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  • Steve

RV-8 and the Tillamook Air Museum

Saturday 7/1/23 was forecast to be, and ended up being, a rather nice day. The sky was clear, though it was a bit windy, but not excessively so, and it was not hot, largely due to said wind. Because of the wind, we figured that it would be pretty bumpy anywhere we went, and it was, but it wasn't as bad as I feared it would be.


I had no real idea where I wanted to go and since I didn't sleep well the night before, I had wanted to go somewhere local and make an early day of it. Carl suggested Tillamook and I thought that sounded like a good idea, since it had been a little over a year since we had been there. Also, once I got in the airplane, I wasn't tired any more.

The business end of the blimp hangar.

For those unfamiliar, the Tillamook Air Museum is housed in an old WWII blimp hangar. The remaining hangar is hangar B, hangar A having burned down many years ago. Prior to 2014, the Erickson Collection was housed at Tillamook, making it a great destination that we visited quite a few times.


Once the Erickson Collection moved across the mountains to Madras, OR, the Tillamook museum continued to soldier on. There wasn't much left in 2014, but they have slowly added some exhibits over the years. The cafe used to have a pretty good menu, but it was, like so many others like it, a victim of the pandemic. Due to the reduced traffic volume post-Erickson, the cafe went to a summer only schedule, then closed for good for a couple of years.


A couple of years ago, a couple of guys opened Fat Head BBQ in the old cafe space. We went there last year and, to be brutally honest, we weren't impressed. We both had the brisket, which tasted good, but was rather tough and stringy. We wanted to give them another chance before writing them of entirely, so we thought we might try the pulled pork.


We took off from Arlington at about 1145. It wasn't too busy at the time, so we didn't have a difficult time getting out. It hadn't gotten too windy yet, so it wasn't as bumpy as it would be later.


Carl climbed straight to cruising altitude, 8,500', and went around the north end of the Class B, trying to get smoother air. I gambled and stayed at 4,500' and went directly to Bremerton. This was a slightly shorter distance, so I figured my slightly slower speed would maybe make it so we got to Bremerton at about the same time. It worked, I didn't start to fall behind until we passed Bremerton. There were a few bumps down there, but not nearly as many as I had expected, so I think that was a good call.


Tillamook is down in a valley with hills of varying heights around it and descending and climbing in and out of there can be a bit bouncy, so we went a little further west to be able to descend over the water and hopefully miss at least the mechanical turbulence from the wind over the hills. That provided two bonuses, first was that we did get some smoother air, and second that the scenery was really nice.


I was a little concerned as the wind at Tillamook was forecast to be about 15-20 knots all day, but it was supposed to be within 20 degrees or so of runway heading, so shouldn't be too big of a problem, and it wasn't.


I seem to go in phases with my landings. I will go several weeks or even a couple of months making really nice landings, then go a couple of weeks making really lousy ones. I was in the middle of a lousy streak and was hoping for some improvement, which fortunately I found. Considering the conditions, I thought the landing at Tillamook was pretty good. I was a little off the center line, but I got back there eventually.


After landing, getting to the museum can be a bit of a chore. The museum, and the path to it is at the north end of runway 1. Usually, weather and traffic permitting, we will land on runway 1 and just roll out the whole length to take the track to the museum. This time, however, the wind was not conducive to trying that, so we landed on runway 31. One good thing about the stronger wind is that it lowers your ground speed at touchdown, which means you don't need to roll as far to slow down, so it was easy to touch down on runway 31 and make a right turn onto runway 1 and taxi to the museum. Under the conditions, it was very unlikely we were going to be in anyone's way.


There is a large ramp area in front of the blimp hangar that is not in the best of shape. It is also accessible to museum visitors who are going around the end to look at the Mini-Guppy. We had a situation several years ago, when we parked closer to the museum, that when we came out we saw foot prints on the wheel pants and finger prints on the wing leading edges. Apparently, someone had allowed their kids to step on the wheel pants. Aside from being just plain rude, it is also bad because the wheel pants are not designed to hold any weight.


Starting last year, we started parking near the hangars at the north end of the ramp. We have talked to the people that own the hangars we were nearest and they both said it was OK for us to park there. It was also fun to stand around talking to them for a while.


We eventually headed into the museum as we were both getting pretty hungry. As soon as I walked in the first thing I noticed was a sign saying that the Cafe was closed Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for catering events. The second thing I noticed was the smell of BBQ meats cooking. That was torture, we could smell the food, but couldn't have any.


As soon as I saw the sign, I remembered a conversation we had on the radio on the way down. There are a couple of guys from Pearson Field in Vancouver, WA who seem to be out every Saturday at the same time we are, so we always hear them on the radio. They had talked about going into Westport and we mentioned we were going to Tillamook. Someone on the frequency mentioned that they were there a couple of weekends ago and the place was closed for a catering event. We though nothing of it at the time, but it came flooding back when we go there. Sure, we could have called ahead to make sure they were open today, but where's the adventure in that?


Since we were there, we decided that we might as well go through the museum. While it doesn't take too long to go through any more, it is almost as interesting to look at the hangar itself as it is the exhibits. It is one of the largest buildings ever made entirely, or nearly entirely, out of wood.


As soon as you walk through the door there is an A-7 right in front of you, an F-14 to the right and a B-52 nose section to the left.

A well worn A-7, that may have spent many years in the past sitting outside.
The F-14 is on loan from the Navy and my guess is that they hope they never have to take it back.
They apparently want to restore this B-52G nose section, though there was nothing indication why.

Behind the B-52 nose is a large tent that houses the majority of the collection, with room to add more. Some of the airplanes may still be flyable, though some others look like they haven't flown in a very long time. The video linked below shows what is in the tent, around the middle of the video.


On the far side of the hangar is a display of hundreds of models that were made by Arthur Schramm. His son donated all of his father's models, apparently a life time of work, to the museum. It is in 2 rooms and is just a staggering amount of models.

Just some of the hundreds of models on display.

Back outside in the main hangar, they have the nose section of a Convair 880. You can walk through the cabin and see what early airliners looked like. They are also trying to raise money to restore this nose section. It looks like this must have sat outside for many years and the nose may be all that was saved from the scrap bin.

At least the outside has been painted and polished.
No idea if the seats are correct for the period, but they fit.
The flight deck is a little the worse for wear, but at least they have their approach plates.

Once we had seen about all there was to see, it was time to head home. It was pretty close to 1500 by the time we took off for home. Being later in the day, I feared the air would be even bumpier, but it wasn't that bad. There were a few places where we got bounced around pretty good, but for the most part, it was a nice trip home.


As we neared Arlington, it was obvious that 34 was going to be a bad choice. The first time I listened to the AWOS, the wind was 290 at 15. I thought, hey, that's not so bad. As I got closer, I listened several more times and the wind was shifting a bit and becoming gustier. The last time I listened before entering the pattern it was 280 at 16 gusting to 22.


I was expecting a spirited landing, but it actually went pretty well. The only glitch was that on short final I got rolled pretty good by either a thermal or a gust. The actual landing was pretty good though.


While at the museum I used my phone to get some video of some of the exhibits for the video below. I was just holding it in my hand walking around, that is why it is so jittery. Next time I may take my old GoPro Hero 8, with it's built in stabilization, it would probably smooth that right out. Either that, or get a gyro stabilized mount for my phone.


All in all, it was a nice trip and I am glad that we went.


The outbound track log can be seen here.


The return track log can be seen here.


The video can be sen here.

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