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Popular Classic Aircraft Aviation Museum loses lease, moves to coast.

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: TRAVIS LOOSE - Inside the workshop hangar, visitors are treated to exposed jet engines, an array of ejector seats and three more classic aircraft, including a Lockheed F-104 Starfighter from 1965.The planes at the Classic Aircraft Aviation Museum in Hillsboro draw enthusiasts from around the world.

With 18 classic aircraft in its collection, the museum’s inventory ranges from World War II-era to the present, and its volunteer staff stays busy restoring, repairing and preparing the planes to be shown at airshows and other aviation museums around the country.

But after losing a lease at the Hillsboro Airport, several planes in the museum’s collection are being relocated to the Oregon Coast.

Since 1998, the free museum has been located in the Hillsboro Airport, 3005 N.E. Cornell Road, using two hangars as a showroom and a workshop, respectively. But when its lease with the Port of Portland expired earlier this year, the Port took over the showroom hangar — leaving the museum with no place to put several aircraft.

Nearly half of the museum’s collection is being re-located to the Tillamook Air Museum, which has been looking for new planes since losing much of its collection to another museum in Madras, Ore.

“It was really a great collaboration,” said Douglas Donkel, executive director at the Classic Aircraft Aviation Museum. Donkel was able to get six planes moved to Tillamook’s Hangar B, one of only three remaining 1940s wooden blimp hangars in the world.

“We’ll probably take a few more of our ground display aircraft down there,” he said, adding that “all we’ve moved so far we’ve flown.”

Planes that aren’t flyable have to be transported by truck, which can be problematic, said museum historian and program coordinator Lee Faulk.

“It’s a logistical nightmare,” Faulk said, noting the moving roadblocks, cranes and mechanics that are required for the undertaking. “Moving airplanes is a specialized thing. Only a handful of people in the country can do it.”

It costs anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000 to move one plane, Donkel said.

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: TRAVIS LOOSE - Three of the Classic Aircraft Aviation Museums flying classic aircraft are parked outside its workshop hangar. None of these aircraft are seen much anymore at all, said museum Executive Director Douglas Donkel. Not even at airshows. “It’s quite a process,” Donkel added. “And every time you move an aircraft on the ground, something gets bent.”

Even flying the planes to other museum sites, which is far easier, has a set of logistical challenges.

To accommodate the landing and takeoff of older planes, the length of the runway needs to be a little longer than some small airfields are designed, Donkel said. Also, pilots can’t just hop into any aircraft and fly. Specialized training is needed, he said — especially for some of the older models.

Fewer than 10 people across the country are licensed to fly the Mikoyan-Gurevish MiG-21, a Russian-made, Soviet-era supersonic fighter jet. The Hillsboro museum has three.

The museum specializes in restoring aircraft to flyable condition, and ultimately, Donkel said, the move won’t have a major impact on the museum or its mission.

“We’re a flying museum,” Donkel said. “Our goal is to have planes in the air. Historically, the way we display the aircraft is in airshows around the Northwest.”

“(We keep them) in the air, where they belong,” added Faulk. “We’re not built to be a walk-in museum, per se. We’re a working hangar with working aircraft.”

To schedule a tour of the Classic Aircraft Aviation Museum, or to learn about volunteer opportunities, visit, or call 503-693-1414.

The museum is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

By Travis Loose
Reporter, Hillsboro Tribune
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