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Pima Air & Space Museum

The low entrance and single jet only hint at the amazing aircraft residing within the Pima Air & Space museum

For the full story behind this tour, check out A vast oasis of aircraft lies deep in the Arizona desert.

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Takeoff

The tour starts at Mach 3-plus. As soon as you enter the museum itself, you're greeted by one of the most amazing jets in history: the SR-71.

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Blackbird

The unmistakable lines of the fastest jet ever, capable of more than 2,200 mph. And what's that next to it?

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Little buddy

The ultra-rare D-21 supersonic drone, designed to be launched from the back of a specially outfitted SR-71. 

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

F-107A

Not too many aircraft with overhead engine intakes. The Cirrus VisionJet is a modern example, though that's got the whole engine up there (its only one). The F-107A never made it to production, losing out to the F-105. 

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Mariner

The sole surviving Martin PBM-5A seaplane, a long way from any water to patrol.

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Warthog

One of my favorite planes, the A-10 is beautiful in its ugliness. Check out that cannon under the nose. 

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Minicopter

Only five of the tiny two-seat HUM-1's were built, and neither the Army nor the Navy could find use for them, so they returned them to the manufacturer.

 

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Bond

One of the more memorable stunts in an otherwise fairly unremarkable Bond movie, "Octopussy," featured a Bede BD-5J like this one flying through a hangar. 

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Buzz buzz

Nine feet long and six wide, the Starr Bumble Bee was the smallest airplane ever flown (at the time).

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Fastest chopper

A modified Westland Lynx has held the record as the fastest helicopter since 1986. 

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Fulcrum

A MiG-29! Not everyday you see one of these slick beauties up close. Top speed: Mach 1.94

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Mojave

This bulbousness is a Sikorsky H-37B, active from the mid-50s to the mid-60s. The windows of all the outdoor aircraft at Pima are coated to help minimize heat and sun damage to the interiors.

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Hind

Another famous Soviet/Russian aircraft, the Mi-24 Hind. These are still in service. (Not this one, obviously.) 

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Big chopper

The big Sikorsky MH-53s were built in the late '60s but were in use until 2008. Not a bad run. This is the last model, the MH-53M Pave Low.

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Destroyer

The start of the big planes. This is a WB-66D Destroyer, a rather epic name for a weather and photo reconnaissance aircraft. There was a bomber version, though it wasn't used in that role. 

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Medium bomber

The B-58 Hustler might not look it, but it's a beast. The first supersonic bomber, all the way up to Mach 2. At least one of its speed records still stands today. 

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

BUFF

The legendary B-52, or Big Ugly Fat... let's say Fellow. 

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Ancient and still going

All B-52s were built in the '50s and early '60s, yet most are still in service and will continue to be until the 2040s! Now that is good design. Imagine flying an aircraft your grandfather flew. Great grandfather maybe.

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Six turning, four burning

The mighty B-36. I've always been fascinated by this plane. One of the only ones to have both propellers and jets.

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Big in so many ways

The B-36 is the largest mass-produced piston-powered aircraft, has widest wingspan of any combat aircraft, and has one of the highest engine counts (perhaps the highest?) of any combat aircraft (10). 

This one's from my Instagram.

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Short life

The B-36 was short lived, only 10 years on active duty. Jets were the future, as evidenced by how long it's eventual replacement (the B-52) has been in service. 

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

EB-47E

The first jet bomber, the B-47, replaced the B-36. Some were converted to intelligence gathering, like this one.

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Shack(leton)

Another marine patrol craft very far from anything marine. I took a few more pictures of this type of plane when I visited the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry.

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

AEW.3

A Fairey Gannet AEW.3 -- not much of a looker, but highly adaptable. 

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Contra

One of the AEW.3's most notable features is the contra-rotating propellers. They're rare because they're complex, but they do have their advantages, like a slight improvement in efficiency. 

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Not a B-29

It wasn't until I was checking the tags that I noticed this wasn't a B-29. It's a KB-50J, the post-war major update to the B-29 design. It has different wings, engines, tail and more. Oh, and I probably should have noticed that in addition to the fuel pods (it's a tanker) are two jet engines. So it's like the B-36, though it served the Air Force for twice as long.

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

C-97

Speaking of the B-50 and B-29, this is the closely related C-97. They were in service for 31 years, including the Berlin Airlift, and in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

C-124

The lower front of the C-124 opens into a mechanical gaping maw. 

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Hercules Hercules

The legendary C-130. Designed in the 1950s and still being produced today. "Versatile" is an understatement for this amazing aircraft.

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

TaleSpin

The C-82, possibly the inspiration for Baloo's Conwing L-16?

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

C-141

Though it looks newer than many of the other aircraft here, in terms of design, the C-141 was designed and built in the '60s, and was in service until 2006.

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Beech's beauty

This is sad to see. The gorgeous Beechcraft Starship. Pusher props, carbon-fiber composites and a canard: they didn't sell well. 

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

A-10s in flight

During my tour a pair of A-10s were flying some maneuvers. 

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

787?

Yep, that sure is a Boeing 787, on loan. I flew an ANA 787 from Paris to Tokyo, and it was painted like R2-D2. Even the napkins looked like the little droid.

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

High-bypass

Given the massive size of the 787's engines, it's always surprising to see how much bigger the fan is compared to the turbine. 

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

That's no moon...

Behind that P-3 Orion is not a hangar, it's a Super Guppy

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

F-4/F-6

Only in service for eight years, the Skyray was the Navy's first supersonic aircraft.

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Catalina adjacent

It looks like a PBY Catalina, but it's technically a Canso (the Royal Canadian Air Force's name for it). 

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Navy-ized B-24

The PB4Y Privateer, the Navy version of the B-24.

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

B-29

This B-29 served in the Pacific in WW2 and was finally decommissioned in 1959.

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

DC-10

This was one of the more eerie planes, not for any visual reason, but because the wind was slowly turning the fan blades, making them squeak. Just a little, like out of a movie. 

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Pieces

Speaking of eerie, there's something odd about seeing a plane without its engines. This is a YC-14 STOL transport prototype.

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Bronco

I love oddball airplanes, and this OV-10 is surely that. I think I had one as a toy as a kid (Micro Machines?).

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Skyknight

The oddly wide TF-10D was a successful night fighter in the '50s and '60s.

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

So many jets

I've concentrated on the bombers and rarities at Pima, but there are dozens upon dozens of aircraft that are fairly common air museum staples. Not to say these aren't worthy to feature, but with limited space here, I figured the standouts were better worth the focus.

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Delta Dagger

The F-102A, the Air Force's first delta wing and first supersonic interceptor. Check out that big B-52 looming in the background.

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Fighters and bombers

In the foreground, RF-101C; in the background, a B-52 and a B-36.

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

T-38

Though seemingly just a simple trainer, the T-38 was the first supersonic training aircraft. It has been in service since the '60s and is still in use today.

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

B-17

There's an entire hangar devoted to this B-17, which was first registered to Air Force, then served in the Navy, Coast Guard, and with various private owners including as a fire-fighting air tanker. 

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Landing

So ends a fantastic day at Pima. Highly recommended for any airplane fanatic, especially those who like big bombers. 

For the full story behind this tour, check out A vast oasis of aircraft lies deep in the Arizona desert..

Photo by: Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

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