90° panorama of the Hughes H-4 Hercules as currently seen in the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. Photo by Gregg M. Erickson

90° panorama of the Hughes H-4 Hercules as currently seen in the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. Photo by Gregg M. Erickson

The world-class air museum developed by Evergreen International Aviation founder Del Smith may be in for some painful losses in the wake of the apparent collapse of Smith’s network of for-profit operation.The McMinnville, Oregon, museum housing Howard Hughes’ mammoth H-4 Hercules (better known as the “Spruce Goose”) is facing financial scrutiny, and the ownership of the historic airplane is in question.First envisioned by Capt. Michael King Smith, son of Evergreen International Aviation founder Delford Smith, the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum is the realization of his dream. The museum began with a small collection of vintage aircraft in a hangar at headquarters and was called the Evergreen Museum.Several Evergreen companies, founded and owned by Smith, include a water park and an air-and-space museum. Managers say the attractions will remain open. But the Oregon Department of Justice is investigating them for alleged commingling of funds between Evergreen’s profit and nonprofit arms, and Smith may have put up some of the planes in the museum as collateral being claimed by creditors.

With displays ranging from the elegant aeronautic designs of two unknown bike mechanics – Orville and Wilbur Wright – to an actual Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird that can fly at speeds of over 2,000 miles per hour – the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum located in McMinnville, Oregon, has a little something for everyone.

Giant_Plane_ComparisonThe centerpiece of these aeronautic breakthroughs is the original Spruce Goose. Built entirely of wood due to wartime restrictions on metals, this massive airplane stands as a symbol of American industry during World War II.The Hughes H-4 Hercules (also known as the “Spruce Goose“; registration NX37602) is a prototype heavy transport aircraft designed and built by the Hughes Aircraft company. The aircraft made its only flight on November 2, 1947, and the project never advanced beyond the single example produced. Built from wood because of wartime restrictions on the use of aluminum and concerns about weight, its critics nicknamed it the “Spruce Goose”, despite it being made almost entirely of birch rather than spruce.The Hercules is the largest flying boat ever built and has the largest wingspan of any aircraft in history.

As reported on Flying Mag ,though the popular belief is that the museum bought the Spruce Goose for $1, apparently Smith agreed to pay its previous owner $500,000 over 20 years, plus a share of the museum profits. An attorney for the Aero Club of Southern California claims the museum still owes $50,000. Museum director Larry Wood told reporters he was unaware of the debt.
While it’s possible the Aero Club could repossess the giant, eight-engine wooden flying boat, its fate would be in question.




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  1. Pingback: What's the future for the Hughes H-4 Hercules and The Evergreen Aviation Museum ? - WAR HISTORY ONLINE

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