Over the past 10 years the City of Madras, Federal Aviation Administration, Oregon departments of aviation, transportation and business and Jefferson County have invested at least $16.6 million in infrastructure and buildings at the Madras Municipal Airport. They hope to invest another $5 million to upgrade the growing aviation center. Madras economic development officials would like it to become a major aviation hub.
They are well on their way.
Last year the 65,000 square foot Erickson Aircraft Collection Facility started construction for the Erickson Aero Tanker fleet and the soon to be Erickson Aircraft Collection of 22 vintage war aircraft currently stored at the Tillamook Naval Air Station. This is in addition to the recent construction of a 44,000 square foot hanger now leased by the Erickson Group to store Aero Tanker’s MD-87s for its firefighting operation. Also under construction at the airport is the WWII Veterans’ Memorial slated to be completed in 2014 and Jefferson County is included in the areas selected as a test zone area for drone research in Oregon.
Erickson Aero Tanker has been a big boom for the farming community of only 22,000 people. The company anticipates signing federal firefighting contracts, which could create anywhere from 22 to 50 jobs at the airport down the road.
Economic development is critical in Jefferson County, which is celebrating its 100 year anniversary this year, where the unemployment rate is 9.7 percent. Getting a firm to build their national headquarters for firefighting in the county is a big deal.
But the really big deal, that will put Madras on the map in the aviation world, is Jack Erickson’s antique airplanes that will be housed in the new Erickson Air Collection facility. It is rated as one of the top five collections in the world. The museum will be filled with one of the finest flying collections of historic aircraft anywhere.
The enormous facility itself is fantastic with the scenic Cascades and majestic Mt. Jefferson as a backdrop and an arched radius roof center span in balance with a large bank of translucent windows pouring in volumes of natural light. It’s a must visit even if you’re not an aircraft buff.
Designed by Steele Associates Architects and built by CS Construction, the facility is primed to attract a lot of interest to the airport and help build the economy in ways that may surprise Madras.
Jack Erickson knew he wanted to move his planes from Tillamook noting the high maintenance costs created by corroding coastal weather and the oversized historic blimp structure in Tillamook. He considered several other Oregon towns, but when he purchased a global fire fighting air-tanker operation with the fleet based in Madras in 2013, he realized this was the place for his museum.
Erickson is an internationally recognized entrepreneur who started and successfully built numerous companies and industries founding Erickson Air-Crane in 1971. Since then he has focused his attention on the development of The Erickson Group, utilizing his extensive experience in the aviation and forest products industries.
The manager of the collection, Mike Oliver, said that since this collection of aircraft is active it creates a monumental maintenance task. In other words it’s a flying museum, most museums pickle the engine — they’re just static displays. Erickson’s planes fly, they are all hand-picked and many are very rare.
The Airshow of the Cascades, scheduled for August 22-23, will benefit from the new Air Museum. Recent years have brought 10,000 spectators to the Airshow and higher visitation is expected with the vintage aircraft on display. Along with the 20-22 planes there will be one of the most prized planes of Erickson’s collection, his B-17G Flying Fortress – a World War II Bomber.
Icing on the cake:
EDCO manager for Jefferson County Janet Brown remarks, “Our new shining star in 2013 was Erickson Aero Tanker…having Erickson’s war birds in Madras is exciting and will be a huge attraction for history and airplane buffs. Having someone the caliber of The Erickson Group building their newest company in Madras is super and with the Erickson aircraft collection here, it’s just icing on the cake. They are great community partners and have used local supplies and talent in their development and expansions.”