Feb 21 - Pima Air Museum

Early start this morning. Well, an early start for us anyway. We met friends Jim and Bernie about 9am and drove the 75 miles to Tucson. Our objective for the day was to see the Pima Air Museum and, if time permitted, to add the Titan Missile Museum a little further south... near Green Valley. As it worked out, Pima was all we had time for. There's just so much to see.

Jim and Bernie hadn't been to Pima before. Dar and I have, but it was a while ago... maybe 4 or 5 years.

Here's a little about Pima from their website:
Incorporated in the state of Arizona on November 20, 1967, as the Tucson Air Museum, the Arizona Aerospace Foundation is a member-based non-profit foundation, funded by gate admissions, concessions and donations. The Foundation operates the Pima Air & Space Museum and the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame in Tucson, Arizona, and the Titan Missile Museum in Sahuarita, Arizona.

The Pima Air & Space Museum opened in 1976 and today is the third largest aviation Museum in the world. The Museum is located on 200 acres exhibiting 300 aircraft and 125,000 artifacts. The Museum attracts more than 150,000 visitors annually, and houses its own aircraft restoration shop.
Even though this is desert and one of the best places to store old airplanes to minimize deterioration due to corrosion, time and the elements of nature still take a toll on these old birds as they sit outside, as many of the 300 planes in the collection do. Because of this, some of the best specimens are inside a growing number of hangers, out of the elements and under the protective and watchful eye of a bunch of volunteers, aviation enthusiasts all, who make it a personal mission to preserve these flying machines for future generations.

With so much to see, it was lunch time before we finished the first hanger. After a quick sandwich from the on-site cafe (good but spendy$$) we continued from hanger to hanger and wandering among the outside displays (the really big planes) in between. To provide some sense of the scale of the place, they have three versions of the B-52 bomber on display... one of which is notable as being one of only two planes converted to launch the X-15 rocket plane during the 1950s and early 1960s. (Only people of advanced age, like me, will even know or remember what the X-15 project was. Unless you're one of us, Google "X-15" and check it out.)

Richard Bushong presenting his B-17G. 10 guys, 8 hours, 3,200 gallons of fuel to drop just 10 bombs.
 The highlight of our visit was in the 390th Memorial Museum hanger. This group is dedicated to honoring the courage and sacrifice of the kids (mostly kids they were... late teens, early 20s) of the 390th Bomb Group based in England during WWII... as well as all the men and women who were part of the air war in Europe. The centerpiece of their exhibits is a meticulously refurbished B-17G "Flying Fortress". During our visit one of the docents gave a short presentation. His name is Richard Bushong and he was a B-17 pilot with the 390th who flew 28 missions over Europe during the war. Having someone who was there, who did it, who experienced incredible things, and could relate both humorous and tragic stories was memorable. He has written a book entitled "My Wars" about his time in the Air Force which gives a good insight into those days. It's a quick read and if you run across it at your favorite book seller, pick it up. You'll be glad you did.

If you have any interest in aviation at all, a visit to the Pima Air Museum is a full day affair. We stayed until they almost had to kick us out and drove back to Casa Grande for pizza and a beer. The Titan Missile Museum visit will have to wait for another day.


Slightly Better than Most