The Naval Air Station Tillamook (NAST) was not one of our original “Must Do” goals described in the Oregon Coast – Part I post. However, when we left the Tillamook Cheese Factory and began driving south, we saw that irresistible huge “Air Museum” sign on a very large air hanger not too far off the road. We turned at the light, drove down a two lane road for a bit, turned right and we quickly saw the hanger almost straight ahead.
This post has been lingering in my mind for a while and I finally understood why. Everything about the NAST hanger is huge…there’s no other way to describe it. So, the question was how to best approach the hanger, both outside and inside, that would allow a logical progression with scale in mind. Now, it could be that I’m making this overly complicated and as I’ve been aptly accused of that, there’s probably some truth in this statement.
A quick note…if you click on the image it will take you to an expanded view. Also, all images were taken with the Nikon Df and 24-85mm unless otherwise noted. The two exceptions are the main entrance and the NAST plate and flag – they were taken with the iPhone 6.
So, we’ll start on the outside, a quick shot of the hanger length, and then jump to the main entrance where visitors normally enter. With this in mind, the opening photo should give you an excellent view of the hanger’s size…it includes my wife, standing 5’2″ tall leaning against the front tire of the Mini-Guppy (27′ tall) parked outside the hanger which is 27 stories tall. It’s a good representation of the scales involved.
If you’re interested in more of the history as well as some photos from the 1940’s, click on this link. It will take you to the Oregon Encyclopedia site which, in addition to the history of the site, has a slide show of photographs from when the hanger was built-in 1942. One of the photos that caught my eye showed a single engine airplane flying into the hanger.
Normally you could access this part of the airfield through a door on the end of the hanger. While you can’t see it directly, if you were to walk around the nose of the mini-Guppy you’d see it on the left side of the hanger doors.
With this in mind, the next shot was taken from the top of the steps on the interior of the hanger. This was the only way to capture the entire length of the 297′ long hanger. If you look about 1/3 of the way down you’ll see a whitish canopy. This is just to the left of the main entrance when you walk into the hanger.
From this vantage point we’ll switch to the main entrance where you can buy your tickets and, if time permits, there’s a snack bar as well as a gift shop.
Once you get your tickets and wristband, you’re free to wander to your heart’s content.
The first aircraft that greets you when you go through the passage way is a F-14 Tomcat fighter, then a F-8 Crusader fighter aircraft flown by Col. J.R. “Shooter” Sanders with a Russian MIG next to the F-8.
While there’s a lot of empty space in the hanger, there’s also other aircraft worth looking at, e.g, A WWII era B26 Marauder bomber, a WW I Spad, some gliders, a small Blimp (one-person?) and when you go outside. the Mini-Guppy.
A final note…the NAST was a working base in WWII, one of 17 Blimp fields across the United States. The base was built in 1942 and closed in 1948. There were originally two hangers but one burned down in 1992 when hay stored inside caught fire. As you can imagine, it was never replaced.
Additionally, as you enter the hanger, there’s a story board showing the different types / sizes of blimps during the blimp era ranging from the Hindenburg at 803 feet to a six-foot one-man blimp .
We didn’t see that the NAST had to offer as we were on a time constraint. If you like air museums and you’re in the area, consider dropping in. It offers a unique view of an era that is long gone. We’re glad we stopped by and when we to Oregon again, we’ll most likely stop and explore the rest of the base.
We went to the gift shop and picked up a few things. Among those items were two pieces of jewelry made from aircraft components. My wife really liked the two rings as they have adjustable backs which makes it easier to fit on her fingers.
The next post will be about Yachats.