Hello Friends and Family,

Link to this year's index by clicking here.

Pima Air and Space Museum, Part 3

And here we see an interesting amphibian aircraft, the Columbia XJL-1. It was commissioned as a replacement for the Grumman J2F Duck amphibious bi-plane used by the United States Navy. The design was done by Grumman based on their earlier aircraft, resulting in a replacement that was similar to the original but with one wing rather than two. Grumman was tasked with another aircraft development project and thus Columbia was brought in for this project. Three aircraft were built, one for destructive testing and two for flight testing. Unfortunately, it did not live up to expectations (too many structural failures during testing) and no more were built. This is the last one in existance.

Nearby is the Grumman J4F-2 Widgeon, which was designed as a smaller and less expensive version of Grumman's G-21 Goose amphibious airliner. The first version went into production in 1940 with 50+ aircraft sold to civilian customers and 25 to the Coast Guard. The Navy acquired 131 of the second version. They were primarily used for search and rescue along the coasts. Early in WWII, some were equipped for anti-submarine duty and in 1942, one Widgeon recorded the first Coast Guard kill of a German submarine.

You'll notice the name on the side — "Petulant Porpoise". I could not find a reference to the source of the name. However, we all know the porpoise, close cousin to the dolphin. And "petulant" means "childishly sulky or bad-tempered". All I can conclude is that this aircraft might have been a handful once it landed on the ocean — up and down on the waves, not a smooth sailor at all. But then, your guess is as good as mine.

Now this was a total surprise. Looking at this object, it looks like a small missile or bomb. However, the sign tells a different story. This is a B57 NUCLEAR BOMB. OMG, I did not know they could be made this small.

It was designed as a tactical strike bomb and depth charge which could be dropped by an aircraft traveling at a high rate of speed. Depending on the exact warhead attached, the payload would produce a blast of 5 to 20 kilotons TNT equivalent (the Hiroshima atomic bomb had a payload of about 15 kilotons).

Note: no payload was attached so we were perfectly safe — or so the sign said.

Next up is a Douglas B-18B Bolo (and I thought the bolo was the state neckware of Arizona — boy, have I got a lot to learn). It was designed in the mid-1930s as a replacement for the earlier B-10. The design was based on the Douglas DC-2 airliner — take a Google look at a photo of a DC-2 you can see the resemblance.

At the outbreak of WWII, the B-18 was considered obsolete (replaced by the B-17) however some 122 were modified with a nose-mounted radar replacing the bombardier plus magnetic anomaly detectors for locating submarines installed in the tail and called the B-18B. They served in this role in the Caribbean and Atlantic until 1943 at which time they were redeployed for transport until the end of the war.

Love the insignia painted on the side.

For some reason, I am fascinated by aircraft landing gear. This is the rear wheel of this B-18B taildragger.

Now we encounter a Lockheed S-3B Viking anti-submarine aircraft. Designed in the late 1960s, it incorporated the latest electronic and acoustic submarine hunting technology in an airframe powered by two highly efficient turbofan engines. The first aircraft was delivered to the Navy in early 1972 and so impressed the brass that a contract was signed only three months later.

And this aircraft's insignia is even more striking than the one on the B-18B above.

Next we stepped out into a beautiful Arizona Spring day to tour the back lot. This is a McDonnell Douglas F-15A Eagle. This impressive bird was designed in the late 1960s as an air superiority fighter. As such, the Air Force required an aircraft that would be very maneuverable at a wide range of speeds and altitudes resulting in design characteristics such as the twin tails, dual engines and large area wings.

It is still in service but was being partially phased out in favor of the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II. However, since the F-22 is no longer in production and due to the high costs of the F-35, the F-15 (newer models at least) will remain deployed for some time.

Note the covering on the canopy on this and other aircraft on display outside in the brilliant Arizona sun. I assume it is to protect the interior of the cockpit since many/most of these planes are probably still airworthy.

Oh look! A spiffy paint job gives it away, it is an F/A-18A Hornet used by the U.S. Navy for its Blue Angels, the flight demonstration squadron piloted by Navy and Marine aviators.


The aircraft was developed in the mid-1970s, derived from the YF-17 that had completed for the contract from the Air Force that resulted in the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The design was modified with larger fuel tanks, folding wings and stronger landing gear.

Newer versions are the primary aircraft still in use by the Navy and Marines as well as a number of Allied air forces.

Due to federal budget cutbacks, the Blue Angels have fewer appearance these days. Back in 2006, they appeared at an air show in Goodyear, AZ. I attended on the preview day at which time the Blue Angels were practicing for their performances for Saturday and Sunday. It turned out to be fortuitous for me since it was beautiful weather and minuscule crowds which afforded me the opportunity to get some great shots.

If you are interested in revisiting the full set of photos from that air show, click here and here.

To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

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