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Take off in Hillsboro

High-flying visiting stunt teams and pilots traditionally generate the headlines at the Oregon International Air Show. This year, the Patriot Jet Team, aerobatic performer Lt. Colonel John Klatt and Red Bull stunt pilot Kirby Chambliss will attract much of the attention at the show, scheduled for July 26-28 at the Hillsboro Airport.

The annual show will also expose tens of thousands of people to one of Hillsboro’s best-kept secrets, the Classic Aircraft Aviation Museum at the airport. It boasts a small but well-maintained collection of mostly Cold War-era planes.by: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - This restored Douglas A-26C Invader and most of the Classic Aviation Aircraft Museums collection will be brought out of storage and displayed during the 2013 Oregon International Airshow.

Although the museum has participated in the summertime air show for years, it will have an even larger presence this year, in part because of federal sequestration budget cuts, which have reduced the number of military aircraft available for air shows around the county. The U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels canceled and some vintage military aircraft were mothballed.

In response, the museum is stepping up and displaying 12 of its planes this year, an increase over the eight or nine it has shown in the past. It is also planning to fly two of its jets, a MiG-17 fighter and a rare two-seater MiG-21 fighter. Both will be on display after their performances.

“We’re practically the entire ‘warbird’ exhibit this year and pleased we can do it,” said the museum’s Doug Donkel.

Among others, the museum will be displaying a restored Douglas A-26C Invader — the type of aircraft that flew CIA-backed spy missions over China from Taiwan during the Cold War — and a wildly-designed French Fouga CM-170 Magister training jet with a “V” tail.

“When we went looking to replace the military aircraft we usually have on display, the museum really stepped up. They are a great partner and we’re lucky to have them here,” said Judy Willey, the air show’s president.

Based in two modest hangars at 3005 N.E. Cornell Road, the museum includes a well-equipped shop for restoring vintage aircraft. Donkel described it as a “living history museum” whose mission includes acquiring, restoring and flying post-World War II aircraft. It also features a selection of jet engines and artifacts such as ejector seats and ground equipment.

Although open to the public, the museum is so unobtrusive that few residents in the area know it exists. Even those who visit the museum during the air show might not realize they can arrange to take it all in later — for free. There is no admission charge, although advance notification of visits is requested.

“We’re glad to accommodate visitors, but our primary mission is restoring and maintaining the collection,” said Donkel.

The museum opened in 1998. It is based in a building owned by Premier Jets, an international air medical company owned by Roger Kelsay. A retired Air Force pilot, Kelsay acquired many of the aircraft now on display, including a former Polish Air Force MiG-17F, which he donated to start the museum. The collection grew in January 2007 when the museum purchased a MiG-21 from a Chevrolet dealership in Federal Way, Wash.

Several months later, the museum received a decommissioned Lockheed F-104G from Taiwan’s Feng Chia University. Work has continued on the fighter ever since, with over 1,500 hours of donated time. Experienced mechanics from Taiwan have even visited Hillsboro to work on the project. The aircraft’s hydraulic system, electric power system and landing gear have all been overhauled, and the hunt is on for the remaining parts.

Other aircraft in the collection now include two F-104s, two Douglas A-26C Tankers, a BAC Jet Provost, a second MiG-21, a CL-13 Mk.6 Sabre, an F-86 Sabre and a Hawker Hunter F Mk.51. Most are scheduled to be displayed at this year’s Hillsboro show.



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