If you want to see Old Relics – Like Me you should visit the Pima Air & Space Museum. It is in Tucson just to the south of our campground on Davis Mothan Air Force Base. Davis Mothan Air Force base is huge and home to the biggest military aircraft storage in the country. It is huge. The museum is full of old relics – like me; some are even older relics than me. We didn’t know or appreciate how amazing it was until our visit.
The Pima Air & Space Museum
The museum is located right next to the Davis Monthan Air Force Base boneyard. At the boneyard, they store all the old U.S. Military aircraft. Every aircraft I have flown or flown in as a passenger or crewmember are either at the museum or boneyard. Most of my aircraft are at the boneyard; some are at the museum, and yes they are old relics – like me.
Thankfully, the museum had a few aircraft that were older than me. They were probably included to make me feel better. They also have some newer aircraft at the museum that never flew until after I finished flying. That really makes me feel old. I guess it goes with the theme of old relics – like me.
New or Old, I love them all
I love old aircraft, I especially love old aircraft I have flown. Even more than the aircraft that I have flown, I love old one-of-a-kind aircraft. Of course, if you are in a museum you are probably an old relics – like me.
Many years ago we visited the Smithsonian Air Museum. There we saw the very first aircraft that ever flew — the Wright Flyer. It wasn’t a model or reproduction of the first-ever aircraft, it was the real Wright Flyer. Yes, it is an old relic like me but also, like me it is one-of-a-kind.
In the past, we have seen the real Space Shuttle Endeavor and Atlantis. At the National Air and Space Museum we saw the B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay. In the same building, we saw the X-1 which was piloted by Chuck Yeager and was the first aircraft to break the speed of sound. Again, these were the real aircraft, not replicas. Yes, they are all old relics – like me.
Pima Air and Space Museum has several of these one-of-a-kind aircraft. This museum is every bit as interesting as the Smithsonian, just different. In some ways, it is better. If you go, (and you enjoy such things) make sure to get the two-day pass as this place is huge. Here is a link to the Pima Air & Space Museum. Pima Air
“The World’s Smallest Piloted Airplane”
The following picture is the Bumble Bee. In 1984 Robert Starr, created the Bumble Bee (his spelling) with the express purpose of making the smallest manned aircraft ever to ever fly.
Robert Starr actually created both Bumble Bee #1 and Bumble Bee #2. And yes both flew. The Bumble Bee #2 was actually smaller than this one. Starr said he learned a few tricks during the construction of Bumble Bee #1 and incorporated them into Bumble Bee #2.
The design flaw (other than for the purpose of making the smallest aircraft) is obvious at first glance; anything this small was very unstable. Bumble Bee #2 crashed on landing on one of the following flights after getting the record for the smallest aircraft seriously injuring Starr. You might say that this is the smallest surviving aircraft.
The last B-17 ever flew by the military
Almost thirteen thousand B-17 Flying Fortresses were built during World War II. By the end of the war, only a few remained. This was the last B-17 ever flown by the military. It is at the museum in the 390th Memorial which is dedicated to the men who flew from England, to fight for the liberation of Europe from Hitler.
The 390th Bomb Group was comprised of four squadrons as part of the Eighth Air Force. The Eighth Air Force had forty-one Bomb Groups. Together, from England, the Eighth Air Force could launch more than 1000 airplanes in a single attack. The 390th Bomb Group flew 310 missions and flew into combat with more than 21,000 bombs. In the 390th Bomb Group, more than 176 aircraft (76%) didn’t come back at the end of the mission. More than 700 airmen lost their lives and another 700+ airmen were captured by the Germans. Of course, a B-17 is one of the old relics – like me.
The museum made a great video of this full-size model of the interior of the B-17 and you can watch it by clicking on this link. “I’ll Be Around”
When I went into the Navy, the B-52 Stratofortress was the USAF premiere bomber. This well-restored one is parked on the ramp in the 80-acre outside display at the museum. More B-52s are at the boneyard next door. Over 700 B-52s were intentionally destroyed as part of the Salt II treaty between the USSR and the United States. Now the very rare flying B-52 is one of the old relics – like me.
Even though the first BUFF (big ugly fat f*@$!) flew in 1952 the Air Force still has many in service. Even the new B-1 Bomber (1974) is sitting in the boneyard next door. Both the new B-1 Bomber and the old B-52 Bomber are old relics – like me, and both are still being used today.
While on the subject of bombers, the very modern-looking F-105 Thunderchief is also on the outside display. Even though it could fly at twice the speed of sound and deliver a nuclear strike, during the Vietnam War it was used as a conventional (non-nuclear) bomber and in some other very important missions.
The Thunderchief was lost in combat so frequently that it was pulled out of the Vietnam War as a failure. It was a failure for poor performance at a mission that it was never designed to do. I can’t tell you how frequently this happens in the military — perhaps daily.
Sadly, the Thunderchief, because of this failure, is no longer being used. Sometimes they just put old relics – like me in a museum.
The aircraft in this picture is an F-104 Starfighter and was the hot rod of its day. It excelled at speed. At one time in 1958, it held numerous records. Many speed and altitude records (more than 100,000 feet) were all accomplished on the same flight. Very few aircraft, even today, go higher or faster. Now it is one of the old relics – like me.
The Starfighter was always fast. You can’t tell from this picture but the wings are very small, meaning that even when it lands, it is still moving more than 200 miles per hour. Ten thousand-foot-long runways were not long enough for a Starfighter; without its parachute, it would crash two miles after it landed because it ran out of runway.
The Starfighter has finally retired from all military service although I have heard that some of these are available for private purchase. I don’t recommend you purchase one, they are the noisiest gas hogs I have ever seen. Sometimes old relics – like me still seem to have a little life in them.
Perhaps the opposite of a Starfighter is the Super Guppy. The Super Guppy is at the museum still wrapped in preservation plastic. All the aircraft I flew aircraft are sitting in the boneyard next door, all wrapped in similar plastic. The hope is, that if needed, all they would have to do is take the plastic off and fill up the fuel tanks to make them ready to fly.
You can’t tell by looking at it but the wings, tail, engines, and landing gear are all modifications of the design of the B-29 Stratofortress created in 1944. This version of the Super Guppy has updated turboprop engines.
I am not sure, but there may still be a few Super Guppies available for hire. Some old relics – like me have lots of life in them. In this case, it is hard to find any aircraft that can do what a Super Guppie can do.
I was in the Navy, and even though I picked plenty of Air Force aircraft until this point. This is a Navy aircraft — the RB-1 Conestoga. I had never heard of this aircraft before visiting the museum. It is an older relic than me.
Most aircraft until this point were wood and fabric or wood and aluminum. The Navy wanted a stainless steel aircraft because as everyone in the Navy knows – aluminum and saltwater don’t mix well and aluminum dies. Stainless steel seemed a possible solution. The problem with stainless steel is that it is much heavier than aluminum.
You can’t see many similarities, but some of the Conestoga design has carried forward into other military cargo aircraft still used today. Stainless steel, however, didn’t last the test of time mostly because of the weight. Both the Conestoga and stainless steel aircraft are old relics – like me.
The first drone helicopter
This is the Gyrodyne DASH. Notice the lack of seats. It was a drone, controllable from the ground. Or in the case of the Navy, from the ship. It was called DASH and it was unmanned at the time it seemed to be a great idea, on paper. Now it is one of the old relics – like me.
I owe my career to this drone because it didn’t work. The Navy made a full effort to try and make it work, but this drone didn’t care if it flew and frequently went swimming. I may be an old relic, but for me, I cared about flying and didn’t care for swimming so after every flight I came back. Sailors thought DASH was a nickname (it was not) based on its habit of dashing over the horizon and never coming back.
The Navy purchased 746 drones before canceling the program. Over half of the drones never came back to the ship. Some didn’t even care to come back to the ship even on their very first flight. So the Navy went back to putting pilots in their helicopters and I was eventually one of these pilots.
Until my visit to the museum, I had never seen the DASH in person but I knew the story well for the last forty years.
More rare helicopters
To me, this looks like fun and I have never seen one in person because it is a relic – even older than me.
I have a hard time believing that this was first created in 1945. This version was the first of a series of modifications and was very difficult to control. All following versions had a seat. In the mid-1950s, the Navy was very serious about creating single-person helicopters. All the versions flew better than this one and eventually they were all abandoned relics.
I have had several nightmares, and this one was a recurring nightmare.
The helicopter in the front is the Soviet-built heavy attack helicopter. It is armed to the teeth.
The thing about Soviet-built helicopters is that they were very very fast, strong, and powerful. Unlike the U.S. Navy, the Soviets believed in plenty of guns.
Our Navy was convinced that technology and teamwork were enough. Instead of carrying guns, we would fight as a team. Our Marines (I also flew with the Marines) also believed in teamwork, but unlike the Navy, the Marines gave all the team members guns.
I don’t want to pretend that I didn’t have any weapons. I was one of the first Navy Helicopter Pilots to carry (but never fire) a very capable missile. With a price tag of more than a million dollars a shot, shooting these missiles was too valuable for practice. Long after I got out of the Navy, and after these missiles were well beyond their expiration date, the Navy test-fired the entire inventory. Many still worked, and some did not.
F-102 Delta Dagger
After my mistake on the F-102 Delta Dagger, one of my friends, Chip gave me this paragraph so that I put the cool picture back in the blog. “The F-102 Delta Dagger and F-106 Delta Dart were very similar in size and appearance; the 106 being a derivative of the 102 airframes. Although similar in appearance, they were very different in performance. The F-102 (1956-1979) was a 31,000 MGW 700 kt (M 1.2) interceptor while the F-106 (1959-1988) was a 34,000 MGW 1300 kt (M 2.3) interceptor. You can tell them apart by the engine intakes, the 102 intakes are under the cockpit canopy while the 106 intakes are back by the wing roots.
The 102 did Vietnam service as combat air patrol and interceptor for North Vietnamese bombers, ground-attack aircraft, and fighter escorts for the B-52. It was called “The Deuce”. The 106 did not serve in Vietnam but was strictly an interceptor in Alaska, Iceland, Germany, and Korea. It was also a competitor with the F-4 Phantom, flew with NASA until 1998, and was called “The Six”. Both the 102 and 106 were very cool aircraft and part of my (model aircraft) collection growing up.”
We are still here in Tucson hiding from the virus, and enjoying the slow life. Tucson is a little colder than I would have desired, but nearly every day we have warm days with blue skies. I have started the installation of the solar panels. FedEx quit shipping shortly after the Christmas holiday, so we don’t have the panels yet. I have been gathering parts for the rack and wiring anticipating the big put-together.
For the first time since March, I washed the RV roof, getting ready to install the panels. After giving it a great scrubbing and complete cleaning, I spent two days washing all the grime from the roof off the outside walls of the RV. Now the RV looks great, all except the rear cap which is sitting in the direct sun all day making it hard to wash. I took a picture of the roof but given the glare, you can’t really appreciate how much cleaner it looks.
The gray square at the bottom of the picture is the skylight above our bathroom. It is also the number one problem for solar panel installation (so far). The next time you see this picture, it will have solar panels. The black box at the top of the picture is our rear air conditioner and the white disk is the TV antenna.
This ends our 2020 RV journey at the same time as our first post of the new year. We are happy and well here in southern Arizona and had very nice quiet holidays. We are hoping that this finds all of you well and we are hoping for a better, virus-free 2021.
For anyone who is in the area, we are at Davis Mothan Air Force Base in Tuscon. I updated our review of the campground in this post. Agave Gulch
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