The Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum celebrates our heritage of flying and driving

by: JIM CLARK/PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - WAAAM member and volunteer Dick Clarke poses in front of a 1957 Beech E18S corporate plane, which is on loan. The aircraft, which holds seven passengers and two crew members, is one of Clarkes favorite planes on display at WAAAM.

Here's one museum collection that doesn't sit around gathering dust. Nearly all the vintage vehicles on display at Hood River's Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum — known as WAAAM — still work, and every so often somebody takes them out for a spin.

“With a few exceptions, nearly everything is drivable and flyable,” says WAAAM volunteer and member Dick Clarke as he leads visitors through two airplane hangars filled with aircraft and automobiles, the oldest dating back a century or more.

There's a 1917 Curtiss Jenny with a water-cooled engine and a wood frame covered with Irish linen — yes, that's what Curtiss Jennys were made of back then.

A 1929 Curtiss Wright Robin with wicker seats, the type of plane that American aviator Douglas “Wrong Way” Corrigan flew on his unauthorized flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1938.

A snazzy yellow 1957 Beech E-18-S Super 18, a twin-engine corporate plane that provided luxury travel for seven passengers and two crew JIM CLARK/PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - WAAAM's current collection includes an estimated 134 cars.

And the cars: Ford Model T's and Model A's (at least a half-dozen of each); a 1931 Pierce Arrow limo; a 1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk that goes 150 mph. Packards and Plymouths from the '30s and '40s, Chevrolets from the 1950s, Pontiac GTOs and Ford Thunderbirds from the '60s. And one electric car, a 1914 Detroit that needs major restoration.

The oldest automobile in the collection: an 1899 Locomobile steam car. “It was driven here about three weeks ago,” Clarke says.

Nearby, another volunteer and member, Andy Anderson, fires up a 1923 Model T to take it out for a jaunt around the WAAAM airfield. Anderson is one of the instructors who gives lessons during the Model T driving school that the museum offers four times a year.

WAAAM opened in September 2007 as a private nonprofit organization. Its founder, Terry Brandt, had worked in the farming and farm machinery business, but he also collected and restored antique airplanes. His parents ran the airport in Marysville, Calif., where he learned to fly. In the 1970s, Brandt moved to Hood River and ran the airport there for many years.

Brandt, now 73, had talked for a long time about opening an airplane museum. When he turned 65, “my wife told me to have an auction or start a museum,” he says with a chuckle.

So Brandt started a foundation and donated his own collection of 42 planes to get the museum going. As he looked for volunteers and funding, many people told him, “Sure, I'll volunteer if you let me put my car in it.” So he turned it into an airplane and automobile museum.

“That was the best decision I ever made because people love the mix,” Brandt says.

WAAAM's current collection includes an estimated 100 planes and 134 cars along with 34 to 36 motorcycles, says Judy Newman, Brandt's sister and WAAAM director. The museum continually receives donations, Newman says. “It's been really great because everyone has a connection with a car; not everyone has a connection with an airplane.”

WAAAM is undergoing a 27,000-square-foot expansion that will house mostly automobiles. It is scheduled to open in November. The facility also includes one building that serves as storage and another that houses a restoration shop.

“Old aircraft are like old cars — they were handmade,” Brandt says. “And if you handmade them originally, you can handmake them again. If you can't buy the parts, you make them.”

Though most of the aircraft belong to the WAAAM foundation, many of the cars don't, at least not yet. Brandt estimates 30 to 50 percent of the autos are owned by or promised to the museum. “The rest belong to the good volunteers who work here,” he says, noting many car owners drop by every so often to take their vehicles out for a spin.

WAAAM accepts no public funding, Brandt says. It runs entirely on private donations, membership dues and museum admission at the door. The foundation owns the buildings and has no debt. The museum's expenses include insurance, utilities and some part-time employees.

The volunteers — about 100 of them, including 30 to 40 regulars — are WAAAM's real success story, Brandt says. They help with every job, from leading tours and running the gift shop to maintaining and restoring the vehicles.

“The volunteers have the same dream I have to save this stuff for future generations — not just saving it, but learning how to make and restore parts so it doesn't become a lost art,” Brandt says.

Brandt still flies, too. His favorite airplane? “The one I like best is the one I'm flying,” he says.

by: JIM CLARK/PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - This replica of a 1912 Curtiss Pusher, built in 1947, hangs over the museum gift shop. The original Pusher (so called because the propeller is in the back) was flown off the roof of Portlands Multnomah Hotel in 1912, and the stunt was reenacted with the replica in 1995.


What: The Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum

Where:1600 Air Museum Road, Hood River (3 miles south of Interstate 84)

Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week (closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year's Day)

Phone: 541-308-1600


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