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Hangar finished, ready for museum

Aircraft continue to arrive


by: JANET BROWN - Rex Barber Jr., of Terrebonne, and Jack Erickson, pose with Erickson's P-38 Lightning, which is similar to the one flown by Barber's father during World War II.This week, construction of the new Erickson Aircraft Collection Facility is expected to be completed, making it ready to house a museum.

Designed to accommodate at least 25 aircraft, the 64,000-square-foot facility will be the new home for the World War II era aircraft collection of Jack Erickson, according to Mike Oliver, general manager of the Tillamook Air Museum, where the entire collection was on display until recently. There, the aircraft are housed in a drafty, 325,000-square-foot World War II blimp hangar.

by: HOLLY M. GILL - The spacious interior of the new Erickson Aircraft Collection Facility is large enough to house 25 or more aircraft. The facility was expected to be completed this week."We’re really excited to get our hangar open and moved in," said Oliver, who has already moved 18 of the 26 or so aircraft from Tillamook to Madras, and is looking forward to setting up the new museum. "We flew a lot of them over last week."

When it's not raining in Tillamook, he intends to move most of the remaining aircraft in Erickson's collection, as well as land vehicles and memorabilia.

"I think what I'm going to do is try to get the aircraft situated, and the glass cases," said Oliver, who will work with his assistant and a couple volunteers to hang model airplanes, dress mannequins in World War II era clothing for displays, put up photos, decorate, and work in stages to set up the museum, which will open sometime after the Airshow of the Cascades, set for Aug. 22-23.

Oliver said they have not set a date for the opening of the Madras museum. However, the Erickson Group's lease of the Tillamook facillity continues until February 2016, he said, adding, "Our intention is to be (there) until then."

Steele Associates Architects, of Bend, designed the new facility — which is being built by CS Construction, also of Bend — to be spacious enough to allow the Erickson Group's other local operation, Erickson Aero Tanker, to work on the MD-87s used for its firefighting operation, in addition to housing the museum collection.

by: TOM BROWN - Above, a pilot arrives in a FW190, used by Germans during World War II."It was a big project and it all came together pretty quick," said Oliver, who plans to move to Madras, along with an assistant manager, to manage the new museum. "Not too long ago we were looking around and now we’re bringing our planes over."

The Erickson Group began looking for a location for their airtanker operation and a new, drier location for their museum sometime in 2011. When he heard about their search, the late Ron Berg, the father of current airport manager Rob Berg, sent owners Jack Erickson and Kevin McCullough an email about the Madras airport.

Unbeknownst to the city, the owners visited the airport in 2011, liked what they saw, and by late 2012, had taken over Butler Aircraft's lease on a 44,000-square-foot city hangar. In March 2013, the city approved the lease of several additional acres, and the company set about getting approval for, and constructing a larger hangar.

While the city owns the property under the new hangar, "Erickson owns the building itself and the improvements," explained Rob Berg, airport manager.

by: TOM BROWN - A Douglas DC-3, a fixed-wing propeller-driven airliner has found its new home at the Madras Municipal Airport.Besides the aircraft, Erickson's collection includes Jeeps, a tank, and memorabilia from World War II through the Vietnam and Korean wars. Among the aircraft are a pre-World War II Bellanca Aircruiser, an Aero L-29 jet from the Vietnam era, a Lockheed P-38 Lightning, a Grumman J2F Duck, a Japanese Nakajima Ki-43, called the "Oscar" by the allies during WWII, and a Boeing B-17 bomber.

The B-17, called "Chuckie" for the past 35 years, was moved to its new home in Madras in April. A former owner named it "Chuckie" — his wife's nickname. The bomber, acquired by Jack Erickson last year, will be renamed "Madras Maiden," with new nose art, which will be unveiled during the weekend of the Airshow of the Cascades.

"I think to market and promote and to brand our airplane as the 'Madras Maiden,' we’re basically advertising Madras when we’re flying at different air shows," said Oliver.

Erickson, who has owned aircraft most of his life, started the collection in the early 1980s, when he acquired a P-51 Mustang — a single-seat fighter aircraft, Oliver said. Erickson opened the Tillamook museum in 1996, and Oliver has operated the museum since 2007.

Oliver, who is tired of the rain on the coast, is looking forward to moving to Madras with his family.

"The weather is great and the people are nice," he said, noting that Tillamook gets 10 times as much rain as Madras. The drier, warmer climate will also be more conducive to keeping the aircraft in peak condition, since nearly all of Erickson's aircraft are flyable.

As a result of Erickson's investment in the airport, Berg said that he is receiving inquiries from potential businesses on a daily basis. "If half the things that are in the works materialize, then it will just continue to grow," he said.



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