Heritage Hill is part of the McChord Air Museum at McChord Air Force Base, Washington
(now called Joint
Base Lewis-McChord). The museum is divided into three parts: the small museum is the main facility, located
at Building 517; Heritage Hill Airpark, where 14 aircraft sit ready to be inspected, touched and admired;
and the restoration hangar, a large space for vintage aircraft, waiting to be restored to its condition the
day it first soared into the skies. These exhibits represent more than 50 years of military history, dating
back to pre-World War II and the Army Air Corps.
The Heritage Hill Air Park is artful and delightful - not the usual rowed arrangement of aircraft. Instead, the aircraft (some historic and some nearly rare) are arranged along a slightly rambling lawn walk with each aircraft on a custom shaped pad (the purposeful omission of easily poured right angles is harder work but much more aesthetically pleasing to the eye). All the aircraft are in mint condition and are sitting on wheel mounts, as well, so the tires do not get destroyed by the weight of the aircraft. A large picnic area and aircraft set in the middle of slightly rolling green landscape - definitely a visit worth making with water and snacks to enjoy the aircraft as well as the environment.
The Museum says their F-106A Delta Dart would have been the fastest-ever aircraft of its type, except for a mechanical issue at the test facility at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Major. Joe Rogers was to use that F-106 sitting at Heritage Hill to break the World Absolute Speed Record in 1959 until mechanical problems forced test administrators to scrap the flight. Major Rogers jumped in another F-106 and broke the record at 1,526 mph, a mark that still stands for a production turbojet aircraft.
One of my favorite exhibits at the airpark is the Douglas C-124C Globemaster II -- "Old Shakey." This giant cargo-carrying airplane featured "clamshell" loading doors and hydraulic ramps in the nose, an elevator under the aft fuselage and two overhead cranes that could traverse the entire 77-foot-long cargo compartment. Just about anything could be hauled in it -- tanks, field guns, bulldozers, trucks, up to 200 Soldiers or 127 litter patients and their attendants, as it did during the Korean and Vietnam wars, according to the Museum.
I was introduced to the C-124 in my early days in the Air Force. I was on my way to my Alaska assignment when all of a sudden the civilian airlines world went on strike. I flew from Maxwell Air force Base, Alabama to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska on C-124s. Quiet an adventure. I know where nickname "Old Shakey" came from and they were not talking about me.
I enjoyed the visit to Heritage Hill. You can look off into the distance and see the snow-capped Mount Rainier. I remember seeing the mountain on my stop over as I was going to Alaska. We stopped at McChord during the night and the next morning I saw the beautiful mountain setting. Unbelievably beautiful!