Pima Air & Space Museum

Last year when we were leaving Tucson we drove by fields full of planes and vowed to return to visit this boneyard.

In order to visit the boneyard you must go to the Pima Air & Space Museum.

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The Pima Air & Space Museum has almost 300 aircraft on display spread over 80 acres. There are five large hangars totaling 100,000 square feet of exhibit space. The museum is the third largest air museum in the United States, falling behind the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. and the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Ohio. It is one of the world’s largest non-government funded aerospace museums.

I really wasn’t overly interested in touring the museum because I’m not really interested in planes. I thought spending $15.50 for a ticket to something I wasn’t interested in was a waste of money, but we had three hours to kill before we could take the $7.00 bus tour of the boneyard and hubby wanted to do the tour so I went along … and I’m glad I did!

We arrived just in time to take one of the Docent guided tours. The tour started with the replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer, the aircraft with which the Wright Brothers made history. The Wright Flyer on display is an exact replica of the original Wright Flyer, which is on display at the Smithsonian, and it was very interesting to learn the history behind it. A funny part of this history was the fact that the fellow who was suppose to take a picture of the first flight was so excited about seeing an airplane fly that he almost forgot to take the picture!

We then moved on to see the Bumble Bee.

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Robert Starr built the Bumble Bee for the sole purpose of being credited with the world’s smallest aircraft. The first flights of the Bumble Bee were on January 28, 1984 at Marana, Arizona and the aircraft was credited in the Guinness Book of World Records as the smallest aircraft ever flown. That record stood until August 1984 when one of Starr’s former partners built and flew an even smaller aircraft. The Guinness records were then modified slightly to give Starr the record for the smallest biplane, while his former partner took the record for the smallest monoplane. Starr broke his own biplane record in 1988 with the Bumble Bee II. Unfortunately, that aircraft was destroyed in a crash not long after setting the record.

We saw many planes and heard many great stories but I am only sharing the ones that stuck in my mind 🙂

So that leads us to the Learjet Model 23.

2015-02-11 -004- Pima Air & Space Museum - Learjet Model 23

The Learjet Model 23 is in the “Women in Aviation” section. In 1964 Henry and Louise Timkin of Ohio purchased the Learjet. Louise Timkin was the first woman to qualify for a type rating in a Learjet. Louise was a very classy dresser and always wore high heels, however she did find it a challenge to fly a plane in high heels so she would take her heels off at the door of the plane and put on pink fuzzy slippers before her flights. In 1992, at the age of 83, Louise and the Learjet took their final flight when she delivered her Learjet to the museum for permanent display. Louise passed away six years later.

The next plane is a BD-5J Microjet.

2015-02-11 -007- Pima Air & Space Museum - BD-5J MicrojetThe BD-5J Microjet was used in the opening scenes of the James Bond movie Octopussy. The plane was flown by a stunt pilot through barn doors and out the other side, the stunt pilot did two takes and said one of them would have to do … he wasn’t going to make that flight again!

For $6.00 you can take a tram tour of the planes on display outside, but we chose to wander around on our own. Most planes have a QR code, which when scanned with a smartphone will take you to the history and description of the aircraft. We saw an old Air Force One plane that John F. Kennedy used during his presidency and a Super Guppy that I thought was cute 🙂

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This plane really does look much cuter in person … and yes I know all those plane buffs are shuddering because I called a plane cute 🙂

The Super Guppy was designed to carry very large, but relatively light cargos and proved useful in carrying segments of rockets that powered the Apollo Program. It continued to be used by NASA until 1991 when it was retired in favor of a younger Super Guppy … I wonder if he was as cute?

Hubby spent a lot of time checking out the B-52 on display.

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A total of 744 B-52s were built with the last, a B-52H, delivered in October 1962. The B-52 at the museum, marked 0003 The High and the Mighty One, is a converted B-52A that was used by the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB in California as the X-15 Launch Aircraft.

We spend three hours in the museum and still didn’t see it all! Tomorrow I will write about the Boneyard.

Until next time …

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2 thoughts on “Pima Air & Space Museum

  1. I’m with you, not too interested in the museum but want to tour the boneyard. I look forward to your post and thanks for sharing that you did indeed enjoy the museum. Hmm, I’ll reconsider since we’ll be in the area in about a week.

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    • It was interesting and I enjoyed it but you can do just the boneyard and the cost is only $7.00, but go early because the busses fill up. That’s funny, you are in Benson heading to Tucson and we are in Tucson and heading to Benson on Saturday!

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