Sunday, March 8, 2015

Pima Air Museum

Friday we went to the Pima Air Museum with Don and Jamie.  We had not been there for about three years and we were amazed at how much new stuff there is.  It's the third largest air museum in the country and is really worth a visit.
This is the first Lear Jet, the Model 23.  The interior is very small, the seats are small.  Basically you crawl into it.  When people would complain to Bill Lear (who designed it) that one could not stand up in it, he would respond "well you can't stand up in a f*cking Cadillac, either."  Mr. Lear also designed the eight track tape deck.

See the little sticky-uppy things on the wing of the Lear?  They are vortex generators, which are employed on an airfoil to delay airflow separation, which will improve the effectiveness of control surfaces such as ailerons, rudder, or flaps.  In the case of the Lear 23 they were employed to improve airflow over the ailerons.

They have an SR-71.  It's the most amazing plane.  See the engine over there on the right?  That pointy part of the engine would move out and in. The pointy thing is what is called an inlet spike, it would retract as the airplane accelerated to control airflow into the engine.  The spike operated in concert with other parts of the engine inlet to enable the engine to operate at the high speeds (over 3 times the speed of sound) that the SR was capable of.

This is a Martin PBM Mariner.  It's a WWII vintage amphibious plane.  It was a long range Navy patrol airplane.  It's really tall in the fuselage to keep the propellers out of the water.  This is the sole survivor of the almost 1,300 Mariners built.  There is one upside down in Lake Washington in the Seattle area.

There are many airplanes in hangars.  There are also some really cool models.  The concept of the flying submarine first arose in the 1930s.  With the advent of WWII the idea was tabled.  The thought resurfaces occasionally, but to date nothing has been built.

This is a Russian Sea Skimmer.  It's a 400-ton airplane with eight engines.  There are six anti-tank missiles on the top of the plane.  It can carry tanks and troops at over 500 miles per hour.  I'm putting up the descriptive text below this picture - it's a really interesting concept.

The Boeing YC-14.  Boeing made two prototypes of this Short Take Off and Landing airplane. Jim witnessed it taking off and landing at Boeing field during flight tests.  He says it was pretty cool to see something that big take off in that short amount of runway.  McDonnell Douglas also made two prototypes, (the YC-15) both were built for the military as possible replacements for the Hercules C-130.  In the end the military didn't buy either, but they were the precursors of the C-17.  There were four prototypes.  The museum has one of the YC-14s.  The other is in the Boneyard.  There used to be a YC-15 in the Boneyard.  However, in 2012, AMARG destroyed the YC-15 in place, rather than towing it over to the museum. It makes me sad to think about the other YC-14 meeting the same fate.  It's hard to comprehend the logic of destroying one offs and prototypes that defined the history of flight.  The other YC-15 is at Edwards Air Force base.

A Super Guppy, it hauls big light weight stuff.  It's difficult to believe something that looks like that can fly.

The B-24 Liberator.  The plane was used extensively in WWII.  It was an unpressurized airplane.  If you look at the nose of the plane there is a ball turret.  A very short man sat in there and fired a 50 caliber machine gun at the enemy.  There were two other waist gunners who fired their machine guns from an open hatch on the side of the airplane.  They were equipped with electrically heated flight suits, but they were unreliable. 

This ball turret is under the belly of the plane. 

This is how the gunner spent his day.  There was no room for a parachute.  He had to be cranked up and in to a position that would allow him to exit the turret.  The plane could land with the turret down, but if the landing gear collapsed it was over for him.  There is a really good article on the web which can be found here.

Sentimental Journey is a B-29 Superfortress.  This plane is restored, but does not fly, like Fifi.

The museum is good.  You really need two days to see it all and read it all, while avoiding airplane overload. There are many old gentlemen volunteering at the museum, and they know their airplanes.  They will be more than happy to tell you about them.
We also took the bus ride to the Boneyard which is where planes go once their usefulness is over.  That tour is also worth doing.  It does bug me that there are prototypes and one offs over there, which probably will be scrapped.  However, the US Air Force does not seem to be committed to historic preservation to the extent that I would like them to be.
Also owned by the air museum is a Titan Missile site.  It's the only one remaining of the 18 that surrounded Tucson during the cold war.  They have a missile in the silo.  Jim went many years ago and really enjoyed it. 

1 comment:

  1. Interesting stuff about the ball turret, thanks for the link!