Air-Minded: PASM Photoblog XXI

I decided to drop by Pima Air and Space Museum today. My previous visit was in September 2020 (documented in Photoblog XX), at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. At that time the museum, though open, was almost deserted. Just two paid staff members were on hand to take admissions and man the gift store. The snack bar was closed. Tours had been suspended and all volunteers sent home for the duration. I had the place — 6 display hangars housing 150 aircraft, with another 150 parked outdoors on 80 acres of desert — to myself.

Pima Air and Space Museum - 4 November 2017

Since September, the museum has reopened its Space Gallery and put new aircraft on display. I went down to check things out and take spy photos of the restoration yard, off-limits to visitors but visible from the outdoor display area. This photoblog is the result of today’s visit.

I can report the museum remains in pandemic mode: skeleton staffing, no snack bar, no tours, no docents (I described PASM’s reopening plan in a recent post). This time I shared the museum with a couple of dozen visitors … still a far cry from the pre-pandemic levels. A sign at admissions says masks are required. Most visitors were wearing masks inside the display hangars, but only a few were masked outdoors. I pocketed mine as soon as I was past the admissions desk.

But you’re here to see what’s new, so let’s get to it. Hover over the photos for more info.

The RAF Red Arrow Hawk is a beauty, appropriately on display next to a former USAF Thunderbirds F-4E Phantom II and a former USN Blue Angels F-11A Tiger. The Space Gallery has been extensively remodeled, and not everything inside is exo-atmospheric, witness the Black Hawk and that odd little Army Snowgoose drone, which uses a parasail for a wing and is launched from a speeding Humvee. The DeHavilland Australia Drover in the back lot is an interesting addition, a trimotor from the 1950s, a few still flying down under.

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The Douglas A-20 Havoc was a long time coming out of restoration but is at last on display, sporting a bit of truly weird nose art. What happened to pinup girls? The Grumman Tigercat has been at the museum for some time, but has been moved indoors where it can stay pretty. The Subaru 6-cylinder engine is an eye-catcher, developed to power a helicopter drone made by Boeing, the A160 Hummingbird (the museum has a Hummingbird, but it’s  awaiting reassembly and I couldn’t get a photo).

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Finally, restoration. I spotted a few new aircraft in the yard, plus an old favorite that’s been there for years, the sole surviving B-52A, looking like it’s finally ready for paint and a return to its spot on bomber row. PASM already has a Caribou on display, so I imagine the additional ones out back are destined for other air museums. I hope the Colt and the Mirage are for PASM, and can’t wait to see them restored and on display.

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Except for the aerial at the top of this post, photos in this post are mine and are available on Flickr (attribution/non-commercial/share alike); you can click here to view my complete album of today’s visit. I get advisories when new exhibits go on display at PASM and will continue to visit and post photoblogs, so watch this space!

© 2021, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.

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