Recently, we noted a collection of stories about Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen purchasing, restoring and displaying a rare WWII-era Nazi rocket in his museum in Washington.
Clare O'Connor of Forbes Magazine has a nice, extended piece on the facility which includes some great background and keen observations of Allen, who gave her a tour of the place.
Allen has been slowly building his 31-piece collection since the 1990s. In 2004, he opened it up for public viewing and four years later moved it to Paine Field in the tech-rich Seattle suburb of Everett, Washington. This spring he opened a second hangar, adding 19 new machines. Each is in full working order, the result of reconstruction efforts that can cost millions per plane and take years to complete. His aim, he says, is to make these artifacts come to life.
Allen's generally stiff demeanor dissolves when he describes the inner workings of each plane, like the Royal Canadian Air Force B-25 bomber sitting in the center of Hangar One. "An interesting thing here is you can press the bomb-drop button, and then the release mechanisms click," he says with boyish glee, making joystick motions with his hand. "Click, click, click."
Allen traces his enthusiasm for aviation back to his father's postwar gig. Kenneth graduated from the University of Washington in 1951 and started work at the campus reference library that same year. His classmate-turned-wife, Faye-an avid reader and book collector-worked alongside him. She went on to become a schoolteacher. Kenneth was eventually appointed the associate director of the college's libraries in 1960, when Paul was 7 years old.
"I would go in the university stacks and pull out books like Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II when I was 12 or something, and I'd spend hours reading about the engines in some of those planes," Allen recalls. "I was trying to understand how things worked-how things were put together, everything from airplane engines to rockets and nuclear power plants. I was just intrigued by the complexity and the power and the grace of these things flying."
The piece includes an accompanying photo gallery too.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter