Hughes' H-4 Hercules Flying Boat, better known as the "Spruce Goose," is the centerpiece of a new Northwest aviation museum opening this week in McMinnville, Ore.
The Captain Michael King Smith Evergreen Aviation Educational Institute opens today. More than 40 airplanes will be on display in addition to Hughes' 8-engine flying boat.
Other airplanes on exhibit include a McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle, a Boeing B-17G, a Douglas C-47 and a North American P-51.
The Spruce Goose is being refurbished and visitors can see that work under way, said Bill Schaub, museum president and general counsel. The airplane is actually made of mostly birch, not spruce.
The airplane revolutionized jumbo flying bodies and large lift capability, Schaub said.
Hughes piloted the airplane on its maiden and only flight in November 1947. It reached 70 feet above the water and flew at 80 mph for one mile before making a perfect water landing in Long Beach, Calif.
Later, the Flying Boat was on display in Long Beach. In 1992, it was acquired by Evergreen International Aviation of McMinnville. It was barged up the coast to the Columbia River and then down the Willamette River toward McMinnville. Its final miles were made overland by trucks.
The museum staff hopes to eventually open the interior of the Spruce Goose to the public. Until then, visitors will be able to watch restorers make the finishing touches to restore the airplane to its 1947 appearance.
"There's been a huge demand to see the airplane. Many people have called and some just stop by," Schaub said.