As much as I like building them, I also like to see airplanes up close. You can’t get much closer than at the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson AZ. With almost 300 planes stored outdoors and inside 5 ridiculously large and impeccably maintained hangars – I had long been looking forward to returning this past August after some 10+ years.
The last time I was at Pima I spent the majority of my time in the outdoor collection. It was March so the weather was perfect and I got to see airplanes that I have never seen before – b52s, b36s and everything else you can imagine. This time I had all day and at least 3 new hangars to take in.
I was there all day and enjoyed every minute of it. I got some great pictures and really enjoyed the improved exhibits. There is an incredible model of a US airfield in the UK during WW2. In fact, the entire b17 hangar was filled with an incredible tribute to the 8th Airforce. But I have to say the highlights were things that I never expected to see:
Its funny that the Liberator does nothing for me – yet I find the Privateer to be such a cool aircraft. The long nose, side blisters and huge rudder… all make for a unique looking airplane. I’m also a fan of the tricolour paint. I really wish there was an easy way for me to build one in 1/48th.
I had no idea there were any Oscars left, let alone in such great condition. Its in the same hangar as the Privateer and I spotted it right away. The very friendly staffer in this hangar was very surprised I knew that is was an Oscar (he said most swear its a Zero).
Blackbird and the Quiet Star
There was an entire display around the SR-71 and it was incredibly informative. This includes a “see through” cockpit, mockups, the flight suit. All right beside and underneath this incredible airplane. There is also this strange insect like observation plane hanging up above. Apparently used in Vietnam – it was so quiet that it flew some 1500 feet above enemy troops at night, and they couldn’t hear it.
Given its mission and the very cheap materials it was made from, it is surprising to see one of these. It is in very bad condition and likely not worth restoring. The museum is hoping the dry climate will delay any further deterioration to this plane.
The Eats were good!
I planned on staying the day and this museum is outside the city. I was worried about wasting time looking for eats but I was told the grill was very good. I was not misled – not only was it good, the prices were reasonable and there was plenty of selection. The regular fare was supplemented with salads and southwest food. All was freshly made and taken to your table in a large cafeteria with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the outside airplanes. Perfect.
As with most attractions in and around Arizona, the staff were friendly and helpful. A greeter met me on the way in and gave me excellent advice as to how to see the entire facility. Within the hangars were some extremely friendly gents who had a ton of information relating to the airplanes on exhibit.
The parking lot has those clever banks of “roofing” over the cars to keep their internal temperatures down after a day outside.
Something about me – I love the heat and I don’t mind the desert at all. This visit was in August and the temp hit 109F that afternoon. But with plenty of water and some light clothing, this isn’t as bad as everyone told me it would be.