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Smiling aircraft


There are a lot of aircraft smiling at the Pima Air & Space Museum, despite the fact that they don’t fly anymore.   They must like retirement.


I’ve visited the museum before (see blog entry here) , but with over three hundred aircraft and four major buildings, it deserves a second visit. It’s one of the best aviation museums in the USA.

It’s also a great place to take pictures, and we aren’t the only ones to realize that. Halfway through our visit, 450 photographers from a convention showed up and mobbed the place with enormous cameras, reflectors, and even a couple of models.

Fortunately there’s a lot of acreage for everyone. When the photogs arrived we were about to hop on the bus for the other great attraction associated with PASM:   the 309th Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Group, better known as “the boneyard.”

You can get a peek at the boneyard for free just by driving up Kolb Blvd in Tucson.   But if you want to get a guided tour of the place, it’s an extra $6.   Since it is part of an active military facility, there’s an ID check and nobody can get off the bus, but the tour is great.   There are hundreds of amazing aircraft to be seen, in seemingly endless rows.   Some of them are mothballed for future use, some are being parted out, others (like B-52 bombers) are being chopped up and left in the sun for Russian satellites to observe under the terms of the SALT II agreement.


A fraction of the 309th AMARG — click for larger  

The boneyard also has all the dies needed to build B-1B bombers, should the decision ever be made to start production of them again.   Those dies alone take up several acres of space.   Then there are the rows of F-16s, A-10s, T-37s, F-14s, and a few one-of-a-kind aircraft. For a warbird or aviation geek, it’s a really cool tour. At the end of it, we were grinning like the aircraft.