The journey to Oregon
Of the News-Register
The Spruce Goose roosts in McMinnville because of Evergreen
International Aviations promise to give the historic aircraft
the care and respect it deserves.
For almost a decade, Howard Hughes HK-1 Flying Boat
was on display in Long Beach, Calif. It drew a steady stream
of history buffs, aviation aficionados and people who just like
to see really big things.
The wooden, World War II-era plane is huge by any standards,
much larger than a 747. It has the largest wingspan of any aircraft
By 1990, though, the company displaying the plane Walt
Disney decided to give up the Goose. So the aircrafts
owner, the Aero Club of Southern California, went looking for
another home for the HK-1.
Not just anyplace would do. The club wanted to make sure the
historic plane was properly cared for, preserved and displayed.
Half a dozen serious proposals were considered between late
1990 and mid-1992. Most of them would have put the plane on display
in a theme park setting.
The late Capt. Michael King Smith and his father, Evergreen
founder and chairman Del Smith, convinced the Aero Club that
Evergreens proposed air museum would be the best place
for the HK-1. That way, it would be part of a display including
at least 24 other historic planes and helicopters in a non-profit
We felt the most substantial proposal was from Evergreen,
which operates aircraft and helicopters worldwide and already
has a large collection of historic aircraft, said William
Schoneberger, president of Aero Exhibits.
Evergreen officials were thrilled when the Aero Club notified
them July 10, 1992, that the Goose was headed to McMinnville.
Evergreens driving motivation is to preserve the
historic aircraft and the legacy of Howard Hughes, Del
Smith said. This is an act of good citizenship and not
a commercial venture. We admire the many aviation contributions
of Mr. Hughes and believe this significant aircraft can
continue to tell the Hughes story for years to come.
Local residents also were excited by the pending arrival of
the famous plane and the impact a world-class air museum
could have on McMinnville.
I think it certainly has the potential to be a pretty
dramatic boost for the tourist portion of our economy,
City Manager Kent Taylor said when Evergreen won the bidding.
Galen McBee, then director of the airport, said he expected
the plane to attract numerous visitors interested in aviation
history. An air museum would be a good neighbor for the airport,
McBee, a pilot himself, also was looking forward to seeing
the Goose for personal reasons. Hed been hearing rumors
about Evergreens proposal.
All of a sudden you wake up and reality is here, and
its exciting, he said.
It took a lot of time and effort to move the Goose. Disassembly
alone took six weeks. The crew taking apart the plane included
some of the original craftsmen who helped build it.
The craft was broken down into four main sections the
fuselage, the two wings and the tail along with 34 smaller
The propellers, engines and small parts were shipped overland
to McMinnville. The four big pieces, shrink-wrapped in white
plastic for protection, came by water in October 1992.
In a five-day trip, ocean-going barges brought them up the
coasts of California and Oregon and up the Columbia River to
Portland. The city declared Spruce Goose Day on Oct.
22, and thousands of people came out to see the dismantled aircraft,
on a barge, dock at Waterfront Park.
Weather and river levels kept the Spruce Goose in Portland
for the rest of the year. One day the river was too high for
the wings to clear the bridges. The next, it was too low for
the plane to be unloaded onto land.
Eventually, the water cooperated and barges took the pieces
up the Willamette. The Spruce Goose became the largest load ever
to go through the locks at West Linn.
The Spruce Goose finally arrived at a landing just south of
Dayton in January 1993. It set there, dwarfing vehicles, for
weeks while final details of its move to Evergreen headquarters
were worked out.
State highway officials and local law enforcement agencies
helped plan a 7.5-mile backroads route with the fewest turns,
dips and utility lines.
On moving day, Feb. 27, the caravan of fuselage, wings, tail
and moving equipment stretched more than a quarter mile. Vintage
military vehicles, horses, bands, childrens groups, classic
cars, fire and farm equipment joined the stately parade as the
Spruce Goose neared McMinnville.
Evergreens vintage aircraft filled the sky. Thousands
of people lined Highway 18 to welcome the Spruce Goose. The word
of the day was wow.
Wow! Look at all those old planes! people said.
Wow! Look at all the people!
Wow! Look how big it is!