Deserted Planes on a Desert Plain

Last weekend was the spring concert of the Villagaires, a choir with the honor of having Cherryl sing with them! They sang a lot of interesting old movie music and put on a very nice show. The opening group was the Ukulele Strummers, who did a few numbers with Ukuleles, a banjo and even some kazoos.

Assault on the Batteries

The recent Baja trip proved that our old batteries were toast. They didn’t hold a charge for long at all. I have done a crazy amount of research on new batteries, and finally pulled the trigger on some new Lithium batteries. These two new batteries should have more energy storage than the eight old AGM batteries. And weigh a lot less too! The old ones were 60 pounds each, and the new ones are like 86 each, giving us a savings of over 300 pounds! The battery compartment was open to the chassis under the motorhome, so batteries could vent. Lithiums don’t need to vent, and we’d rather keep them from getting too cold, so I insulated the compartment with foam. We’ll see how that lasts…

Pima Air Museum

We spent a fun afternoon at the Pima Air Museum with new friends Doug and Jennette. This nice couple let me drag them all over the place and drone on and on about cool aircraft, and still smiled! We had dinner later and had a great time! And as too often happens, I didn’t get a picture of them! Sigh…

Many years ago, you could take tours through the “Boneyard” where thousands of planes are mothballed. It was fun to see acres of planes parked nose to tail in various stages of repair. Those tours are cancelled indefinitely, not because of Covid, like everything else today, but for “National Security.” Whatever. Sad to miss the tours.

There is a nice museum, however, with indoor exhibits and lots of planes outside to walk around. At the entrance to the indoor displays there is a B-36 – made of Legos! It’s really well done!

Next up is a B-17. Production started in 1935, and over 12,000 were made, many to fly in WWII.

There were a couple openings where we could peer into the guts of this plane… Luxury was not on the spec sheet!

Here’s a real B-36. I think it is a fascinating plane- conceived before the US entered WWII, to give us long range bombing capability to reach Russia even if England had fallen to the Nazis. It is absolutely HUGE! The largest piston powered aircraft ever mass produced. It could be said it was obsolete even at its inception, with the six gargantuan pusher props in an era when jets were coming into play. Later versions had two jet engines added to each wingtip, making a total of 10 engines, more than any other mass produced airplane. The jets could be used for takeoff, and to speed up during a bombing run, but were shut down during long cruise to save fuel. It is called the “Peacemaker,” and maybe that name was apt, because it never dropped a bomb in war.

The “Super Guppy” below was a Boeing 377 Stratocruiser modified with a bloated fuselage to transport rocket parts. This is the only airplane big enough to carry the complete 3rd stage of the Saturn V rocket. It was used several times during the Apollo program. You can still see a bit of the NASA name on the tail.

I’m going to try and type less about the rest of these… maybe you won’t be as good at concealing boredom as Doug and Jennette were!

Ok, so much for typing less… When I was in something like 3rd grade, I got called to the principal’s office. Over the loudspeakers. I was not the sort of kid that got that summons often (Ever) and so it was with great apprehension that I approached the office. Mr Parks was the principal (needed for this story??) and he said I had won a competition for collecting stamps to raise money for a new school bus! As a reward, I was given a model kit of the super cool F-86 JET fighter. It was called the Sabre, and later the Super Sabre. I had fun building the kit, and have always thought it just a super cool plane. (didn’t I just say that?) Next to the Sabre below is a Russian MIG-15. It looks a lot like our jet, doesn’t it?

Another of my favorite planes is the F4U-4 Corsair. It is easy to identify with the interesting downward curve of the wings. The plane was designed to land on carriers, and with the prop so big, the landing gear would have been too long to have the strength needed for carrier landings. So they made the curve so the gear could be shorter. Pretty cool.

B-29 Superfortress. Produced from 1943 to 1946, it was used against Japan, including the dropping of the atomic bombs.

The Consolidated PBY Catalina was produced in the 30’s and 40’s, and saw use in WWII. Today some are still used as water bombers to fight fires.

This unusual boat was designed to fit under the fuselage of an airplane, and dropped to rescue downed airmen. It would have contained emergency supplies and an engine.

Here’s a B-25 Mitchell bomber coming right at you! This plane was used by Jimmy Dolittle in his famous bombing raid over Japan in April of 1942. I’m not going to tell the whole story, (I did say I’m not going to type so much!) but it was a incredible feat and well worth reading up on if you don’t know the story.

A ball turret – the gunner was incased in this little bubble and the whole thing would pivot and turn as he aimed. Again, luxury was not the goal here…

This is a V-1 missile, like Hitler sent over the channel to terrorize London. It was powered by a jet engine that pulsed 50 times per second, resulting in a strange “Buzzing” sound that earned them the name “Buzz Bomb.”

The plane below isn’t just some kid’s Lego fantasy… The Ekranoplan, or “Sea Skimmer” was a Russian heavy transport. Not designed to fly, it would skim over water (or another mostly flat surface) in ground effect. That is a condition where the wing uses the surface underneath it to create enough lift to “fly”, but the lift is insufficient if it gets too far off the surface. In the 70’s and 80’s, these could be used to carry 400 tons over water at about 500 miles per hour.

Of course the SR-71 is one of the most awesome aircraft ever, but I’m not going to go on and on about it either. But I could!! It was impossible to properly picture this one, as it was surrounded by other stuff.

I thought this was interesting about the SR-71’s tires:

The museum also has a few planes I have a little experience with:

The Beechcraft Bonanza was first flown in 1945. It has gone through many revisions, but is still a popular plane today. The Learjet 23 was the first of Bill Lear’s jets, and set the pace for executive jets.

Before James Bond used his personal jet pack in the movie “Thunderball,” Horace Pentecost, in 1945, built this scary contraption. The idea was it could replace dropping soldiers by parachute. With a 20 horsepower motor running counter rotating props… what could go wrong? Well, one thing was that you landed on your feet. If you stumbled or fell, the blades would hit the ground and explode into shrapnel splinters that could kill you. It made about 20 flights, but while tethered to keep the man from falling. You could say the concept never got off the ground.

Here is a Lockheed 10-E Electra, like the one Amelia Earhart used in her ill-fated attempt to fly around the world. The plane was first flown in 1934, and was partially designed by Clarence “Kelly” Johnson, who would later lead the “Skunk Works” team that designed the SR-71. Amelia attempted her world circumnavigation in 1937, with navigation equipment that would create fear in today’s pilots. Her route was supposed to include a rendezvous with a US coast guard cutter named Itasca, near Howland Island. She couldn’t find them, and radioed that she was low on fuel. That was the last she was heard from.

But here I am posing with her!

And the museum kindly let me fly this cool biplane…

Tucson Views

We headed out for a bit of birding in the desert, and saw beautiful scenery, but not much in the way of birds. Pretty country anyway.

One comment

  1. Yippee on the new batteries! 800amph?? That is awesome!! Now you can enjoy Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument a bit easier! :). Now you can just add a solar panel or two. 😉

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