March 15, 2011
By Alton K. Marsh
Even adults will enjoy a kids’ water slide planned to open June 6 at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville, Ore. The Evergreen Wings and Waves Waterpark offers four routes, from tame to wild and crazy, and all of them start from a retired Evergreen Boeing 747 mounted on top of a 60-foot building.
The museum may be better known as the new home of the Howard Hughes “Spruce Goose” Flying Boat.
The water park is part of the museum’s Captain Michael King Smith Educational Institute, dedicated to the late son of Evergreen Aviation founder Delford M. Smith, now the chairman of the board of the museum. In the water park there will be a 10,000-square-foot children’s museum with nearly two dozen interactive exhibits designed to teach concepts such as propulsion, Bernoulli’s Principle, the water cycle, and harnessing water as power. The aim is to teach not only about the science of water, but about the basic principles of aviation and space flight, incorporating the aviation, space, and water themes already present in the main museum.
Smith had suggested incorporating a Boeing 747 into the museum collection for display. At the same time, museum officials had started discussions on building a water park. Someone jokingly brought up in a meeting the idea of putting the 747 on top of the water park with slides coming out as they would during an emergency water landing. After everyone had a chuckle, Smith said he thought it was a great idea and asked Hoffman Construction, the museum’s building contractor, to make it happen.
Visitors climb to the airplane and choose the slide of their choice. The “Nose Dive” is a high-energy, two-person inner tube ride that combines a fast initial drop during a high-bank turn through a dark “oscillation” section before “breaking out of the clouds” into a circular bowl below. The ride culminates in a smooth splash landing.
The “Signature” ride starts with a steep run into the bowl itself followed by a rotational routing around the bowl. The “Mach One” slide is a high-speed ride that shoots visitors through a transparent orange tube above the entry to the park. Those arriving can see others having fun as they pass through the door. The “Tail Spin” features fast acceleration and a tight series of figure-eight, high-bank curves. The “Sonic Boom” is the mildest of the rides, although its name may not sound tame.
The Boeing 747 traveled 58.5 million miles before gracing the top of the water park. It took two cranes to lift the aircraft to the top of the building, with one used to prevent oscillations. The maneuver featured one of only seven aircraft slings available in the world available to lift the aircraft. Engines were removed, but the aircraft still weighed 328,000 pounds. There are 28,000 pounds of ballast in the nose. The aircraft acts like a big sail atop the building, requiring rugged superstructure below to handle wind forces.
Water park officials claim it is the first time a Boeing 747 has ever been placed atop a building anywhere in the world.
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.
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