Hello Friends and Family,

Link to this year's index by clicking here.

Pima Air and Space Museum, Part 2

Next on the tour is a McDonnell FH-1 Phantom, the first all-jet fighter for the Navy and Marine Corps. The manufacturer began design work in 1943, in the midst of WWII. It took two years to work out the details of taking off and landing on the short deck of an aircraft carrier. A total of only 60 were built, largely because the pace of innovation in engines and aircraft was so rapid that newer models were deemed more effective.

Hanging from the ceiling is a MK. V Sabre built in Canada by Canadair based on the plans for the North American F-86. The initial aircraft were built exactly as designed by the US but later planes were modified to include a more powerful jet engine which gave them better climb performance and speed. A few of these aircraft are still flying, owned by private pilots.

Some of you may recognize the F-14A Tomcat from the movie Top Gun (is that Maverick in the cockpit?). The F-14A was actually built as an alternative to the F-111 which proved to be less than ideal as a carrier-based interceptor. The design retained some elements of the F-111 such as its radar, Phoenix missiles, twin engines and the variable geometry "swing" wing.

Tomcats were placed in service in 1974 and continued in use until their retirement in 2006. The shark's teeth paint job makes them look pretty fierce — and I guess they were in reality as well.

Pictured here is a AIM-7 Sparrow medium-range semi-active radar homing air-to-air missile operated by the United States Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps as well as allied forces. The Sparrow and its derivatives were the West's principal beyond-visual-range (BVR) air-to-air missile from the late 1950s until the 1990s. It remains in service, although it is being phased out in aviation applications in favor of a more advanced version.

This is a photo op for parents who brought their kids — kids who have gotten bored with looking at airplanes. This diversion gives them a change to pretend that they are pilots flying a plane and, at the same time, gives the parents a change to grab a cute photograph.

Well, do my eye deceive me? I hope not, it looks like a Warthog! At least that's what pilots and ground crews call it. Officially it is an A-10A Thunderbolt II. It is not the prettiest aircraft ever built, but it is extremely good at its job — killing tanks.┬áTo do that job it carries a massive rotary cannon which can fire up to 4,200 rounds per minute. It sports titanium armor around the cockpit and its engines — almost as bulletproof as a ground tank.

This aircraft is near and dear to many in Arizona since nearby Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is home to several squadrons of A-10s. At one point in the 2017 budgeting cycle, the A-10 was penciled in for retirement. However, efforts by Rep. Martha McSally (who used to fly the planes and now represents the Tucson area in the House) and Senator John McCain restored funding to at least 2022.

I found an interesting quote on Popular Mechanics' website — "There's a lot of love out there for this tough old bird. When Popular Mechanics posted on its new mission [in the Middle East], we got comments like this:

'As a former Army ground pounder, I can tell you there are few better sights than some A10's streaking over, hitting some ground targets with that big gun, then banking hard.... little dots leaving them and heading down... the aircraft still leaving hard and roaring... and then the ground just exploding from all the cluster bombs. Wow! Right up there with the drama of overhead heavy artillery going over, then down in front of you. The shock waves go right through you.'"

OMG, its an SR-71 Blackbird!!! It is the last of a small family of aircraft built by Lockheed's famous Skunk Works and one of the most recognized aircraft ever built. This aircraft is the result of efforts to build a replacement for the U-2. The project resulted in three different configurations — the YF-12 Interceptor, the M-12 which carried a D-21 drone and the SR-71 strategic reconnaissance aircraft. There were 50 aircraft in this family built, of which 32 were SR-71s.

The importance of the SR-71 was that it could fly higher and faster than any other aircraft and was out of reach even for anti-aircraft missiles. For years, the specs were secret but now we know that this plane could fly Mach 3+, 85,000 feet and with a range of 3,200 miles. By the time you knew it was there, it was gone.

From Wikipedia, "During aerial reconnaissance missions, the SR-71 operated at high speeds and altitudes to allow it to outrace threats. If a surface-to-air missile launch was detected, the standard evasive action was simply to accelerate and out fly the missile. The SR-71 was designed with a reduced radar cross-section [to reduce the probability of detection]."

Shown here is one of the two powerful jet engines which enabled this aircraft to break many records — July 28, 1976 - World absolute speed record - 2,193 mph; July 28, 1976 - World absolute record for sustained altitude - 85,069 feet; September 1, 1974 - New York to London - 1 hour 55 minutes 42 seconds; March 6, 1990 - Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. - 1 hour 4 minutes 20 seconds.

Last for today is a step back in time — a PBM-5A Mariner which was the last in a series of aircraft built for the Navy. The previous versions were pure "flying boats" but the 5A version was actually amphibious — it could land on water or on land. The prototype was built in 1937 and the aircraft were vital in WWII and the Korean War. This is the only one left and is on loan from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com