This was our second visit to the
Pima Air & Space Museum
Pima was again worth the time and price of admittance ($15.50/per adult with discounts for seniors and military). Show up early because it’s effortless to spend a full day on the 80 acres of grounds, inside and out.
The Arizona Aerospace Foundation’s mission statement is first-rate: Creating unlimited horizons in aerospace education through the preservation and presentation of the history of flight.
Boneyard tours are available for between $6 and $7 depending on what you choose, but there are also a large number of docents on hand to answer questions. In the World War II hanger, we were blessed that Alex chose to ask Jim Otey* if he thought the Corsair A-7 or the Mustang P-51 was a faster plane. We spent well over half an hour learning from him about the Superfortress, the Boeing B-29. We learned that it was the first bomber to be pressurized, which also led to some of the machine guns being operated remotely via computer. This technology was amazing.
Because of the pressurization, the crew crawled through a tube over the bomb bays to get to the front/back of the plane. It’s a tight space, totally enclosed and one more example of the guts of these guys.
The last B-29 was retired in 1960—that’s a good twenty year run for an incredible machine.
390th Memorial Museum
With the launch of the 390th Memorial Museum, Home of the B-17 Flying Fortress (new since our last trip), they’ve added an exemplary display of the history of these planes and the men who flew missions in them.
What a celebration of the B-17 Flying Fortress—the star of more than a dozen movies following a long life of starring in the service. Items from each squadron impress, displayed in cases as does the one containing service patches collected by one person and donated to the museum.
On one long wall is a cutaway showing a B-17, with crew, providing quite the perspective.
On the second floor are group photos of crews from various planes. Is one of your relatives listed? From this floor you get the broad view of “I’ll be Around,” which was one of the last B-17s produced by Lockheed. Since it was nearing the end of the war, she actually ended up serving in the U.S. Coast Guard.
If you’re unable to get to Arizona, but still interested in the museum, they have a virtual tour with over 100 panoramas.
There’s also a listing of the museum’s aircraft.
Twenty-five miles south is the Museum’s sister location, the Titan II Missile silo. We visited here on a previous trip and had a great docent who allowed me to be the one to push The Button. Could I do that in real life? Maybe if we were facing a zombie apocalypse.
The tour of the site that was live from 1963 – 1987 are only $9.5 per adult and starts outside on atop the launch duct. Next, you get to descend 35 feet into the missile complex to mission control. This gives you a chance to admire the folks who spent many days manning these silos when there was a real chance they would have to obey the order to launch.
The National Park Service runs a Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota not too far from the Badlands which we toured in 2010. This site was active from 1963 in the early 1990s.
Tours enlighten, educate, and in the case of military history, remind us to be appreciative and respectful of our veterans and active military.
Read: US Holocaust Memorial