) wider.

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The vertical stabilizer actually makes the H-4 taller than the largest commercial aircraft flying today, the A380

The horizontal stabilizer is wider than the main wingspan of nearly every other aircraft in the museum. It's about the same as a Boeing 737.

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Mostly metal Goose

The Grumman G-21 Goose is a seaplane designed before WWII and made mostly of metal, with some fabric covering some parts of the wings and tail. This Goose was built in 1945 and spent most of its life in Alaska.

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One of my all-time favorites, the Consolidated PBY Catalina.

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On board

Typically the Catalina would have a crew of 10, though that could vary depending on the mission. 

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Cool Cat

The Cat was originally a patrol and search-and-rescue aircraft, but also found use as a passenger aircraft, waterbomber and more. Some are still flying, over 70 years after production ended.

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The Republic RC-3 Seabee, an amphibious civilian aircraft built in the 1940s. Over 1,000 were produced. One even made it into a movie.

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Twin tails

Speaking of interesting tail designs, this is a Cessna O-2 Skymaster. What really makes this aircraft interesting, though is its duel-engine design: one pulling from the front, and one pushing from the back.

This specific aircraft participated in the rescue of Bat 21 Bravo, which later became a movie.

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Old Phantom

The F-4 Phantom II was flown by the US military for over 30 years. This specific example started service in southeast Asia in 1963, before being stationed in Hawaii. It was retired in 1989.

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Calling the thunder

One of several immaculate Century Series jets throughout the museum. In this case, an F-105G Thunderchief.

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Old bird

This is the first DC-3 delivered to an airline. She's named Reno, and United started flying her in 1936.

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The cabin configured as it was in 1936, with seating for 21.

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To the skies

Amazingly, over 80 years since its first flight, the Reno is still flyable, with few modern anachronisms (the radio being one). 

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The twin-engined A-26 first few in 1942. After the war the US Air Force redesignated it the B-26, not to be confused with the other B-26, which was slightly older.

In 1966, Thailand wouldn't allow the US to station any "bombers" in the country, so the Air Force reredesignated them back to A-26. 

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Into the jet age

Hard to believe that the jet is the older design. The Me-262 first flew five years before the H-4. Certainly easy to look at these as the beginning of one era and the end of another. 

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The FJ-3 Fury, which is essentially an F-86 heavily modified for naval use and carrier landings.

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Spanish jets

Here's a rare one, a Hispano HA-200 Saeta. Designed and built in Spain, it was primarily a trainer, but an armed version was developed from it. 

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Ominous cumulus

I was going to walk out to the museum's 747 and P-2 Neptune, but something about those clouds told me I should make my way to the next building.

You can't go in these anyway. If you want to see inside a 747, including the cockpit and cargo hold, check out my tour of the Technik Museum Speyer.

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The last Titan

This is the last Titan missile built. It wasn't launched (obviously). 

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The LR-87 rocket engine, with its dual combustion chambers.

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To infinity, and beyond

It's always fascinating to see one up close. I also toured the Titan Missile Museum in Arizona, where you can see another Titan in its original underground silo and launch complex. Read more here: Inside the chilling Titan Missile Museum.

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Apollo air lift

A Sikorsky SH-3H Sea King lifts an Apollo Command Module replica. 

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Hail Nightingale

Seems my weather wariness was wise. A deluge of some peculiar blend of snow and hail quickly covered the property. You can't go in any of those aircraft, so it's fine to view them from the warm, dry museum interior. This is an Air Force VC-9 Nightingale transport. 

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Big noses

On the right is the Sikorsky H-34, which was developed from the H-19, in the middle. With its engine cover open you can see the unique front (but "backwards" mounted) engine layout of these helicopters. The H-19 was the Army's first transport helicopter. 

On the left is the antisubmarine Kaman SH-2 Seasprite, which entered service only a few years after the Sikorskys. 

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Flying banana

The oddly fruit-shaped Piasecki H-21 cargo helicopter. 

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Rainbow chopper

I stepped out into the slush to get this photo of a CH-37 Mojave, not at all fitting its name. Rainbow cameo in the upper left. 

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Rescue H-5

Before its 10 years with the US Coast Guard, this Sikorsky H-5 was in service with the first commercial helicopter company in the US.

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Polish fish

A MiG-21 Fishbed that was in service with the Polish Air Force. MiG-21s are the most produced supersonic aircraft in history.

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NASA Starfighter

The needle-like F-104 Starfighter. Originally built for the Belgian Air Force, it's seen here in NASA livery. 

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Prettiest hog

Some call it ugly. I call it gorgeous. The A-10 Thunderbolt II, aka the Warthog. Brrrrrrrrt!

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My favorite airplane aesthetic is "weird and bulbous," like this OV-1 Mohawk.

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Pilot and observer sit side-by-side. Though primarily an observation/surveillance aircraft, the OV-1 could be armed with bombs and rocket or gun pods.

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Certainly one of the most iconic aircraft, the SR-71 still holds many speed records.

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Engine of engines

The J58 is one of the most amazing jet engines, capable of modifying how it functions to supply thrust and relative fuel economy at a wide range of speeds.

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Speed drone

A D-21 supersonic drone, meant to be launched by a variant of the SR-71's predecessor, the A-12

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Big bird

Easy to forget how huge the SR-71 is. Also note the nose of the X-15 replica hanging from the ceiling. Now that is a fast airplane. Twice as fast as the SR-71.

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Another 70's Soviet gem, the MiG-23 Flogger. This one is from Egypt and was used by the US Air Force to determine its flight characteristics. 

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An X-38 re-entry vehicle, designed to evacuate astronauts from the ISS. This is the reworked prototype, the V-131-R.

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Out back

Every museum is limited by space, money or both. While there are many aircraft sitting outside, this one seems to need the most work. And that's too bad, as it's a very rare and exceptionally gorgeous Beechcraft Starship. Hopefully they'll restore it and give it a good place inside.

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Snowy Fulcrum

In front of the museum there's the always-gorgeous MiG-29 Fulcrum.

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Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum

The Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum has lots of amazing aircraft and is a really well curated museum. It's one of my favorites, and I've seen a lot of air museums.

For more info about this tour and the incredible aircraft within, read this: Inside the amazing Spruce Goose at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum.

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