Soaring with the Warbirds
The Erickson Aircraft Collection is the Pacific Northwest's premier Flying Collection. The museum features one of the top collection of vintage warbirds in the country and offers a ride/membership program called "Soaring with the Warbirds". Take a ride in a WWII aircraft and experience history in flight. Our top-notch pilots fly you out over areas such as Lake Billy Chinook, up close and personal with Mt. Jefferson, Haystack Reservoir, Lake Stimtustus, Smith Rock, or where ever you want to fly within our 20 minute time limit. In the air you can experience the beauty of Central Oregon in a totally different perspective and have the experience of a lifetime. Give us a call today to schedule your ride, 541-460-5067, OR purchase your ride here online.
The Boeing Stearman PT-17 was typical of the biplane primary trainer used during the late 1930s and World War II and one of the most revered by pilots. Powered by a 240 hp seven-cylinder Continental engine, it was respected for its ruggedness, ease of maintenance, low operational costs and flight characteristics. Challenging to an inexperienced pilot was its tendency to ground-loop in cross winds. Over 10,000 were built for both the U.S. Army Air Force and the U.S. Navy and today many have found a new lease of life on the warbird circuit or serving as agricultural crop dusters and spraying aircraft.
The aircraft on display is a typical Boeing PT-17, USAAF serial number 42-16242. This aircraft was purchased surplus from the U.S. Government in February 1946 for $770.00 by a commercial aviation company and used as a pilot trainer until it was sold in January 1955. Over the next 32 years, it would be bought and re-sold seven times before coming to the Museum's collection in 1992.
North American Aviation, builder of the B-25 Mitchell bomber and the P-51 Mustang fighter, was also responsible for the design and production of one of the finest training and light attack aircraft in history. The AT-6 evolved from North American’s line of training aircraft that dated from 1935. This series, the BT-9 through BT-14, along with the BC-1, was redesignated the AT (Advanced Trainer) in 1940. The new plane was rapidly integrated into the Army aviation training program as the AT-6. Cadet pilots advanced to the Texan after mastering flying skills in the Stearman Kaydet PT (Primary Trainer), and the Vultee Valiant BT (Basic Trainer). U.S. Navy student pilots also flew the North American product which carried the Navy’s designation of SNJ. During World War II, the plane was utilized in training and attack roles by several nations, including Great Britain, Canada, Australia and the Soviet Union.
Use of the Texan continued into the post war period. In 1947, the plane was redesignated as the AT-6 by the newly established U.S. Air Force and remained in active service in this country until 1958. The aircraft has also performed in the armed forces of over fifty nations, including those of France, Israel, Spain, Brazil and New Zealand. Modified BC-1s were known as the Harvard and Yale in Great Britain and Canada, and the Wirraway in Australia. Since the Texan bears a resemblance to many Japanese WWII aircraft, altered AT-6s have represented planes from that nation in films such as Tora, Tora, Tora, and others.
Although eventually the most important dive-bomber flown by any combatant during WWII, the Dauntless began its combat career as a mediocre dive-bomber considered to be obsolete even before the United States entered the war. But for the Navy it was the principal carrier based dive-bomber in early World War II. This was the only U.S. aircraft to participate in all five naval engagements that were fought exclusively between aircraft carriers. Despite having been marked for retirement, the Dauntless sank more enemy shipping during 1942 than all other aircraft combined. In May of that year, SBD pilots from U.S. carriers were credited with 40 of the 91 enemy aircraft lost during the Battle of the Coral Sea. A month later, at Midway, SBDs sank three Japanese carriers and put another out of action. Their own attrition rate was the lowest of any carrier aircraft in the Pacific, due largely to an outstanding ability to absorb battle damage. Most importantly, the “Slow-But-Deadly” SBD destroyed the cream of the Japanese aircraft carrier fleet during the Battle of Midway. Considered to be the turning point in the Pacific War, it was credited with every confirmed hit on the enemy fleet. Ordered by the Navy in 1939, the first SBDs were delivered to the Marines and Navy carrier units in 1941. Some were produced for the Army as the A-24 Banshee. It also served with the British Royal Navy. Overall production of the Dauntless amounted to 5,936, yet the museum’s SBD is one of only a few surviving.
It is an A-24 Army Banshee delivered in January 1943 and used as a gunnery target tug at Lakeland Air Field in Florida. Later declared surplus, it was employed as a mosquito control sprayer by the City of Portland from 1958 until 1965. It was sold to the museum in 1994 and restored to an SBD-3 as it appears today..
The classic P-51 Mustang is one of the greatest success stories of military aviation. Originally designed for Great Britain, the North American fighter was adopted by the U.S. Army Air Force and upgraded with the powerful, reliable Rolls-Royce Merlin which powered the Supermarine Spitfire. With altitude, range, and performance, the Merlin Mustang became a world beater.
Ironically, the P-51 owed its existence to a Royal Air Force query for North American to build Curtiss P-40s at a time when British forces were being pushed off the European continent in 1940 and badly needed additional armament. North American proposed a better performing aircraft and quickly drafted the NA-73.
The Allison-powered Mustang flew 12 months after the first RAF query and logged its first combat missions in May 1942. Intended for reconnaissance, their primary "armament" was a camera , though two .30 and two .50 caliber guns were installed. Eventually 15 RAF squadrons flew the type. Meanwhile, the Army Air Force tested the XP-51 and was impressed with its performance, which exceeded the P-39 and P-40 and some marks of Spitfire in low-level performance. Beginning in 1943 the USAAF began operating photo-reconnaissance Mustangs (originally the Apache in US service) and A-36 Invader dive bombers, also with Allison engines. However, the promise of improved high-altitude performance had been noted, and a Merlin-powered XP-51B first flew in late 1942. Production B and C models began rolling out of the Inglewood and Dallas factories in 1943, and by year end the 354th Pioneer Mustang Group was escorting heavy bombers over Germany. The D model, with its 360-degree full-vision canopy, appeared in March 1944 and replaced the "razorback" models by year end.
The museum's P-51D Mustang was built under license to North American in 1944 by Australia's Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) in Melbourne, Australia. The aircraft participated in Atomic Bomb testing by the Australians after WW II and served 10 years as a target tow plane before falling into private ownership, being acquired by the museum in 1983.
Many aviation experts consider the Douglas DC-3 to be the most successful aircraft design in history. The military model of this plane was named by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, along with the jeep, the bazooka and the atom bomb, as one of the four weapons that contributed significantly to the allied victory in World War Two. Today, there are still examples of this rugged and reliable aircraft plying the world’s passenger and cargo routes some sixty years after its maiden flight. It is said that a DC-3, or its military version - the C-47, takes off somewhere in the world each day. The Douglas Commercial Three was a refinement of an earlier design, the DC-1. Shortly after its initial flight in December of 1935, the aircraft was ordered by American Airways and started service on the New York to Chicago run. Other airlines, both foreign and domestic, soon began to operate this sleek and modern design commercial carrier. The United States military took an interest and ordered aircraft altered to meet their specifications. These modifications included a stronger cabin floor, a reinforced rear fuselage with large loading doors and more powerful engines. This model was designated the C-47 Skytrain which could be utilized as a cargo hauler, personnel transport, paratroop plane, ambulance and glider tug.
During World War II, the C-47 was the primary cargo and troop carrier of the American military forces and served with distinction in all theaters of the war. Noteworthy accomplishments of the Skytrooper involved the airborne delivery - by parachute and glider - of combat troops and equipment in the Allied invasions of Sicily, Burma and Normandy. The aircraft was also used by the British Commonwealth nations where it was known as the Dakota and by the Soviet Union.
The C-47B on display, an early version, was built in late 1944 and delivered to the U.S. Army in February 1945. It was sent to Great Britain and stayed there until 1952 when it was transferred to the West German Luftwaffe. In 1962 it was delivered to Sweden where it served with their Air Force until 1982 at which time it returned to the United States for storage in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1996 it was acquired by the museum and arrived here on February 17, 1997. It was then refurbished and converted to a DC-3 with the installation of carpet, seats and a galley and head.
PBY CATALINA - COMING SOON! YOU'LL BE ABLE TO TAKE A FLIGHT IN THIS FAMOUS SEAPLANE!
The story of the most famous seaplane in aviation history began when the prototype of the Consolidated PBY Catalina first took to the air in March of 1935. It featured an internally supported parasol wing structure that was so near a true cantilever design as to need only two small struts on each side of the fuselage and stabilizing floats that retracted into the wing tips. Powered by two 1,200 hp Pratt & Whitney radials, the later PBY-5A had a top speed of 179 mph and its nine-man crew could employ five machine guns for defensive purposes. The PBY had a long and distinguished career during World War II. It was a Catalina that first sighted the Japanese fleet, flying inbound to attack Midway Island in 1942, leading to a U.S. victory and a turning point in the war. A tough, dependable, and versatile aircraft, the PBY performed many roles for the Allied nations during the war, including bombing, reconnaissance, convoy escort, transport, and anti-submarine warfare. The Catalina's long-range abilities as a search and rescue seaplane saved the life of many a sailor or aviator adrift on an unfriendly sea. When production ended in 1945, some 4,000 Catalinas had been built at Consolidated plants in San Diego, Buffalo and New Orleans, the USN Aircraft Factory in Philadelphia and at Vickers and Boeing in Canada.
The museum’s airworthy Catalina is a typical PBY-5A built by Consolidated and accepted by the U.S. Navy in March 1944. Retired from active military duty in June 1950, it was sold to Catalina Ltd. for $3,100. Following several sales in the civilian market, it was acquired by the museum in 1990 and restored to its present condition.
Become a member of the Erickson Aircraft Collection and share the experience of flight with friend or family member. Call for more details on the different levels of membership.