Part 32: Pima Air and Space Museum


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The Trip

We spent a very cold night at Elephant Butte, NM at an elevation of about 4200 feet.  From New Mexico, we traveled through Hatch, NM and then followed I-10 west to Tucson to stay with my sister-in-law for Thanksgiving.  On Wednesday, we headed to the Pima Air and Space Museum (PASM).  Kathleen and I had been there many years ago, but since then the museum has grown tremendously.  Now, the museum has huge indoor exhibits as well as the historical outdoor exhibits.  In sheer size and aircraft count, the PASM rivals the National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC.  In the end, we were overcome by the clock as Thanksgiving preparations preempted the museum.  We missed 5 full hangars of aircraft, but did have time to do a fast walk through the outside exhibit. 

The photos below are what we saw.

The A-10 "Warthog" tank killer.  Much maligned as ugly and slow but viciously effective.  Visible at the lower right corner of the photo above is the 30mm rotating canon.

The B-1B "Bolo" a lesser-known bomber.

The AH-1 Cobra helicopter.

Aircraft carrier-based S-3 "Viking".

Carrier-based F-14 "Tomcat".  Note the host carrier name (Kitty Hawk) name on the wing.

Outside there were a number of versions of the Harrier attack aircraft.  These planes are still in service.

We walked across the field to the 390th Bomb Group Memorial.  Inside was a restored B-17.

The top gun turret in the photo above was salvaged from planes trapped in Greenland ice.  A group of planes were enroute to England and were forced to land there but were unable to take off again due to the rough ice.  The ice covered the entire group of planes under 260 feet of ice.  Portions of the planes were recovered in 1992 and recovered soon thereafter.

Thousands of man hours were expended restoring this B-17.

Hatches and ladders allowed access to the inside of the plane.

Under the wings was a nice display of armament typically carried by the B-17 during the war against the Third Reich.

The signs were informative.

The B-17, as well as many other kinds of aircraft, were powerd by the Wright R-1820 9-cylinder turbo-supercharged radial engine.

The data sheet for the R-1820 speaks for itself.

The game-changing technology used by the B-17: the Norden bomb sight.  This device used gears and cams to solve the differential equations required to accurately drop bombs on enemy targets from high-altitude.

Back in the day, Kathleen worked on the Boeing 787 program.  She was excited to see an actual 787 on display.  This was the first-flown unit with the colors of the inaugural carrier, ANA (All Nippon Airways).  This is a big plane and one of the first craft to be made primarily from composites (carbon fiber & epoxy).

The 787 runs the Rolls Royce Trent-1000 high bypass turbofan power plant.

The scallops on the exhaust side of the turbofan look cool, but the real purpose is sound deadening.  The scallops are aperiodic and damp resonance.

The landing gear are very pricey and come in at $500K a pair.

This Lockheed aircraft, the Constellation, was used for a variety of purposes within the armed forces.  This unit was a VIP transport.

The Constellation airframe was also utilized as a radar picket plane.  Note the dual radomes.  The top dome determined altitude, the bottom dome determined azimuth and range.

This plane is called the Pregnant Guppy and was used by NASA to transport space shuttle parts and other large cargo.

After WWII a number of large cargo aircraft were designed and deployed.

Other large piston-powered aircraft.

This piston-powered aircraft was used by the Coast Guard in Miami.

This odd duck was marked experimental and had Russian-style counter-rotating propellers.

This plane had counter-rotating propellers and was deployed by the RAF as a radar plane.  The radome is visible under the cockpit.

B-29 Superfortress long-range bomber similar to the one that dropped the atomic bomb on Japan.  That plane, the Enola Gay is on display at the Smithsonian.

The B-36 which was one of the last propeller powered bomber used by the U.S. Air Force.

The B-36 was superceded by the B-47 jet-powered bomber.  These were deployed en-masse during the early parts of the Cold War.

The B-47 was superceded by the now-famous B-52.  The B-52 "Stratofortress" is still in service today.

We were running out of time so we needed to leave.  On our exit we spotted this C-141 transport in the distance.

PASM is physically adjacent to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.  We spotted a C-130 on takeoff.  Note the space shuttle on the pedestal at the right of the photo above.

At the entrace we spotted this Morton-Thiokol solid rocket booster used on the space shuttle.  These boosters are huge.

Parked next to our vehicle was a set of motorcycles.  One in particular had an interesting sticker on the rear.  Presumably, it belongs to a woman, but who's to say.

PASM has grown since our last visit and is a world-class facility.  Should your travels bring you to the Tucson area, plan a visit to the museum.  But, if you do, allocate at least 5-6 hours to see the exhibits.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, so we expect to be laying low.

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