On January 29, 2016, I headed off to see the Pima Air & Space Museum. It was just one exit away from where I was boondocking at the Flying J truck stop, so that was pretty convenient.
Pima Air & Space Museum is one of the largest non-government funded aerospace museums. It is also the 3rd largest aerospace museum in the United States behind the Smithsonian in Washington DC and in Dayton, Ohio the hometown of the Wright Brothers.
Now I don’t know a lot about planes or what goes into how they name them and all that stuff, but what I do know is that they are a big part of history and that ever since the Wright Brothers first started trying to fly their first model of an airplane it was the beginning of a whole new era in flight travel. As the years have gone by and with the ever-changing technology air flight just keeps changing…… making them better, faster and more interesting. I find all the different types, sizes, shapes, and colors of airplanes to be interesting and amazing!
When I first arrived at the Museum there were some very nice greeters who gave me a map and explained that there were 4 hangers of things to see including Space travel and 80 acres of airplanes. It was suggested that one could walk all this or they had a tram that would take you around to see all the airplanes that are outside the hangers. In addition, they also had a tour that took you by bus down the road a few miles to the AMARG (The 309th Aerospace Maintenance & Regeneration Group….also know as “The Boneyard”). I signed up for all of it.
In 2015, Boeing donated the second ever made 787 aircraft to the museum in the colors of the original 787 customer ANA.
When you step into the first hangar you are welcomed by a tour guide who first introduces you to the model of the Wright Brothers first flight in North Carolina and tells you the story of the beginning of flight. The tour guides are all retired vets and have a vast amount of knowledge and an obvious love and enthusiasm for sharing great stories about these planes and their own stories as well which made the whole experience even more special. I followed along with the tour group for about a half hour before I was scheduled to get on the 11:30 AM tram tour that would take us around to the planes outside. Here again was a very knowledgeable vet who knew each and every one of the planes and had some tidbit to say about most of them. This tour lasted about an hour and was very interesting. I wish I had a tape recorder or a notebook so I could have remembered all the different planes and things he had to say about them. I took tons of pictures as they are all so different and interesting. At the end of the tram tour, you had the option to get off and visit the Memorial to the 390th B-17 Bomber plane and the men who flew them in WWII. This was a very nice museum and tribute to that group.
Just a few facts about the 390th Bombardment group: The unit was activated for WWII on January 26, 1943, with the 568th, 569th, 570th & 571st Bombardment Squadrons. They began their overseas flights on July 4, 1943. The 390th was highly successful in its missions during the war and were awarded the “Distinguished Unit Citation” award twice. Their last mission was flown on April 20, 1945, and inactivated in August 1945.
“I’ll Be Around” is one of the only fully restored B-17 bombers around.
The “men” who fought in WWII were just young men as young as 18 years old. The WWII jackets they wore with the pin-up girls, favorite comic characters is an indicator of how young they were. The leather A-2 jacket had been the standard issue since 1931. In WWII these jackets became a canvas for the teenage flyers to express their individuality. They would get the backs painted and often those images included the plane’s nickname with little bombs indicating how many missions the crew flew, on the front personalized patches would often reflect the squadron or bomb group they were with.
I got off my feet for a bit and had some lunch in the nice cafe they have there at the museum which looks out through ceiling to floor windows to the airplanes outside.
At the end of the day, I took the bus tour to the AMARG. Now the AMARG is the largest aircraft storage and preservation facility in the world. I was actually impressed to learn that these old planes are recycled, reactivated, parts reclaimed and then disposed of. I also found it mind-boggling the acres and acres of planes that are here. Most are sealed and shrink-wrapped to protect the sensitive parts of the aircraft from the hot Arizona sun.
THE BONEYARD PROJECT: RETURN TRIP
While we were out on the tram tour, I saw in the distance these three planes that were all painted up with artwork. The tour did not go out to these planes and the guide never mentioned them, so afterwards I walked out to these planes and took some pictures and then later I did some research on the internet as to what these planes were all about. What I found was that these were a Bone Yard Project of resurrecting planes through art. The idea came about in the Spring of 2010, it was a project to revive old planes from America’s military history through creative intervention of contemporary artists, taking entire airplanes out of aeronautic resting spots in the desert known as “Boneyards” and putting them into the hands of artists.
This one is called “Back to Supersonica” 2013 by Kenny Scharf-Spray Paint on Lockheed VC-140
This one is called “Spy Tiger” by Andrew Schultz, done in acrylic on a Lockheed V140
This one is called “Naughty Angels” by Faile, done in acrylic on a Beechcraft C45