The extensive Pima Air and Space Museum, in my opinion, is among the top five collections of vintage aircraft in the country, and sure to be of interest to anyone fascinated by the history of flight. Since there are now over 300 airplanes, helicopters and spacecraft on display, in addition to other related exhibits, such as the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame, I was surprised at how the museum has expanded since my last visit here in 1998. Not only are there a wide range of splendidly-restored craft to be viewed indoors in six hangers and other museum buildings, but that portion of the collection that is displayed outdoors is also in remarkably good condition, due primarily to being preserved in the area’s dry desert climate.
It was also nice to touch base again with old friend Tim Vimmerstedt, now the Museum’s new Director of Operations and Community Affairs. Tim will be happy to honor requests for additional information at (520) 574-0462 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Splendid exhibits to be viewed here range from full-scale replicas of the original Wright Flyer and Goddard Rocket to a mockup of the X-15A-2 experimental rocket plane and the Apollo Command Module Trainer, also used extensively in the filming of the motion picture “Apollo 13.” There are superb restorations of many of America’s important World War II aircrafts, as well as British, German and Japanese craft. Examples of virtually every fighter and bomber used during the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, as well as those that kept the peace during the “Cold War” are all on display.
Here also are strange experimental aircraft, helicopters, tankers (for mid-air refueling), and one of two converted B-52s that released the experimental X-15 rocket planes for pioneering “edge of space” flights. Finally, some of the world’s rarest planes in the Museum include a pristine Convair B-36 “Peacemaker,” plus the oldest existing SR-71 “Blackbird,” the fastest jet aircraft ever built.
On weekdays, the Museum also offers unique guided motorcoach tours of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) facilities at adjacent Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. Popularly known as the “Boneyard” for America’s military planes, helicopters and drones, this extensive outdoor storage complex contains some $30 billion worth of retired aircraft.
There are no military “secrets” on site, since nothing on the lot represents anything close to the latest technology. Since more than 30,000 military retirees reside in surrounding Pima County, tours are led by well-qualified veteran volunteers, such as the excellent Frank Davidson, who guided my “Boneyard” visit in early February.
TWA Lockheed 049 Constellation
U.S. Air Force Convair B-36 Long-Range Bomber