USS Ranger (CV-61) is the 8th ship of the US Navy to bear the name “Ranger”, with a lineage going back to the beginning of the United States Navy, when John Paul Jones commanded the first Ranger in 1777-1778. One of eight conventionally powered aircraft carriers built between 1955 and 1969, Ranger is classified as a supercarrier (the last of this class to serve, USS Kitty Hawk, was decommissioned in 2009). These post World War II supercarriers served for over 54 years, replaced over time by the nuclear powered carriers of today. Retired nuclear carriers are not suitable candidates for public display, but Ranger, by her size, flight deck and hull design, will serve as a representative ship of the nuclear carrier class.
There are only five operating carrier museums in the US: Intrepid and Yorktown on the East Coast, Lexington on the Gulf of Mexico, and Midway and Hornet on the West Coast. These carriers, on exhibit across the country, contribute to local communities by creating unique centers of interest, recreation and economic activity.
Ranger will be unique among the existing carrier group museums:
• It will be the largest exhibited carrier
• It will be the world’s largest floating museum
• It will be the only military display, of any size, in Oregon
• It will be linked with other unique Oregon displays including the Spruce Goose (largest flying boat) and the Blueback (last conventional submarine.)
• It will be a significant civic resource
As a museum, Ranger will host military displays representing all branches of service, throughout the ship. The flight deck and hangar bay are particularly well suited for aircraft displays and the Foundation expects to have supporting agreements with the National Museum of Naval Aviation, the Smithsonian, Evergreen Aviation Museum and others.
The museum will also house displays of cultural and civic pride for the Columbia River Gorge region. As a community heritage center, Ranger will honor all aspects of her community.
Beyond written and video and audio displays, the museum experience will include a number of recreational components such as: a movie theater, flight simulators (experience the sensation of piloting a fighter and other aircraft), and an on-board visitor center with accompanying gift shops.
The “live aboard” program allows youth groups to come aboard to eat, sleep and learn about life aboard a supercarrier. It is one thing to read about launching and landing an airplane on a moving ship. It is quite another to have the pilots and plane crews show you with the actual machinery available to touch. These self-sustaining programs benefit our youth not only through raising awareness of math and science skills, but experiencing the military early one and utilizing team–building experience. Carriers conducting these programs experience waiting lists but Ranger is large enough for a number of “live aboard” programs to be developed to extend interests of the young and old alike.
As a center of interest and recreation, Ranger will generate significant tourism activity. Military displays will attract ship and squadron reunions. For example, the quarterly newsletter for Navy Retirees Spring 2009 issue listed 144 reunions throughout the country and The Portland Metro Area will become a destination for reunions once Ranger’s museum is open.
As a unique piece of floating history, and in addition to its varied commercial uses, the ship will most probably continue to be used as a prop for the television and motion picture industry. Ranger was the aircraft carrier used in the 1980’s film “Top Gun” and Star Trek IV. This would not be limited to in-theater productions, but those also made for television. The Intrepid based in New York, is regularly used by the television industry.
As an operation, it is planned that Ranger’s Museum and Memorial will required a paid staff of 60 in addition to a number of volunteers. There will also be supporting services such as parking and concessions connected to the project. Tours of the ship and use of space aboard for events will benefit local caterers.