Giant World War II Hangar’s Future Up In The Air
There’s really nothing quite like it left in the world. The largest clear-span wooden structure in the world, known as Hangar B, is an astonishing 15 stories high.
Hangar B is the surviving twin brother to Hangar A. Both built in 1943, the behemoths housed massive World War II airships (blimps) at what was once the Tillamook Naval Air Station. So big, in fact, the lumber used to build just one of the hangars is enough to build 180 3-bedroom homes and the number of two by fours used,layed out end to end would stretch 992 miles from Tillamook, Oregon to Los Angeles, California.
Hangar A was destroyed by a massive fire in 1992. Three hundred truck-loads of freshly baled, highly flammable hay from area farmers was being stored inside for shipment to Japan. Firefighters were no match against the gargantuan inferno. Eventually the 9 acre roof collapsed, sending firefighters scrambling. Hangar A was a complete loss.
For more than 30 years, three local lumber companies operated out of the hangars. In 1984, Wren Aircraft used Hangar A to build Cessna 182 Skylanes. After the fire, the owner of the hangars, the Port of Tillamook Bay established a small blimp museum and in 1996, the port had acquired one of the finest collections of operational vintage World War I and II aircraft and a modern F-14 Tomcat fighter jet.
The museum features more than thirty war birds, including a Bf-109 Messerschmitt, A-4B Skyhawk, P-38 Lightning, Martin AM Mauler, 1938 Bellanca Air Cruiser, Bell Helicopter, Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber, AD-4W Skyraider, and the rare Nakajima Ki-43, known as the Peregrine Falcon.
But the future of Hangar B is unknown. In April of this year, the owner of the airplane collection announced they were moving the planes to a new 65,000 square foot hangar several miles inland stating the close proximity of the ocean was too harsh a climate for the antique warbirds.
Try telling that to the more than 80,000 annual visitors to the Tillamook Air Museum who leases Hangar B. The Hangar desperately needs repairs so finding new tenants won’t be easy. The 12 acre roof has to be completely removed and rebuilt because dozens of patches over the years have added too much weight to the current structure.
Even though the Hangar is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Port and the community does not have the money to make the necessary repairs, so imperative that without them, the historic structure will ultimately be condemned and closed to the public.
Photo: Interior photo of the exhibit area at the en:Tillamook Air Museum in en:Tillamook, Oregon, en:United States. The building is the dirigible hangar of the former en:Tillamook Naval Air Station, and is listed on the en:National Register of Historic Places. Public Domain photo by Robert Wendstrand.