Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Boneyard

Yesterday we toured the Pima Air and Space Museum.  The museum is basically on the opposite side of the base from  the RV park and is also adjacent to the aircraft storage facility (aka "the boneyard") for which Davis-Monthan well known.

The museum has a very extensive collection of aircraft related technology covering all of aviation history.  The Pensacola Naval aviation museum in Florida is very good, but confines its coverage to Naval aircraft.
The docent led walking tour was especially good.  The docent on my tour was a retired F-15 pilot who very much enjoyed educating the public on aviation history and relating his own flying experience.  He was well versed on modern as well as early historic aircraft.
Many of the aircraft were in sad shape when acquired by the museum.  Most of them have been restored to flyable condition.  An impressive job.
 The Lockheed Electra; the same model used by Amelia Earhart.

 The A-10 Thunderbolt (aka, Warthog).  Note the 30mm gatling gun in the nose.  Only the barrel assembly is on the cart to the right of the aircraft.  The entire gun reaches from the nose passing to the right of the landing gear all the way to the wing's leading edge.  An awesome tank killing machine capable of carrying a larger bomb load than a WWII era B-17!  Davis-Monthan AFB is the training center for A-10 pilots. 
Interestingly, the B24 Liberator was more numerous in raids on Nazi Germany than the more well known B-17.
 Here is the C-47 Douglas Skytrain; the most successful aircraft ever made.  The first one was built in 1933.  The one here is the second one produced.  The C-47 (or DC-3) is still being flown in many places around the world.  I rode one like this in 1973 from Nakhon Phanom AB to Bankok.
 The B-25 Mitchell bomber like that flown by the Jimmy Doolittle raiders against tokyo.
 The C-46 was used to transport supplies to over the mountains on Nepal to support Claire Chennault's Flying Tiger volunteers in China.  My father was a mechanic who worked on the C-47 and C-46 in World War II India.

This B-36 was flown on 37 bombing missions over Tokyo.  The dot-dot-dash ("V") symbol on the nose indicates that this aircraft flew on the very last combat mission of World War II on the day of the surrender ceremony on Tokyo harbor.

Part of our visit to the museum included a tour of the boneyard.  The storage facility covers at lease several thousand acres and many hundreds of aircraft.  The bus tour was narrated by another former pilot docent who was also very knowlegeable.

Although not a museum, the storage facility has arranged a kind of hall of fame of many different aircraft.
The majority of the aircraft are stored in fully operational condition and can be quickly made flyable.  Many will return to active service as replacements for lost aircraft or re-purposed to non-military service.  The stored aircraft also serve as a wartime reserve.  All of the military services store retired aircraft here.
 There are two sections of the storage facility.  Generally, the aircraft you see with a  landing gear and wheels on the ground are stored as read-to-fly, while those with any open doors or parts missing are being canibalized for spare parts and will never fly again.. 

It is simply an amazing number of aircraft.  The number in storage is expected to increase in the future due to future defense cuts in the budget.

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