Hood River Aviation Museum
One of the great things about travel is finding a jewel you didn’t even know you were looking for. Case in point: Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum in Hood River, Oregon.
Susan and I were returning from our trip to Thailand and Vietnam, had stopped in Bellevue, WA to visit Kimm Viebrock and family, made another overnight stay in Waterville, WA to see some of my family, and had a great two night layover in Mosier, OR with long-time FOT (Friend of Telluride), Arlene Burns. At dinner our first night (in Hood River as it turned out) Arlene mentioned there is a really interesting aviation museum in Hood River. She shares with me a love of flying and knew I would enjoy spending some time at WAAAM. She was right…
The next day we were busy, trying to crowd a year and a half of catching up into a few hours. Arlene was at Mountainfilm in Telluride last Spring, but getting around the films and talks left little time for a personal reunion. The result was I didn’t get to Hood River until fairly late in the afternoon, and the place closes (according to the schedule) at 1700 (5:00 pm for you non-flying types). I had less than 2 hours to cover two large hangars of airplanes, antique autos, motorcycles, flight suits, videos, photographs, you name it. Those two hangars are so full of wonderful machines the museum has just opened a third hangar. This will make it easier to move planes around, important because these antiques aren’t just for viewing- they still fly. My kind of museum!
And I didn’t even get a running start as the man at the entrance spun a great flying story about one of their planes, a Curtiss Pusher from the era immediately following the Wright Brothers’ first powered flights. Seems a modern daredevil decided to repeat a feat first performed in 1912- a flight off the top of the Multnomah Hotel in downtown Portland. In the modern version in 1995, the calculated take-off distance was around 160 feet, but a slight tailwind pushed the actual takeoff to about 198 feet. Not a big error, except the length of the “runway” was 200 feet! Change of underwear, anyone? Oh, and in the “small world” category: the Curtiss Pusher replica that was flown off the roof in 1995 was built by a Northwest Airlines pilot, Walter Bullock, who was directly responsible for Joe Kimm’s (my former father-in-law) being hired by Northwest Airways in 1929. Bullock had owned an original Pusher as a young man. At the end of his airline career Walter wanted to fly the Curtiss again. Unable to locate an original, he built the replica himself, finishing it in 1947. That airplane is now on display at WAAAM. I didn’t learn of this coincidence until later when I studied WAAAM’s excellent website. It was particularly nostalgic for me because Joe Kimm just died this past September at age 102! His airline career lasted from 1929, flying Ford Tri-Motors, to mandatory retirement in 1971, THE senior Captain at Northwest, flying the Boeing 707.
It was almost impossible for me to rush through the displays, as the equipment on view was so special. In many cases the airplanes (excuse me: aeroplanes) are the last of their type still flying, or perhaps even in existence. The four WACOs on the far wall of the first hangar could have occupied me for the whole 2 hours. Fortunately I was intercepted late in my tour by Donna Davidson, Assistant Director of the Museum. As the clock was ticking she showed me around, and we somehow managed to close it down at 1730. This is a museum operated for and by airplane nuts. Count me one.
Clint Viebrock photos
1600 Air Museum Road, Hood River, Oregon
Open daily (except Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Day) 0900-1700
Weather permitting, Airshows on the 2d Saturday of the month