New hangar ready for action

EVERETT — A 1944 Sherman tank, brandishing its white American star, was recently seen rolling across a parking lot at Paine Field.

It was followed by a 1970s Russian MiG supersonic fighter plane.

Yes, World War II and the Cold War are over. The two military artifacts were being moved on Monday into a new hangar at Paul Allen’s Flying Heritage Collection museum.

The brand new building will add 25,000 square feet of viewing space to the current 35,000 square-foot hangar where 15 World War II-era flying machines are on display. The new hangar also contains a 49-seat theater.

Construction on the building, just north of the current museum at 3407 109th St. SW, began last summer and just recently concluded.

Opening day for the new hangar is scheduled for April 12. Vulcan, the museum’s owner, is not disclosing the construction cost.

The space makes room to show 14 more items from Allen’s collection, said Cory Graff, military aviation curator for the museum.

“Part of Paul’s idea is to have all these pieces on display for the public,” Graff said.

Allen, the Microsoft cofounder, has been buying World War II-era aircraft and vehicles for about 15 years. The Flying Heritage Collection began as a museum in 2005 in an industrial park at the Arlington Airport. The planes and other pieces, which include a German missile, were moved in 2008 to a former Alaska Airlines repair hangar at Paine Field.

The artifacts include fighter planes, bombers, tanks, cannons and other equipment. Nearly all the planes are in flying condition and are taken out from Paine Field on “fly days” every other Saturday during the spring and summer.

Some of the pieces have been rotated through the main museum hangar. Others have been in refurbishment and have been stored at several different locations, including hangars at Paine Field and at the former museum space in Arlington, Graff said.

The Sherman tank M4A1 was built late in World War II in Chicago and thus never saw combat. It was used as a training tank and later sold to the Belgian army, Graff said.

The tank had been used for target practice and was full of bullet marks. It was bought by an Englishman who restored it and later sold it to Allen. More of this type of tank was made than any other in U.S. history, according to the museum.

The Russian MiG-29UB was built in the 1970s and wound up with the Ukranian army after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Graff said. The plane went through several other hands before Allen was able to buy it.

The fighter is still capable of supersonic speed but it will be flown at relatively low speed on fly days, Graff said. Nearby residents beware, however: “It’s very, very loud,” he said.

Other items in the new space will include American P-51 and P-47 fighters; a Japanese Zero fighter; a Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat; a Soviet T-34 tank and German Hetzer tank, and a German 88-millimeter anti-aircraft gun.

The theater will feature short films about the planes and other artifacts, including how the equipment was affected by weather conditions, company spokeswoman Laura Ray said.

Allen’s company, Vulcan Inc., paid $5.2 million to renovate the Alaska Airlines hangar, built in 1949. The company received $2.2 million back from Snohomish County, which owns and operates the airport. Vulcan is paying the county $370,000 a year for 10 years under its lease agreement, and more for ramp space and parking,

The space for the new hangar is on property that’s covered under the original lease, Ray said. The county’s fees for parking and storm water increased with the new building.

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; sheets@heraldnet.com.

Free day

Visitors to the Flying Heritage Collection will be granted free admission from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 12, the grand opening day for the new hangar.

The museum is located at 3407 109th St. SW. For more information call 206-342-4242 or go to www.flyingheritage.com.

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