Aircraft

A tour through the extraordinary Pima Air & Space Museum in Arizona

The PIMA Air & Space museum is a dream destination for aviation fans
The PIMA Air & Space museum is a dream destination for aviation fans
View 70 Images
The adorable Starr Bumble Bee was built to take a crack at the record for the world's smallest manned aircraft, with a 6'6 wingspan, a 9'4 length and a height of just 4'1. It took the Guinness record when it made its first flights in January 1984, and was capable of speeds up to 180 mph - but could only fly to a service ceiling of 3,000 ft due to its tiny wings.
1/70
The adorable Starr Bumble Bee was built to take a crack at the record for the world's smallest manned aircraft, with a 6'6 wingspan, a 9'4 length and a height of just 4'1. It took the Guinness record when it made its first flights in January 1984, and was capable of speeds up to 180 mph - but could only fly to a service ceiling of 3,000 ft due to its tiny wings.
The Curtiss F6C was originally designed to run a V12 engine, but the US Navy soon decided that big air-cooled radials were easier to maintain, and fitted this F6C-4 model with a Pratt & Whitney R-1340 radial 9-cylinder Wasp motor. Between 1927 and 1930, these aircraft were used as fighters and steep-angle dive bombers. 
2/70
The Curtiss F6C was originally designed to run a V12 engine, but the US Navy soon decided that big air-cooled radials were easier to maintain, and fitted this F6C-4 model with a Pratt & Whitney R-1340 radial 9-cylinder Wasp motor. Between 1927 and 1930, these aircraft were used as fighters and steep-angle dive bombers. 
This nuggety fellow is a Curtiss 0-52 Owl, the last heavy two-seat observation aircraft the Army Air Force developed in 1939. By 1941 it was found to be useless in any kind of combat conditions, and was relegated to training and coastal patrol work.
3/70
This nuggety fellow is a Curtiss 0-52 Owl, the last heavy two-seat observation aircraft the Army Air Force developed in 1939. By 1941 it was found to be useless in any kind of combat conditions, and was relegated to training and coastal patrol work.
The mighty Westland Lynx became the world's first "fully aerobatic" helicopter upon its prototype debut in 1971. This airframe was so strong it could (and indeed, still can) perform full loops and rolls. Lynxes saw extensive duties across the British armed forces through conflicts in the Falklands, Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Sierra Leone and the Middle East, and the machine's legacy lives on in the record books, too - a modified Lynx still holds the official FAI record for the world's fastest non-compound helicopter at 400.87 kmh.
4/70
The mighty Westland Lynx became the world's first "fully aerobatic" helicopter upon its prototype debut in 1971. This airframe was so strong it could (and indeed, still can) perform full loops and rolls. Lynxes saw extensive duties across the British armed forces through conflicts in the Falklands, Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Sierra Leone and the Middle East, and the machine's legacy lives on in the record books, too - a modified Lynx still holds the official FAI record for the world's fastest non-compound helicopter at 400.87 kmh.
The PIMA Air & Space museum is a dream destination for aviation fans
5/70
The PIMA Air & Space museum is a dream destination for aviation fans
You can write "Bell UH-1M Iroquois" on this thing as much as you like, but ever since it made its debut with the designation HU-1, it's been called the Huey by pretty much everybody. One of the best-known choppers in history, the Huey made its debut in 1958, served extensively in Vietnam as an assault helicopter, and is still effective in military and civilian service to this day.
6/70
You can write "Bell UH-1M Iroquois" on this thing as much as you like, but ever since it made its debut with the designation HU-1, it's been called the Huey by pretty much everybody. One of the best-known choppers in history, the Huey made its debut in 1958, served extensively in Vietnam as an assault helicopter, and is still effective in military and civilian service to this day.
The McDonnell FH-1 Phantom made its debut in 1946 as the US Navy and Marine Corps' first all-jet powered fighter, giving it the hard acceleration ability needed to launch from an aircraft carrier ship - hence the fold-up wings for tight storage. Only 60 were made, and they were outdated and discontinued by 1949 as jet engines and aircraft developed at such a break-neck pace after WW2.
7/70
The McDonnell FH-1 Phantom made its debut in 1946 as the US Navy and Marine Corps' first all-jet powered fighter, giving it the hard acceleration ability needed to launch from an aircraft carrier ship - hence the fold-up wings for tight storage. Only 60 were made, and they were outdated and discontinued by 1949 as jet engines and aircraft developed at such a break-neck pace after WW2.
The F-14 Tomcat entered service in the 1970s and wasn't officially retired until 2006 - but this swing wing naval fighter will forever be remembered upside down, full of Tom Cruise giving the finger to a Russian MIG pilot in 1986's Top Gun movie. 
8/70
The F-14 Tomcat entered service in the 1970s and wasn't officially retired until 2006 - but this swing wing naval fighter will forever be remembered upside down, full of Tom Cruise giving the finger to a Russian MIG pilot in 1986's Top Gun movie. 
A slight departure from the US$38 million Tomcat, the Flaglor Sky Scooter is a late-1960s kit airplane that cost about US$7,500 to build, including its 1,600cc Volkswagen engine. 
9/70
A slight departure from the US$38 million Tomcat, the Flaglor Sky Scooter is a late-1960s kit airplane that cost about US$7,500 to build, including its 1,600cc Volkswagen engine. 
The Pentecost Hoppi-Copter has a cute and cuddly name, but it's a horrifying personal flight device in practice. A backpack-mounted coaxial helicopter, the Hoppi-Copter weighed a crushing 78 kilos (173 lbs), was notoriously difficult to control, and had a tendency to smash its blades into thousands of lethal splinters if the pilot stumbled on take-off or landing. It was later developed in a format that offered the pilot a seat, but... Never took off, as it were.
10/70
The Pentecost Hoppi-Copter has a cute and cuddly name, but it's a horrifying personal flight device in practice. A backpack-mounted coaxial helicopter, the Hoppi-Copter weighed a crushing 78 kilos (173 lbs), was notoriously difficult to control, and had a tendency to smash its blades into thousands of lethal splinters if the pilot stumbled on take-off or landing. It was later developed in a format that offered the pilot a seat, but... Never took off, as it were.
Peekaboo! That's a Douglas B-18B Bolo, based on the DC-2 airliner and first produced in 1936 as a bomber. Such was the pace of development in these years that the Bolo was obsolete by the start of WW2, and ended up being re-fitted with radars and magnetic anomaly detection gear instead of bombardiers' windows so they could go hunt for German submarines.
11/70
Peekaboo! That's a Douglas B-18B Bolo, based on the DC-2 airliner and first produced in 1936 as a bomber. Such was the pace of development in these years that the Bolo was obsolete by the start of WW2, and ended up being re-fitted with radars and magnetic anomaly detection gear instead of bombardiers' windows so they could go hunt for German submarines.
The Lockheed S-3B Viking was a Cold War era, carrier-based anti-submarine aircraft that first flew in 1974. 
12/70
The Lockheed S-3B Viking was a Cold War era, carrier-based anti-submarine aircraft that first flew in 1974. 
We tend to think of drone aircraft as a reasonably recent addition to warfare, but Gyrodyne's QH-50C DASH was in operation as early as 1960. Specifically designed as anti-submarine weapons, these expendable, coaxial mini-choppers  were flown remotely by a 2-man team, at ranges up to 22 miles from their ship, and could carry homing torpedos to give submarines a very nasty surprise. 
13/70
We tend to think of drone aircraft as a reasonably recent addition to warfare, but Gyrodyne's QH-50C DASH was in operation as early as 1960. Specifically designed as anti-submarine weapons, these expendable, coaxial mini-choppers  were flown remotely by a 2-man team, at ranges up to 22 miles from their ship, and could carry homing torpedos to give submarines a very nasty surprise. 
Does the legendary SR-71 Blackbird need any further introduction? Click here if you'd like to foam yourself over details of one of the fastest and most extreme aircraft ever built. PIMA is lucky enough to have one on display, as well as numerous bits and pieces.
14/70
Does the legendary SR-71 Blackbird need any further introduction? Click here if you'd like to foam yourself over details of one of the fastest and most extreme aircraft ever built. PIMA is lucky enough to have one on display, as well as numerous bits and pieces.
The SR-71's detachable nose cone could be replaced with this SLAR, or side-looking airborne radar nose, designed to get a sideways peek at areas it couldn't fly over.
15/70
The SR-71's detachable nose cone could be replaced with this SLAR, or side-looking airborne radar nose, designed to get a sideways peek at areas it couldn't fly over.
The Blackbird's Lockheed Stanley C-2 rocket-powered ejection seat.
16/70
The Blackbird's Lockheed Stanley C-2 rocket-powered ejection seat.
The Blackbird's monstrous Pratt & Whitney J58 turbojet engines could operate at altitudes up to 85,000 feet and sustain long periods on the afterburners.
17/70
The Blackbird's monstrous Pratt & Whitney J58 turbojet engines could operate at altitudes up to 85,000 feet and sustain long periods on the afterburners.
The Lockheed Martin D-21 was a supersonic reconnaissance drone that launched off the back of Lockheed M-21 carrier planes (a predecessor of the SR-71 with similarly alien looks), and later, from the Boeing Stratofortress . It was capable of Mach 3.3 at altitudes up to 90,000 feet, and had a high-res camera on board. After it had flown its pre-programmed path, it would eject the camera for collection, and then self-destruct.
18/70
The Lockheed Martin D-21 was a supersonic reconnaissance drone that launched off the back of Lockheed M-21 carrier planes (a predecessor of the SR-71 with similarly alien looks), and later, from the Boeing Stratofortress . It was capable of Mach 3.3 at altitudes up to 90,000 feet, and had a high-res camera on board. After it had flown its pre-programmed path, it would eject the camera for collection, and then self-destruct.
You'd want to have a humble outlook if you were one of the other aircraft placed near the SR-71. 
19/70
You'd want to have a humble outlook if you were one of the other aircraft placed near the SR-71. 
Those odd overhead jet air intakes are a key feature of the North American F-107A fighter/bomber. Putting the intakes up high allowed engineers to fit this Mach 1.7 beast with a full internal bomb bay. It first flew in 1956.
20/70
Those odd overhead jet air intakes are a key feature of the North American F-107A fighter/bomber. Putting the intakes up high allowed engineers to fit this Mach 1.7 beast with a full internal bomb bay. It first flew in 1956.
The Aerosport Quail made its debut in 1971 and gained a reputation as one of the easiest kit planes you could build in your own shed with a rivet gun, a 1,700cc Volkswagen motor and basic tools. Presumably this is a former owner's idea of a camouflage paint job.
21/70
The Aerosport Quail made its debut in 1971 and gained a reputation as one of the easiest kit planes you could build in your own shed with a rivet gun, a 1,700cc Volkswagen motor and basic tools. Presumably this is a former owner's idea of a camouflage paint job.
The hulking, hunchbacked Martin PBM-5A Mariner was a mammoth amphibian - indeed the largest amphibian aircraft ever built. Prototyped in 1937 and flown through to 1958, they served through WW2 and the Korean war as long-range patrol bombers and rescue aircraft.
22/70
The hulking, hunchbacked Martin PBM-5A Mariner was a mammoth amphibian - indeed the largest amphibian aircraft ever built. Prototyped in 1937 and flown through to 1958, they served through WW2 and the Korean war as long-range patrol bombers and rescue aircraft.
The skeletal remains of this Martin Mariner were pulled out of Lake Washington, and have a beauty unto themselves.
23/70
The skeletal remains of this Martin Mariner were pulled out of Lake Washington, and have a beauty unto themselves.
The Pereira/Hummel Osprey, a 1969 design for a home-built flying boat. The US Navy approached George Pereira during the Vietnam war and evaluated it as a light observation plane, giving it the designation X-28A. Things didn't pan out, but kit and plan builders put about 500 Ospreys in the air as hobby planes.
24/70
The Pereira/Hummel Osprey, a 1969 design for a home-built flying boat. The US Navy approached George Pereira during the Vietnam war and evaluated it as a light observation plane, giving it the designation X-28A. Things didn't pan out, but kit and plan builders put about 500 Ospreys in the air as hobby planes.
This clown shoe-shaped oddity is the Columbia XJL-1 amphibious monoplane. Only three were ever built, and they never went into service for the US Navy due to "repeated structural failures of various parts." 
25/70
This clown shoe-shaped oddity is the Columbia XJL-1 amphibious monoplane. Only three were ever built, and they never went into service for the US Navy due to "repeated structural failures of various parts." 
This fairly unsuspecting looking fella is a B-61 nuclear bomb, weighing about 700 lbs and capable of delivering warheads up to 340 kilotons. For reference, that's about 17 times the energy of the "Fat Man" atom bomb dropped on Nagasaki in 1945.
26/70
This fairly unsuspecting looking fella is a B-61 nuclear bomb, weighing about 700 lbs and capable of delivering warheads up to 340 kilotons. For reference, that's about 17 times the energy of the "Fat Man" atom bomb dropped on Nagasaki in 1945.
The Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, complete with that distinctive ball, or 'mast mounted sight' above the top rotor, which enabled the Wiowa to scout for targets without popping up over trees or hills. They were used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan.
27/70
The Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, complete with that distinctive ball, or 'mast mounted sight' above the top rotor, which enabled the Wiowa to scout for targets without popping up over trees or hills. They were used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The McDonnell-Douglas F-15 Eagle, shown here in the F-15A model, first flew in 1972 and is still active today as one of the most successful jet fighters in history, with more than 100 victories to its name (mostly by Israeli defence forces) and a staggering zero losses in aerial combat. Production of this venerable plane will end in 2022.
28/70
The McDonnell-Douglas F-15 Eagle, shown here in the F-15A model, first flew in 1972 and is still active today as one of the most successful jet fighters in history, with more than 100 victories to its name (mostly by Israeli defence forces) and a staggering zero losses in aerial combat. Production of this venerable plane will end in 2022.
The outdoor exhibits at PIMA are enormous.
29/70
The outdoor exhibits at PIMA are enormous.
This is sadly only a mockup, but the North American X-15 was a truly remarkable rocket-powered wonder of an experimental machine. Only three were built, and once they first flew in 1959, they started setting records that have still yet to be beaten, like an outright top speed of Mach 6.7, or 7,274 kmh. 13 X-15 flights went above the official border between Earth and Space - 264,000 feet, earning the pilots their astronaut wings, and the service ceiling was a ridiculous 354,200 feet.
30/70
This is sadly only a mockup, but the North American X-15 was a truly remarkable rocket-powered wonder of an experimental machine. Only three were built, and once they first flew in 1959, they started setting records that have still yet to be beaten, like an outright top speed of Mach 6.7, or 7,274 kmh. 13 X-15 flights went above the official border between Earth and Space - 264,000 feet, earning the pilots their astronaut wings, and the service ceiling was a ridiculous 354,200 feet.
A micro-meteorite protection vest designed for space shuttle crew. Mind you, at orbital speeds around 17,000 mph, a fleck of paint, or a rock the size of a grain of sand, could kill an astronaut or completely depressurize a space ship.
31/70
A micro-meteorite protection vest designed for space shuttle crew. Mind you, at orbital speeds around 17,000 mph, a fleck of paint, or a rock the size of a grain of sand, could kill an astronaut or completely depressurize a space ship.
A sample of moon rock brought back by the crew of Apollo 16, which spent three days on the moon in April, 1972.
32/70
A sample of moon rock brought back by the crew of Apollo 16, which spent three days on the moon in April, 1972.
A lineup of helicopters outside at PIMA.
33/70
A lineup of helicopters outside at PIMA.
The bizarrely empty belly of the Sikorsky CH-54A Tarhe, also known as the Sky Crane. It was used as a heavy lifter in Vietnam, capable of carrying tanks, bombs, or even two Huey helicopters at once. It remains in service to this day, particularly as a firefighting helicopter with water scoop and drop capabilities.
34/70
The bizarrely empty belly of the Sikorsky CH-54A Tarhe, also known as the Sky Crane. It was used as a heavy lifter in Vietnam, capable of carrying tanks, bombs, or even two Huey helicopters at once. It remains in service to this day, particularly as a firefighting helicopter with water scoop and drop capabilities.
Designed as a combination between a Huey-style assault chopper and a proper armored gunship, Russia's Mi-24 HIND has ended up being one of the most successful attack helicopters in history. First flying in 1970, the HIND is still in service today, in Russia, as well as a number of its allies across the world and several other countries to boot.
35/70
Designed as a combination between a Huey-style assault chopper and a proper armored gunship, Russia's Mi-24 HIND has ended up being one of the most successful attack helicopters in history. First flying in 1970, the HIND is still in service today, in Russia, as well as a number of its allies across the world and several other countries to boot.
The Boneyards Project turns old planes into art pieces.
36/70
The Boneyards Project turns old planes into art pieces.
The Boneyards Project turns old planes into art pieces.
37/70
The Boneyards Project turns old planes into art pieces.
Sikorsky's bulbous MH-53M was the final version of the Super Jolly Green Giant developed during the Vietnam war and flown as a long range combat search and rescue helicopter.
38/70
Sikorsky's bulbous MH-53M was the final version of the Super Jolly Green Giant developed during the Vietnam war and flown as a long range combat search and rescue helicopter.
The Convair B-58A Hustler - an upgraded model of the first bomber ever to go supersonic - or hit Mach 2, for that matter, when it debuted in the early 60s. It set some 19 records for speed, altitude and payload carrying, and was the first to use a stainless steel honeycomb construction.
39/70
The Convair B-58A Hustler - an upgraded model of the first bomber ever to go supersonic - or hit Mach 2, for that matter, when it debuted in the early 60s. It set some 19 records for speed, altitude and payload carrying, and was the first to use a stainless steel honeycomb construction.
The enormous Boeing B-52 Stratofortress - an aircraft whose name would become synonymous with long-range bombing thanks to its commanding presence in the Vietnam war. By the time it was developed into this B-52D model, it was capable of carrying some 54,000 pounds of bombs. Or anything else you wished to drop on people's heads.
40/70
The enormous Boeing B-52 Stratofortress - an aircraft whose name would become synonymous with long-range bombing thanks to its commanding presence in the Vietnam war. By the time it was developed into this B-52D model, it was capable of carrying some 54,000 pounds of bombs. Or anything else you wished to drop on people's heads.
The gob-smacking Aero Spacelines 377-SG Super Guppy is without doubt one of the PIMA Air & Space Museum's most compelling exhibits. It's freakin' huge - note Brianna for scale in our photo. 156 feet across the wings, 46 and a half feet high and 144 feet long with a hinged nose for cargo access, NASA used these things from the mid-60s to carry Saturn rockets around for the Apollo program, among other things.
41/70
The gob-smacking Aero Spacelines 377-SG Super Guppy is without doubt one of the PIMA Air & Space Museum's most compelling exhibits. It's freakin' huge - note Brianna for scale in our photo. 156 feet across the wings, 46 and a half feet high and 144 feet long with a hinged nose for cargo access, NASA used these things from the mid-60s to carry Saturn rockets around for the Apollo program, among other things.
I mean... just look at it.
42/70
I mean... just look at it.
The Teledyne Ryan Firebee drone started life in 1951 as target practice for gunners, and would launch from under the wings of a mothership plane. It was eventually upgraded to suit the role of a low altitude photo-reconnaissance drone. Incapable of landing itself, it had to be hooked out of the air by helicopter, or simply drop into the sea on a parachute.
43/70
The Teledyne Ryan Firebee drone started life in 1951 as target practice for gunners, and would launch from under the wings of a mothership plane. It was eventually upgraded to suit the role of a low altitude photo-reconnaissance drone. Incapable of landing itself, it had to be hooked out of the air by helicopter, or simply drop into the sea on a parachute.
This Douglas VC-118A Liftmaster – a militarized version of the old DC-6 airliner – served as Air Force One for President Kennedy in the 1960s, before he decided to switch to a newer Boeing VC-137, based on the 707.
44/70
This Douglas VC-118A Liftmaster – a militarized version of the old DC-6 airliner – served as Air Force One for President Kennedy in the 1960s, before he decided to switch to a newer Boeing VC-137, based on the 707.
The Beech AT-11 Kansan, a WW2-era bomber with a plexiglass nose to accommodate a Norden bombsight. It was mainly used as a training aircraft.
45/70
The Beech AT-11 Kansan, a WW2-era bomber with a plexiglass nose to accommodate a Norden bombsight. It was mainly used as a training aircraft.
If you enlisted to be a pilot in WW2, there was a good chance the Fairchild PT-19 would be your first training plane - hence its nickname: "the cradle of heroes."
46/70
If you enlisted to be a pilot in WW2, there was a good chance the Fairchild PT-19 would be your first training plane - hence its nickname: "the cradle of heroes."
More than 70,000 of these Radioplane OQ-19D target drones were manufactured through the 70s and 80s. They'd launch from a ground-based catapult and get shot at by guns and missiles. In the disappointing event that everyone missed, they could deploy a parachute and come back down in one piece.
47/70
More than 70,000 of these Radioplane OQ-19D target drones were manufactured through the 70s and 80s. They'd launch from a ground-based catapult and get shot at by guns and missiles. In the disappointing event that everyone missed, they could deploy a parachute and come back down in one piece.
The Hawker Hurricane was the first British fighter to have both a single wing and retractable landing gear when it first flew in 1935. They were the primary fighter used to repel the Messerschmitts of Hitler's Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain. Some 8,000 of these Mk.II Hurricanes were built, and bits of five of them have been used to assemble this example.
48/70
The Hawker Hurricane was the first British fighter to have both a single wing and retractable landing gear when it first flew in 1935. They were the primary fighter used to repel the Messerschmitts of Hitler's Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain. Some 8,000 of these Mk.II Hurricanes were built, and bits of five of them have been used to assemble this example.
The versatility of the Consolidated B-24 Liberator saw it produced in huge numbers through WW2, with some 18,500 being built. Indeed, it's still the world's most produced bomber, heavy bomber, multi-engine aircraft and American military aircraft in history. Not that pilots loved it - it was difficult to fly, with a low service ceiling, poor slow speed performance and generally less robust than the Boeing Flying Fortress. But the brass liked it, so that's what the crews got!
49/70
The versatility of the Consolidated B-24 Liberator saw it produced in huge numbers through WW2, with some 18,500 being built. Indeed, it's still the world's most produced bomber, heavy bomber, multi-engine aircraft and American military aircraft in history. Not that pilots loved it - it was difficult to fly, with a low service ceiling, poor slow speed performance and generally less robust than the Boeing Flying Fortress. But the brass liked it, so that's what the crews got!
The PIMA museum grounds get plenty of non-human visitors too!
50/70
The PIMA museum grounds get plenty of non-human visitors too!
The cockpit of a Lockheed Lodestar.
51/70
The cockpit of a Lockheed Lodestar.
Side guns on the Consolidated Privateer
52/70
Side guns on the Consolidated Privateer
The tail gunner cabin of the Consolidated Privateer
53/70
The tail gunner cabin of the Consolidated Privateer
The Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer, a long-range patrol bomber developed from the B-24 Liberator.
54/70
The Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer, a long-range patrol bomber developed from the B-24 Liberator.
The Bristol Mk.IV Bolingbroke was a development of the Blenheim Mk.IV, which was developed in 1935. Designed as a fighter, it was one of the faster planes going around on its debut, but by the time WW2 broke out in 1939, it was just about obsolete. It still saw duty as a bomber, night fighter and recon aircraft, but this Bolingbroke version was mainly used as a trainer and coast patroller.
55/70
The Bristol Mk.IV Bolingbroke was a development of the Blenheim Mk.IV, which was developed in 1935. Designed as a fighter, it was one of the faster planes going around on its debut, but by the time WW2 broke out in 1939, it was just about obsolete. It still saw duty as a bomber, night fighter and recon aircraft, but this Bolingbroke version was mainly used as a trainer and coast patroller.
PIMA's magnificent collection of aircraft focuses on military gear, but makes room for some other oddities as well.
56/70
PIMA's magnificent collection of aircraft focuses on military gear, but makes room for some other oddities as well.
The PIMA Air and Space Museum features an interesting and diverse range of exhibits from the last hundred or so years of aviation.
57/70
The PIMA Air and Space Museum features an interesting and diverse range of exhibits from the last hundred or so years of aviation.
The Edo A-3 airborne lifeboat was carried under the fuselage of specially modified Boeing Superfortresses known as "Super Dumbos," which would drop them on parachutes in areas where aircrews were stuck in the ocean. The A-3 had a 4-cylinder engine, as well as food, water, a radio and rescue supplies for up to 15 passengers.
58/70
The Edo A-3 airborne lifeboat was carried under the fuselage of specially modified Boeing Superfortresses known as "Super Dumbos," which would drop them on parachutes in areas where aircrews were stuck in the ocean. The A-3 had a 4-cylinder engine, as well as food, water, a radio and rescue supplies for up to 15 passengers.
This Grumman TBF Avenger, manufactured by General Motors during WW2, was one of the most successful torpedo bombers of the second world war. It was particularly convenient for aircraft carrier use due to its 'Sto-Wing' compound angle folding wings, which gave it a tiny footprint when not in use.
59/70
This Grumman TBF Avenger, manufactured by General Motors during WW2, was one of the most successful torpedo bombers of the second world war. It was particularly convenient for aircraft carrier use due to its 'Sto-Wing' compound angle folding wings, which gave it a tiny footprint when not in use.
The mighty 28-5AMC Canso A, a Canadian version of the Consolidated PBY Catalina, was the US Navy's best flying boat during WW2. It saw plenty of action in anti-submarine, maritime patrol and air/sea rescue missions, and after the war many of them were retro-fitted as luxury flying yachts and firefighting aircraft.
60/70
The mighty 28-5AMC Canso A, a Canadian version of the Consolidated PBY Catalina, was the US Navy's best flying boat during WW2. It saw plenty of action in anti-submarine, maritime patrol and air/sea rescue missions, and after the war many of them were retro-fitted as luxury flying yachts and firefighting aircraft.
The gunner's cabin of this North American B-25J Mitchell actually looks quite spacious.
61/70
The gunner's cabin of this North American B-25J Mitchell actually looks quite spacious.
The famous Supermarine Spitfire, well renowned as Britain's best fighter for the duration of WW2. In front of it, you can see a Rolls-Royce Griffon 65 V12 engine, which developed 2,050 horsepower and allowed the Spitfire a top speed around 445 mph.
62/70
The famous Supermarine Spitfire, well renowned as Britain's best fighter for the duration of WW2. In front of it, you can see a Rolls-Royce Griffon 65 V12 engine, which developed 2,050 horsepower and allowed the Spitfire a top speed around 445 mph.
Expecting a Japanese attack on Hawaii, the US decided to produce these overwritten notes, so that if Hawaii fell under Japanese control, America could instantly render all the island's currency unusable. 
63/70
Expecting a Japanese attack on Hawaii, the US decided to produce these overwritten notes, so that if Hawaii fell under Japanese control, America could instantly render all the island's currency unusable. 
If the Nakajima Ki-115 Tsurugi looks cheaply built, that's because it was only ever meant to be flown once. They'd fly with more or less whatever engine was available, and the landing gear would drop off after takeoff in case the poor pilot caught himself having second thoughts instead of ploughing himself nose-first into a ship on a Kamikaze suicide mission.
64/70
If the Nakajima Ki-115 Tsurugi looks cheaply built, that's because it was only ever meant to be flown once. They'd fly with more or less whatever engine was available, and the landing gear would drop off after takeoff in case the poor pilot caught himself having second thoughts instead of ploughing himself nose-first into a ship on a Kamikaze suicide mission.
The Yokosuka MXY7 Ohka was another Kamikaze aircraft, this time in the form of a flying bomb that could be launched from under the wing of a larger bomber. The Ohka would be released, and the hapless pilot would guide it toward its target. As it approached, the pilot could fire off three tail rockets to accelerate to speeds over 620 mph for impact, making them extremely difficult to stop if they were headed for your ship. Why the twin cabin? This is a catapult-launched training version used to give Kamikaze pilots a bit of experience before their first and final solo flight.
65/70
The Yokosuka MXY7 Ohka was another Kamikaze aircraft, this time in the form of a flying bomb that could be launched from under the wing of a larger bomber. The Ohka would be released, and the hapless pilot would guide it toward its target. As it approached, the pilot could fire off three tail rockets to accelerate to speeds over 620 mph for impact, making them extremely difficult to stop if they were headed for your ship. Why the twin cabin? This is a catapult-launched training version used to give Kamikaze pilots a bit of experience before their first and final solo flight.
The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 shocked the Western allies when they first came up against it during the Korean war, being far more advanced than anyone thought possible. It was the result of a contract the Soviets managed to sign allowing them to license and build the Rolls-Royce Nene turbojet engine, which they quickly reverse-engineered and started mass producing as the Klimov VK-1 Turbojet.
66/70
The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 shocked the Western allies when they first came up against it during the Korean war, being far more advanced than anyone thought possible. It was the result of a contract the Soviets managed to sign allowing them to license and build the Rolls-Royce Nene turbojet engine, which they quickly reverse-engineered and started mass producing as the Klimov VK-1 Turbojet.
The Soviet MiG-15 was soundly superior to just about all the fighters the Allies had to throw at it in the Korean war - bar this one. The North American F-86E Sabre was a swept-wing beauty that was capable of going trans-sonic in a dive. They couldn't outrun a MiG-15, but they could out-dive one, and the Sabre came out as the (disputed) head-to-head victor over the course of the Korean war.
67/70
The Soviet MiG-15 was soundly superior to just about all the fighters the Allies had to throw at it in the Korean war - bar this one. The North American F-86E Sabre was a swept-wing beauty that was capable of going trans-sonic in a dive. They couldn't outrun a MiG-15, but they could out-dive one, and the Sabre came out as the (disputed) head-to-head victor over the course of the Korean war.
The distinctive W-shaped underwings of the Vought F4U-4 Corsair, the best-known US Navy fighter of WW2. Capable of speeds up to 446 mph, it was faster than any other American fighter of its time when it launched in 1940, and its production was surprisingly long-lived for the era, ending in 1952.
68/70
The distinctive W-shaped underwings of the Vought F4U-4 Corsair, the best-known US Navy fighter of WW2. Capable of speeds up to 446 mph, it was faster than any other American fighter of its time when it launched in 1940, and its production was surprisingly long-lived for the era, ending in 1952.
There's something odd about the list of kills this plane has on its side. The pilot is celebrating kills against Germany, Italy, Japan and... America? This plane was flown by Lt. Louis E. Curdes, who may be the only man ever awarded a medal for shooting down a friendly plane. He did so because he saw an American plane heading in to land at what Curdes knew was a Japanese base. Rather than allow the 12 crew on board to be captured, Curdes carefully shot out the C-47's engines, forcing them to ditch into the sea - about 50 metres from another downed pilot Curdes had been protecting in the area. All crew were rescued, completing a remarkable story.
69/70
There's something odd about the list of kills this plane has on its side. The pilot is celebrating kills against Germany, Italy, Japan and... America? This plane was flown by Lt. Louis E. Curdes, who may be the only man ever awarded a medal for shooting down a friendly plane. He did so because he saw an American plane heading in to land at what Curdes knew was a Japanese base. Rather than allow the 12 crew on board to be captured, Curdes carefully shot out the C-47's engines, forcing them to ditch into the sea - about 50 metres from another downed pilot Curdes had been protecting in the area. All crew were rescued, completing a remarkable story.
The imposing Boeing B-29 Superfortress carried more bombs, higher, further and faster, than any other WW2-era bomber. They stayed in service in alternative roles long after the war, and were only retired in 1959.
70/70
The imposing Boeing B-29 Superfortress carried more bombs, higher, further and faster, than any other WW2-era bomber. They stayed in service in alternative roles long after the war, and were only retired in 1959.

Arizona is home to some fascinating attractions, including the Biosphere 2 and the Titan II missile museum. But one of the best lies on the outskirts of Tuscon, where you'll find the outstanding Pima Air and Space Museum, which we're featuring in this spectacular photo tour.

Started up in 1966 with the goal of preserving America's WW2-era aviation heritage, the museum has grown to become one of the biggest aviation museums in the USA, with more than 350 aircraft. Naturally, there are plenty of war birds on display, but the Pima team has made room for plenty of other oddities as well. Here are a few that caught our attention:

Starr Bumble Bee

The adorable Starr Bumble Bee was built to take a crack at the record for the world's smallest manned aircraft, with a 6'6 wingspan, a 9'4 length and a height of just 4'1. It took the Guinness record when it made its first flights in January 1984, and was capable of speeds up to 180 mph - but could only fly to a service ceiling of 3,000 ft due to its tiny wings.
The adorable Starr Bumble Bee was built to take a crack at the record for the world's smallest manned aircraft, with a 6'6 wingspan, a 9'4 length and a height of just 4'1. It took the Guinness record when it made its first flights in January 1984, and was capable of speeds up to 180 mph - but could only fly to a service ceiling of 3,000 ft due to its tiny wings.

The adorable Starr Bumble Bee was built to take a crack at the record for the world's smallest manned aircraft, with a 6'6 wingspan, a 9'4 length and a height of just 4'1. It took the Guinness record when it made its first flights in January 1984, and was capable of speeds up to 180 mph, but could only fly to a service ceiling of 3,000 ft due to its tiny wings.

Aero Spacelines Super Guppy

The gob-smacking Aero Spacelines 377-SG Super Guppy is without doubt one of the PIMA Air & Space Museum's most compelling exhibits. It's freakin' huge - note Brianna for scale in our photo. 156 feet across the wings, 46 and a half feet high and 144 feet long with a hinged nose for cargo access, NASA used these things from the mid-60s to carry Saturn rockets around for the Apollo program, among other things.
The gob-smacking Aero Spacelines 377-SG Super Guppy is without doubt one of the PIMA Air & Space Museum's most compelling exhibits. It's freakin' huge - note Brianna for scale in our photo. 156 feet across the wings, 46 and a half feet high and 144 feet long with a hinged nose for cargo access, NASA used these things from the mid-60s to carry Saturn rockets around for the Apollo program, among other things.

From one of the smallest planes ever, to one of the biggest ... the gob-smacking Aero Spacelines 377-SG Super Guppy is without doubt one of the PIMA Air & Space Museum's most compelling exhibits. It's freakin' huge – note Brianna for scale in our photo. Some 156 feet across the wings, 46 and a half feet high and 144 feet long with a hinged nose for cargo access, NASA used these things from the mid-60s to carry Saturn rockets around for the Apollo program, among other things.

Pentecost Hoppi-Copter

The Pentecost Hoppi-Copter has a cute and cuddly name, but it's a horrifying personal flight device in practice. A backpack-mounted coaxial helicopter, the Hoppi-Copter weighed a crushing 78 kilos (173 lbs), was notoriously difficult to control, and had a tendency to smash its blades into thousands of lethal splinters if the pilot stumbled on take-off or landing. It was later developed in a format that offered the pilot a seat, but... Never took off, as it were.
The Pentecost Hoppi-Copter has a cute and cuddly name, but it's a horrifying personal flight device in practice. A backpack-mounted coaxial helicopter, the Hoppi-Copter weighed a crushing 78 kilos (173 lbs), was notoriously difficult to control, and had a tendency to smash its blades into thousands of lethal splinters if the pilot stumbled on take-off or landing. It was later developed in a format that offered the pilot a seat, but... Never took off, as it were.

The Pentecost Hoppi-Copter has a cute and cuddly name, but it's a horrifying personal flight device in practice. A backpack-mounted coaxial helicopter, the Hoppi-Copter weighed a crushing 78 kilos (173 lbs), was notoriously difficult to control, and had a tendency to smash its blades into thousands of lethal splinters if the pilot stumbled on take-off or landing. It was later developed in a format that offered the pilot a seat, but ... never took off, as it were.

SR-71 Blackbird

Does the legendary SR-71 Blackbird need any further introduction? Click here if you'd like to foam yourself over details of one of the fastest and most extreme aircraft ever built. PIMA is lucky enough to have one on display, as well as numerous bits and pieces.
Does the legendary SR-71 Blackbird need any further introduction? Click here if you'd like to foam yourself over details of one of the fastest and most extreme aircraft ever built. PIMA is lucky enough to have one on display, as well as numerous bits and pieces.

Does the legendary SR-71 Blackbird need any further introduction? It's one of the fastest and most extreme aircraft ever built, and Pima is lucky enough to have one on display, as well as numerous bits and pieces.

Columbia XJL-1

This clown shoe-shaped oddity is the Columbia XJL-1 amphibious monoplane. Only three were ever built, and they never went into service for the US Navy due to "repeated structural failures of various parts." 
This clown shoe-shaped oddity is the Columbia XJL-1 amphibious monoplane. Only three were ever built, and they never went into service for the US Navy due to "repeated structural failures of various parts." 

This clown shoe-shaped oddity is the Columbia XJL-1 amphibious monoplane. Only three were ever built, and they never went into service for the US Navy due to "repeated structural failures of various parts."

Air Force One, circa 1961-65

This Douglas VC-118A Liftmaster – a militarized version of the old DC-6 airliner – served as Air Force One for President Kennedy in the 1960s, before he decided to switch to a newer Boeing VC-137, based on the 707.
This Douglas VC-118A Liftmaster – a militarized version of the old DC-6 airliner – served as Air Force One for President Kennedy in the 1960s, before he decided to switch to a newer Boeing VC-137, based on the 707.

This Douglas VC-118A Liftmaster – a militarized version of the old DC-6 airliner – served as Air Force One for President Kennedy in the 1960s, before he decided to switch to a newer Boeing VC-137, based on the 707.

Nakajima Ki-115 Tsurugi

If the Nakajima Ki-115 Tsurugi looks cheaply built, that's because it was only ever meant to be flown once. They'd fly with more or less whatever engine was available, and the landing gear would drop off after takeoff in case the poor pilot caught himself having second thoughts instead of ploughing himself nose-first into a ship on a Kamikaze suicide mission.
If the Nakajima Ki-115 Tsurugi looks cheaply built, that's because it was only ever meant to be flown once. They'd fly with more or less whatever engine was available, and the landing gear would drop off after takeoff in case the poor pilot caught himself having second thoughts instead of ploughing himself nose-first into a ship on a Kamikaze suicide mission.

If the Nakajima Ki-115 Tsurugi looks cheaply built, that's because it was only ever meant to be flown once. They'd fly with more or less whatever engine was available, and the landing gear would drop off after takeoff in case the poor pilot caught himself having second thoughts instead of ploughing himself nose-first into a ship on a Kamikaze suicide mission.

North American P-51 Mustang

There's something odd about the list of kills this plane has on its side. The pilot is celebrating kills against Germany, Italy, Japan and... America? This plane was flown by Lt. Louis E. Curdes, who may be the only man ever awarded a medal for shooting down a friendly plane. He did so because he saw an American plane heading in to land at what Curdes knew was a Japanese base. Rather than allow the 12 crew on board to be captured, Curdes carefully shot out the C-47's engines, forcing them to ditch into the sea - about 50 metres from another downed pilot Curdes had been protecting in the area. All crew were rescued, completing a remarkable story.
There's something odd about the list of kills this plane has on its side. The pilot is celebrating kills against Germany, Italy, Japan and... America? This plane was flown by Lt. Louis E. Curdes, who may be the only man ever awarded a medal for shooting down a friendly plane. He did so because he saw an American plane heading in to land at what Curdes knew was a Japanese base. Rather than allow the 12 crew on board to be captured, Curdes carefully shot out the C-47's engines, forcing them to ditch into the sea - about 50 metres from another downed pilot Curdes had been protecting in the area. All crew were rescued, completing a remarkable story.

There's something odd about the list of kills this Mustang has on its side. The pilot is celebrating air-to-air kills against Germany, Italy, Japan and ... America? This plane was flown by Lt. Louis E. Curdes, who may be the only man ever awarded a medal for shooting down a friendly plane.

He did so because he saw an American plane heading in to land at what Curdes knew was a Japanese base. Rather than allow the 12 crew on board to be captured, Curdes carefully shot out the C-47's engines, forcing them to ditch into the sea – about 50 meters from another downed pilot Curdes had been protecting in the area. All crew were rescued, completing a remarkable story.

There are many more remarkable aircraft in the gallery. Click through and enjoy! Of course, we couldn't feature half of what's actually on the ground, so stop by if you're in the area to enjoy these mighty birds first hand.

Source: Pima Air & Space Museum

4 comments
guzmanchinky
Excellent article! I was just there a few weeks ago. Amazing place. They even have a 787 Dreamliner! I'm bummed I missed the Titan Missile Museum though...
Rusty Harris
VERY nice! If you ever get up to the upper midwest, the SAC museum between Omaha NE and Lincoln NE, is worth the trip too!
anthony88
The Australian Vampire brings back memories of one that used to sit outside an Army drill hall in Fremantle, years ago. Used to walk by it as a kid. Just discovered it got scrapped at a metal recycler... Sad...
Martin Hone
The Yanks are great at this sort of stuff. The Wright-Patterson museum is stunning.