By Jill Tallman
You can cruise the Hudson River under New York’s Class B airspace on your own personal tour of the Big Apple. This corridor gives pilots an exclusive perspective on such iconic landmarks as the Empire State Building; the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum; and the Statue of Liberty. The tour has regulatory requirements, including the completion of a New York Special Flight Rules Area course before you launch. See the FAA website and download a kneeboard reference that lays out the requirements. A temporary flight restriction went into effect in close proximity to the corridor after Donald Trump was elected president; check notams before flight, as details of the TFR may change.
By David Tulis
Acres of blueberry, hazelnut, and hops farmland 60 miles from the Pacific Ocean in northwest Oregon seem an unlikely home for one of aviation’s giants. The Howard Hughes-designed H–4 Hercules dubbed the Spruce Goose, a mammoth eight-engine flying boat that flew only once nearly 70 years ago, sits landlocked in McMinnville, about 1,000 miles north of its birthplace in Southern California. The aircraft attracts visitors to the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, located in a vineyard across the road from McMinnville Municipal Airport.
“This is a terrible place for a museum,” confided Larry Wood, Evergreen Museum’s retired executive director and current docent. “But people from all over the world come here and everybody says, ‘Why did he build it?’ Well, nobody knows but him.”
Sharing floor space with a B–17 Flying Fortress, a Lockheed SR–71 Blackbird, and more than 130 other celebrated aircraft, the Hercules H–4 is so large that six aircraft are tucked under its right wing.
The aircraft, with its laminated wooden plies so thin “they could be molded into any shape you wanted,” was manufactured with a composite construction technique before carbon fiber technology was invented, said Wood. Metal was in short supply during World War II, he explained, so an alternate process was used to construct the aircraft and its 160-foot-long wing spar built up with 150 wafer-thin layers of Wisconsin birch.
That variety of wood is very resistant to dry rot, but curators and docents keep an eye on humidity and temperature to keep the Hercules in top shape. A little dusting is about all it takes to maintain the monster, said Wood.
The H–4 flying boat, intended to haul 750 soldiers and two Sherman tanks, flew less than a minute, less than a mile, and 70 feet above the water.
The H–4 only flew one time—November 2, 1947—but there’s speculation that with a wiring upgrade and some TLC, the nearly 75-year-old flying boat (construction began in 1942 and continued until 1947) could waddle right out of the museum and into the Pacific Northwest sky.
“Rumors are that some engineering students looked at it on a simulator,” said Evergreen Museum curator Tim Morris, “and figured the airplane does everything that Howard Hughes said it would.”