You don’t have to be in Tucson long before you realize there is a large Air Force base here. Jet thrusters and helicopter rotors frequently cause us to look up in the sky and marvel at the flying machines as they cut through the clouds.
Adjacent to the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is the Pima Air and Space Museum. It ranks as the third largest museum of its kind (behind the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. and Wright-Patterson in Dayton, OH). There are over 300 air craft on a sprawling 80 acres. Planes, helicopters, and other flying machines fill the large hangers and a myriad of exhibits guide you through a hundred years of aviation history. As we were walking from hanger to hanger we were constantly distracted (in a good way) by all the air craft lurking in the boneyard. They beckoned us to come for a closer look, especially the ones that said “United States of America” and were sporting baby blue paint or that were so big they did not look as if they could ever get off the ground.
One of our favorite exhibits was that of "nose art." You know...the pretty ladies with large busts that decorate the front of a plane. Or the ones painted with menacing eyes and fangs that threaten all who look at it. Nose art ranges from official designs to unofficial (this probably includes the topless ladies) that were meant to boost morale and provide a sense of identity for the crew and mission.
|Who wouldn't be afraid of Liz the Pistol Packin' Mama?|
We spent a couple of hours wandering amongst the planes and perusing the exhibits but felt very glad that our method of travel is by wheels hitting the pavement and not wings in the air.
|Scattered throughout the air craft are various exhibits that tell the story of life for pilots.|
|The "Bumble Bee" The Bumble Bee was designed and built for the sole purpose of taking the record for the world's smallest aircraft. Barely enough room for a pilot.|
|The "Huey" helicopter which was used extensively during the Vietnam War.|
|One could spend a whole day at the museum if you listen to all the videos and oral histories.|
|The B-24J Liberator - the most widely produced air craft during WWII with a range of 2,100 miles.|
|Many, many more aircraft are scattered about.|