The Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum (WAAAM) in Hood River, OR, is in a state of near-constant growth. Since it opened in 2007, three new hangars have been constructed to house an ever-expanding collection of rare automobiles and airplanes. The latest hangar is outfitted with a 65'-wide by 22'-tall bifold door from Schweiss Doors. It is the fourth door supplied by the manufacturer to be used at the museum.
At its inception, the museum had just under 200,000-square-feet of exhibit space in a series of interconnected buildings. It began with 42 airplanes and 20
automobiles, all donated by Founder and President Terry Brandt. Today, the museum
has about 170 antique airplanes, 210 antique automobiles and 30
antique motorcycles. In 2009, a second hangar was added to display the
collection. A third was built in 2013 and a fourth was added in November
2016. Thanks to donations, the museum's collection of antique automobiles is now as
impressive as its collection of antique planes.
Part of the
museum’s most recent hangar expansion was the construction of an outside storage building for overflow items. It is equipped with a Schweiss bifold liftstrap automatic latching door. In the main museum complex, three other Schweiss bifold doors are used.
“I like the
Schweiss straps and mechanical drive,” Brandt says. “I think the quality
of Schweiss doors is fine. I’ve only dealt with the two different kinds
of bifold doors. I didn’t bother to do any shopping this time because I
was very happy with the last doors we got.”
Brandt continues to
collect antique aircraft and memorabilia, even after 50 years. When you
talk to him about aircraft, he is like a walking encyclopedia and can
rattle stats and histories off the top of his head. In 2006, he decided
he would have to make one of two choices – either he would have to have a
very large auction or he would have to find a way to ensure his
collection would survive by building a museum. Fortunately, he chose the
latter and donated his collection to the museum.
keeps running with a couple hundred volunteers, 50 of which are
day-to-day active volunteers that account for 30,000 to 40,000 volunteer
manhours,” Brandt says. “These days, I fly anything I want, but
basically, I’m pretty much semiretired. I do some test flying, but we
have a great staff of retired airplane pilots that do the bulk of the
flying for the museum.”
Everything in the building has been
donated by someone. About a third of what is there was donated from
Brandt’s personal collection. It keeps getting bigger and bigger, and
they plan to be bigger yet with two more 40,000 to 50,000 square foot
buildings on the drawing board they are raising funds for now.
museum has down-to-earth realistic stuff that taught America how to
ride motorcycles, drive cars and fly airplanes,” Brandt says. “We have
150 flyable airplanes in the museum. Our staff of volunteers keeps
everything operational. We fly the airplanes, run the cars and drive the
motorcycles. That’s what has made this place so very, very successful.
It’s not a bunch of rusty iron sitting in a dirty building. This is what
people like, that’s why people donate their stuff here and sign over
the titles; donate it because they want it to go somewhere where it is
going to be loved, taken care of and maintained.”
Most of the items in the museum are from the United States, mainly American-made items.
have maybe a hundred really rare items here that are the only ones
built or only ones left that you might never see anywhere else in the
world,” Brandt says. “One example is the one and only surviving flyable
1928 Boeing Model 40C. It was Boeing’s first airliner made to haul
passengers. It is a big biplane with a great big radial engine that
would haul four passengers in the cabin and 700 pounds of mail.”
also have a Model 70 Stearman, which was the one-and-only prototype
that the Army and Navy flew and evaluated. A total of 10,680 Stearmans
were built for World War II. This one-and-only airplane on display at
WAAAM is the prototype of the Stearman Model 75 “Kaydet” biplane, an
icon of aviation.
Brandt adopted his love of flying at a very
early age. His mother and father served as the FBO (fixed base
operators) at the airport in Marysville, Calif., and ran a flight school
there for several years. Brandt’s father built between 200 and 300 crop
dusters, mostly from Stearmans after World War II, and was particularly
fond of soaring gliders. WAAAM has the best Stearman collection of any
museum in the world, including a half-dozen Stearman squaretails, which
were the early Stearmans before World War II. Given the environment he
grew up in, it didn’t seem strange to anyone at the time that Brandt
learned to fly on a Taylor Cub when he was only 12-years-old. He bought
his first airplane at the age of 19 – a 1938 Piper J-3 Cub. It was the
forefather of the popular Piper J-3 Cub. Ever since, he’s been an avid
collector and aviation enthusiast.
“We’re getting visitors coming
here from all over the world now,” Brandt says. “We are better known in
Australia, Germany and New Zealand and other places than we are in our
Brandt now resides in Hood River with his wife
Lois. He remains extremely active in the business of running the museum
and he still enjoys to fly.