By Stewart Bailey, Curator
To the drug runners, their night couldn’t be going better. They’d made their rendezvous with the fishing vessel and were loading their cargo of cocaine aboard the speed boat for a fast dash to shore, where dealers were waiting to put the “product” onto U.S. streets. Suddenly, out of nowhere, they were surrounded by a U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement team and a U.S. Navy frigate that appeared like phantoms out of the dark. With thoughts of “how did they find us?” rushing through their heads, they started dumping cargo, but the gesture was futile as they had been caught in the act. Everything was caught on tape by a silent spy.
Sound like something out of a police drama on television? It could have been, but this scenario actually did take place on April 3, 2010, when the USS McInerney, a U.S. Navy frigate successfully intercepted drug smugglers attempting to move over 200 kilos of cocaine off the coast of California. They had tracked the drug runners in their speed boat for more than three hours and moved in to make the bust when they met up with their supplier aboard the fishing boat. And the silent spy that made it possible? It was a new type of robot aircraft named the Fire Scout.
By Amy Quick, Director of Membership
As many of you have heard, February is our Member Appreciation Month! This is a time the Museum staff dedicates to honoring the people who have supported us the most – our members.
Every February, we enjoy amazing presentations and weekends full of free activities for Museum members. For 2011, we have added a behind the scenes tour of our restoration hangar with Museum curator Stewart Bailey, and a member-only Star Party in our IMAX Theater. In addition to all the wonderful people involved throughout the month, we are thrilled to welcome Dr. Rob Holman from Oregon State University. Dr. Holman is the founder of the Coastal Imaging Lab at OSU and has spent his life studying the inactions of ocean waves and beaches. He will be speaking at the Shifting Sands event on Feb. 12, and will be followed by an exclusive showing of the new (to us) IMAX movie, Ultimate Wave Tahiti!
Member Appreciation Month kicks off this weekend with a Kids Day on Saturday from 10:15am to approximately 1pm. The event will feature a planetarium, book reading, and Steve the “Balloon Guy.” We will also provide a special kids menu at our Cosmo Cafe in the Space Museum.
Thank you again to our Museum members, and we hope to see you throughout the month!
By Kasey Richter, Director of PR and Marketing
As you might have heard, the Museum has an amazing new project that is becoming close to completion.
This project is the Evergreen Wings & Waves Waterpark, a nonprofit educational Waterpark that will include four waterslides, a wave pool and a children’s museum dedicated to teaching students about the power of water. The space features nearly 70,000 square feet of educational fun, highlighted by a massive B747-100 aircraft that rests on the top of the building. Throughout the structure, Waterpark visitors will learn about the power of water and its effects on society through dozens of interactive exhibits and learning tools.
This Waterpark is unique for a few different reasons. One, it is the only aviation-themed waterpark that we know of. Two, it is the only building that has a 747 on the roof (to be technically accurate, there is a 747 that is elevated off the ground in Germany, but it is not on a roof). Third, this Waterpark places a massive emphasis on the Museum’s mission, which is to inspire and educate. So not only will the Waterpark visitors have a blast, but they will learn something as well.
The Museum staff is still finalizing details regarding the Waterpark opening, but I wanted to provide a little more information on that big building next to the Museum with an aircraft on top. For more photos of the construction progress, check out our facebook page and our twitter feed.
Watch how we lifted the 747 on top of the roof (thanks to one of our favorite Museum visitors, Even Q):
When the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum’s newest aircraft, a McDonnell-Douglas (Boeing) F-15A Eagle was dedicated late last year, it joined a growing collection of aircraft types that share the distinct honor of having served with the Oregon Air National Guard. Along with the P-51D, F-102A, T-33A and F-4C, the F-15A helps trace the history of the 123rd Fighter Squadron, which is celebrating the 70th anniversary of its founding this year.
The idea of a state-controlled National Guard is a uniquely American concept, with roots stretching back to the first shots of the Revolutionary War. Ever since, state run militias have provided citizen-soldiers for every one of America’s conflicts, and it was only natural that when aviation became a part of the military, that the guardsmen would serve there too. In Oregon, the effort to create an aviation unit began in April, 1939, when President Roosevelt proposed an expansion for the Army Air Corps that included ten new observation squadrons for the National Guard. 2nd Lt. Robert Dodson, who had been flying as a reservist at Pearson Field, requested the creation of a new unit, telling the Air Corps “We’ve got people, we’ve got a place, and we’re ready!” Promoted to Major, Dodson enlisted 117 men at the Swan Island Airport and they were officially designated the 123rd Observation Squadron on April 18, 1941. They received federal funding and erected a hangar to begin operations with O-47 observation aircraft and BC-1 training aircraft.
Within five months, the 123rd was called to active duty and moved to Gray Field, at Fort Lewis, Washington to perform anti-submarine patrols along the Pacific Northwest coast. Then in April, 1944, they received news that they were going overseas. Equipped with F-5s, the photo recon version of the P-38 Lightning, and re-designated the 35th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron, the unit headed into combat for a year and a half in the China-Burma-India Theater.
After peace returned to the world, the 123rd was re-instated under the control of the Oregon National Guard at the Portland International Airport. Now designated a fighter squadron, the 123rd was equipped with P-51D Mustangs, and became part of the Air National Guard when the Air Force became a separate service in 1947. Over the next sixty years, the 123rd would change aircraft many times, from the P-51 Mustang to the F-86 Sabre, the F-94 Starfire, the F-89 Scorpion, the F-102 Delta Dagger, the F-101 Voodoo, and the F-4 Phantom. In 1990 they transitioned to the F-15 Eagle, which they still fly today.
The F-15 on display, serial # 73-0089 had a very lengthy career with both the Air Force and Air National Guard (ANG). It was the 6th production F-15 built at the McDonnell-Douglas plant in St. Louis, and was the 23rd F-15 to enter service with the US Air Force. (A total of 17 prototype and pre-production aircraft are included in that number.) It spent the first decade of its life stationed at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, serving with the 555th TFTS and 405th TFS in the training role, before being handed over to the 122nd TFS of the Louisiana Air National Guard. Six years later, it went back to the active Air Force and served in Iraq with the 9th TFS for combat operations during 1991. It then came back home to serve with the Georgia Air National Guard, before traveled back to New Orleans with the 122nd and finally on to the Oregon ANG in 1994 for the last 15 years of its life.
At the time of its retirement in 2009, #0089 was the oldest, longest serving F-15 in the United States Air Force inventory. It was turned over to the National Museum of the United States Air Force, for preservation at Evergreen, and made ready for display by volunteers from the 123rd FS under the leadership of Chief Master Sergeant John Rasmussen. She certainly had a great run, and it is wonderful to see her preserved in the museum where she proudly reflects on the history of Oregon’s own; the 123rd Fighter Squadron.