MADRAS — The Erickson Aircraft Collection has touched down in Madras.
The long-awaited air museum at Madras Municipal Airport, featuring more than 20 World War II-era planes from the collection of aviation magnate Jack Erickson, will open its doors to the public for the first time today on the first day of the Airshow of the Cascades.
Anthony Ruiz with the Erickson Group said through Saturday, admission to the museum will be $5, though today and Saturday museum-goers also must purchase a ticket to the air show.
Normal operations begin Monday, Ruiz said; the museum will be open every day but Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with admission at $9 for adults, children 5 and younger free, and reduced rates for seniors, veterans and youths 17 and younger.
At the center of a newly built hangar housing the museum is the largest plane in the collection, a B-17 bomber familiar to those who visited last year’s airshow. Newly painted and renamed the “Madras Maiden,' the plane made its public debut at an invitation-only reception Thursday.
The nose of the plane now features a painting of scantily-clad Texas model Hope Beel, said Lyle Jansma, staff photographer with the Erickson Group.
Pinup girl-style art was a common way to decorate a plane during WWII, Jansma said, and though Beel is not intended to represent anyone in particular from that era, the idea for the design was drawn from the Madras airport’s history as a training base during the war.
Any number of young men who passed though Madras likely headed off to the war thinking of local girls they’d met while training, he said.
Jansma said research of that period turned up one particularly sad story, of a training airman who met a Madras girl and married her before shipping off.
While he was away, she was killed by an errant bomb dropped at the training facility.
“Many of these guys, they were away from home for the first time, and the people of Madras, they embraced them,' Jansma said.
Several of Erickson’s planes will be flying today and Saturday, primarily early in the morning and at dusk, to accommodate photographers who’ve signed up to shoot the planes from the air against scenic backdrops such as Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson and Lake Billy Chinook.
Although many of Erickson’s planes are among the last airworthy examples of their kind, few flew in the pivotal battles of the war.
At the end of the war, many still-flyable planes based overseas were dismantled for scrap.
In some cases, the remaining fuel in the planes’ tanks was determined to be more valuable than the planes themselves.
“A lot of the planes here, the reason they’re here today is they were never sent off to the war,' Jansma said.
Ruiz said museum visitors will be able to get up close to all of the planes in the collection.
In the case of the B-17, will be able to get a curated tour of the inside of the plane for an additional $3.
“What people have always loved about the collection, and Jack’s collection in Tillamook, is there are no velvet ropes here,' he said.