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.
As if the size of the H-4 wasn't bizarre enough, it's a flying boat.
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.
The size makes it unlike anything of the era, and the overall design and seemingly endless smooth surfaces make it seem futuristic even today.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is one of the widest, most spacious cockpits I've ever seen.
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.
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.
Additional switches for the pilot, including hydraulic systems, autopilot and so on.
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.
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.
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.
This is a photo of inside the right wing. Mechanics could walk through here and perform some maintenance while airborne.
With so much space available, many of the important relays, fuses and junctions are conveniently up here on the flight deck.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Typically the Catalina would have a crew of 10, though that could vary depending on the mission.
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.
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.
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.
This is the first DC-3 delivered to an airline. She's named Reno, and United started flying her in 1936.
The cabin configured as it was in 1936, with seating for 21.
Amazingly, over 80 years since its first flight, the Reno is still flyable, with few modern anachronisms (the radio being one).
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.
The FJ-3 Fury, which is essentially an F-86 heavily modified for naval use and carrier landings.
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.
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.
This is the last Titan missile built. It wasn't launched (obviously).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A MiG-21 Fishbed that was in service with the Polish Air Force. MiG-21s are the most produced supersonic aircraft in history.
The needle-like F-104 Starfighter. Originally built for the Belgian Air Force, it's seen here in NASA livery.
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.
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.
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.
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.
An X-38 re-entry vehicle, designed to evacuate astronauts from the ISS. This is the reworked prototype, the V-131-R.
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.
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.