Air-Minded: Restoration

After a meeting at the Pima Air & Space Museum yesterday I introduced myself to the leader of the restoration team and asked if I could take a quick tour of his work area, normally off-limits to all but the volunteer staff who work there. He said sure, and even gave me a lift to the hangar in a restored aircraft tug. I only had a few moments and didn’t take nearly as many photos as I wanted, but now that I know access is possible, I’ll go back for more. Here’s yesterday’s haul:

2013-01-09 10.57.10
Mil Mi-24 Hind gunship under restoration, Pima Air & Space Museum (photo: Paul Woodford)

This is our Hind gunship: engines and transmission pulled, soon to be sanded, repainted, and put back together for display. It originally flew for the USSR, then transferred to the DDR (the markings and labels on the outside are all in German). After reunification and the demise of the USSR, it flew for the RAF at Duxford* before we acquired it. I’m guessing it probably saw duty in Afghanistan during the 1980s, and if it could speak would be telling us to get the hell out before it’s too late.

*Update (later, same day): I cross-posted this entry to my diary section at Daily Kos, where a reader with knowledge of this particular aircraft pointed out in a comment that after it left the DDR it was on display at the British Imperial War Museum at Duxford and was never owned or flown by the RAF.

2013-01-09 10.58.15
Weapons selector panel inside forward (gunner’s) cockpit, Mil Mi-24 Hind gunship, Pima Air & Space Museum (photo: Paul Woodford)

Although the Hind’s outside markings are German, they were originally Russian. Cockpit gauges and panels are still in Cyrillic script, as you can see here.

2013-01-09 10.56.27
Transmission/transfer case with rotor head, Mil Mi-24 Hind, Pima Air & Space Museum (photo: Paul Woodford)

This transmission connects the Hind’s two turboshaft engines to the main rotor. It stands almost three meters, or nine feet, tall. It’s like something from the engine room of the Titanic. I tip my hat to robust Russian engineering.

2013-01-09 11.01.30
Boeing KB-50 tanker outside restoration hangar, Pima Air & Space Museum (photo: Paul Woodford)

Our B-50 Superfortress, a post-WWII development of the B-29 bomber, was pulled off display several months ago. It’s been refurbished and polished and will go back on display this week. Our version is a KB-50J, used as air refueling tanker in the 1950s and 1960s. To make it fast enough to safely refuel Century-series jet fighters, it was retrofitted with two turbojet engines mounted outboard of the four radial piston engines. The restoration crew will have to move at least ten display aircraft before they can tow this beast back into the yard, then move everything back into position, a one- to two-day project. I was amazed to learn the tires are the ones it came with from the boneyard decades ago (and even more amazed to learn the nose gear tires are interchangable with those once used as main gear tires on the Lockheed P-38). They still hold air.

2013-01-09 11.07.41
Dassault Mystère IV fuselage outside restoration hangar, Pima Air & Space Museum (photo: Paul Woodford)

The Mystère was a French fighter-bomber of the 1950s, and like many jets of that era, lovely to look at. We have the complete aircraft—the wings and tail section are leaning against an outbuilding nearby—and eventually this one will be on display too.

As a side note, I finally upgraded to a Flickr Pro account and can now post full-sized photos (4000 X 3000 pixels). So starting with this diary you can now see my photos in their full glory. Just click on the images above to go to Flickr, then select actions/view all sizes/original. Who loves ya, baby? Me, that’s who!

back to the Air-Minded Index

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge