When we lived in the Bay Area, I wrote an article on a search and rescue exercise the the 129th Rescue Wing was holding at Moffett Field. I got to spend a good chunk of one day on base while the exercise was underway. During some of the down time between launch and recovery, we were taken in to the airship hangars. Hangar One is the famous hangar which has had its surface removed as a prelude to its eventual refurbishment.
On the other side of the field are the other two hangars and it was one of these that we got to check out. The structure of these hangars is wooden as opposed to the metal framework of Hangar One. The condition of the structure was deteriorating and, while we could go in to one hangar, I seem to recall that the other one was considered more hazardous.
The wooden framing was something to see. Pictures really don’t do anything to convey just how big these buildings are. A P-2 Neptune was in storage at the time. After this, it was moved across the field to join the P-3 Orion on display. Wherever you were on the ramp, the hangars dominated the view. As we watched the Pave Hawks and Hercs launching, the hangars were always there in the background.
I was in southern California for a day and I flew in and out of John Wayne Airport in Orange County. On the approach to the airport, I got a good view of Tustin. This is a retired military airfield and, in its earlier days, it had been an airship base. It still has two large airship hangars in the same style as those I have seen before at Moffett Field and Tillamook.
After my meetings had wrapped up and I was heading back to the airport, I took a few minutes to divert past the hangars and to grab a couple of shots of them. They are impressive structures and appear to be in great condition. I have no idea whether they are used much at this point and who looks after them but either they are well taken care of or the southern California climate doesn’t cause them too much trouble.
Tillamook in Oregon is well known as a home of cheese production. It is also home to an airfield that was once a base for naval airship operations. Two massive hangars were built to house the huge airships in the days before they went out of favor as a patrol vehicle. One of them remains and is the home of a museum amongst other things. The other hangar is long gone. However, traces of it remain.
The structure of these large hangars was predominantly wood but there were some concrete elements. Each end of the hangar had huge rolling doors and the posts to support that system were large concrete structures. Meanwhile, the arches along the length of the hangar were rooted in concrete bases. While the wood from the hangar has been taken away, the concrete sections remain. Whether they were too difficult to remove or just not worth the cost, I don’t know. What I do know is that they are still there and other things have moved in to operate within their footprint, in this case a lumber yard.
I include a picture of the remaining hangar for reference so you can see where the various structural elements exist within the finished building in case it is not immediately apparent. When we first passed by this location on a trip about ten years ago, it took me some time to work out what these strange items were.
Solar Impulse was on the ground at Moffett for over a week while they waited for a good weather window for the next leg to Phoenix. They kindly invited me to go and have a look around in the more relaxed time compared to the arrival! The hangar was located on the apron at Moffett and they weren’t able to have a secure way to have visitors so, sadly, they could not have everything open to the public.
The hangar itself was pretty hot. It was white so reflective but it still warmed up quickly in the sun. The batteries were the only part of the aircraft for which this was a problem so they were permanently connected to air conditioning packs that kept them at the required temperature. I was a touch jealous.
The aircraft fitted snugly into the hangar given that it was custom designed. The air data boom had to be folded out of the way thought. The maintenance team were pretty busy checking out systems ready for the next leg whenever it would occur. Meanwhile, media attention was high and I wasn’t the only one there. A local TV crew were conducting interviews with Bertrand. When they had finished, he was happy to chat for a while.
The team were very generous with time and access but were very nervous about touching the aircraft itself. I wasn’t about to upset them so managed to get what I needed without causing any trouble.
While I was at Moffett Federal Field to cover the Soaring Angel exercise, we were shown around Hangar Three. It is used by the base units to store material as well as to stage equipment ahead of shipping. However, it is more interesting because it is one of the huge airship hangars on the airfield. I have previously posted some shots of Hangar One here. Hangar Three is on the other side of the field and one of two hangars of a different design to Hangar One. However, it is still a cool structure.
The structure is very dense. Being a wooden frame, it is very complex series of beams and joists to hold up such a large structure. It is both cool to see and hard to photograph when trying to convey the size of the thing. Added to that is that it is very dark in there. Compared to the brightness outside, there is a huge range of light from the ramp to the interior.
One other nice thing about the hangar is that it is currently the home to the P-2 Neptune for the museum across the airfield. It will move across to join the collection on display before too long. The QSRA research aircraft has already moved over and hopefully it will too. In the meantime, it is waiting in the dark. I don’t know whether any work is underway on it but it looks in pretty good shape. It will make a nice addition to the P-3 to show the history of maritime patrol aircraft at Moffett.