Saturday, November 11, 2017

Yakima aviation museum takes a big step with new hangar, pair of small planes

YAKIMA, Wash. -- The McAllister Museum of Aviation was one of the few — if not the only — flight museums that didn’t have an actual airplane on permanent display.

Not anymore.

On Saturday, the museum formally opens its hangar annex to the public, where it will showcase two small airplanes. And someday museum officials hope to show off the glider flown by the museum’s namesake, aviation pioneer Charlie McAllister.

“We have the beams in the ceiling where we can hang it,” said Warren Robins, a museum volunteer and member of the board of directors.

The 6,400-square-foot building will also provide a safe home for the museum’s archives, which are currently stored in the main building where McAllister ran his flight school from 1926 until his death in 1998.

The hangar was financed with grants from the state Department of Commerce to provide permanent housing for the Civil Air Patrol’s Cessna 182 aircraft. The Civil Air Patrol’s portion of the hangar was completed in 2015.

While there are still some finishing touches to make, the building is ready to welcome museum visitors, with two aircraft and a high-powered propeller engine cutaway on the main floor.

One of the aircraft, a Roberts Sceptre, was previously stored in a trailer on the museum grounds. Museum secretary Liggett Taylor said this is the first time the craft has been publicly displayed at the museum.

The Sceptre is a single-seat aircraft with a rear-mounted engine and propeller.

The other plane, a Bede BD-5, is a high-performance single-seat aircraft that also has a rear-mounted propeller. A jet version of the aircraft was flown in the James Bond movie “Octopussy.”

The museum’s plane was built from a kit by Ellensburg resident Robert Clerf, who spent 15 years assembling the plane.

Another item on exhibit in the hangar is a cutaway Pratt & Whitney R-4360 engine. The engine, one of four cutaways of its kind known to exist, was built by the company as a training tool for mechanics.

Parts of the engine are cut away to show its inner workings. An electric motor turns the shaft, so people can see how the gears turn, as well as how the valves and pistons work together.

At 3,000 horsepower, the engine was used on military bombers and transports, as well as the Super Corsair fighter in World War II. Howard Hughes used eight of the engines to power his “Spruce Goose” flying boat.

The engine was a part of the museum’s original collection, but was on loan to the Museum of Flight in Seattle for 14 years before being returned to Yakima.

In addition to display space, the hangar also has a meeting room used by both the museum and the air patrol, as well as space to catalog and store the museum’s collection of photos, medals, ribbons, uniforms and flight gear. Robbins said the hangar is designed to be fireproof in order to protect the archives.

There is also an area in the hangar’s upper level where visitors can watch planes take off and land at the Yakima Air Terminal next door.

Robins said one of the goals is to move some of the exhibits in the current museum building — McAllister’s original hangar — into the new structure, relieving crowding.

Eventually, museum staff want to bring in McAllister’s “Yakima Clipper,” the homemade glider in which he set a regional flight endurance record in the 1930s.

The Yakima Clipper is now on display at the Museum of Flight.

“We’re in discussions with them,” Robins said.

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