Most pilots learn to fly because they have a passion for aviation, which makes aviation museums the perfect fly-to destinations. Here’s a list of some of our favorites in the Northwest.
The Erickson Collection in Madras, Oregon, is often regarded as one of the top five private flyable warbird collections in the world. It's housed in a beautiful, custom-built hangar. Read our article about this fine collection and thrilling airshow in central Oregon.
The Seattle area features several fine aviation museums. At the southern end of Boeing Field, the Museum of Flight is the world’s largest independent, nonprofit air and space museum, attracting more than 500,000 visitors annually. Call ahead to tie down right at the museum. Unique galleries feature extraordinary aircraft and focus on courage during battle, the development of air travel and package delivery, space travel, and more. Paine Field in Everett, just north of Seattle, hosts the Flying Heritage and Combat Armor Museum. The brainchild of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the museum holds a breathtaking collection of immaculately restored, airworthy World War II-era aircraft, as well as tanks and combat armor, and hosts special events on a regular basis. Our supremely well-informed docent earned a Silver Star for his heroics over Europe during World War II. His parting words to us were, “Enjoy your freedom.” Also at Paine Field is the Museum of Flight Restoration Center. We so enjoyed our visit with the talented volunteers restoring the rare birds inside, many of whom are former Boeing employees. At the north end of Paine Field, the Future of Flight Aviation Center and Boeing Tour is a must-visit for aviation enthusiasts. Witness the assembly-line construction of Boeing 747, 767, 777, and 787 (Dreamliner) jets in the world’s largest building by volume and leave immensely proud of this great American company.
The Warhawk Air Museum is at Nampa Airport, about 20 miles west of Boise, Idaho. In addition to the P-51 Boise Bee, they have two extremely rare and immaculate P-40s, Parrothead and Sneak Attack. All three of these aircraft fly during the annual summer airshow, Warbird Roundup. Sneak Attack flew in several films, including Pearl Harbor and Valkyrie. Aside from those gorgeous P-40s, plus numerous other airplanes and vehicles, the cases filled with flight jackets, medals, and personal effects of our military aviators are profoundly moving. Even more so are the notebooks you can peruse, filled with copied pages from the personal diaries and letters of American military men and women, written while they were far from home. I have spent hours poring over these notes and always leave profoundly humbled.
The Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum is across the road from McMinnville Municipal Airport and the former headquarters of Evergreen International Aviation. An enormous hangar displays a variety of military and civilian aircraft, including a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird and a Beechcraft Model 17 Staggerwing. Dominating it all is the astounding Hughes H-4 Hercules, also known as the “Spruce Goose,” built, and flown once, by billionaire pilot Howard Hughes. The aircraft was designed to transport troops and materials safely across the Atlantic Ocean because the Germans were sinking hundreds of Allied ships. The gigantic flying boat was built almost entirely of birch, due to wartime restrictions on the use of metals, and is the world’s largest all-wood airplane. You’ll also find a Titan II ICBM and recreated missile control room, flight simulators, an IMAX theater, and “Wings and Waves” waterpark with an Evergreen Boeing 747 on its roof.
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