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Pima Air and Space Museum, Part 4

Continuing our tour outside, we encounter a McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantom II with a camouflage paint job. It is a tandem two-seat, twin-engine, all-weather, long-range supersonic jet interceptor aircraft/fighter-bomber originally developed for the United States Navy by McDonnell Aircraft. Later, adopted by the U.S. Air Force, it entered service in 1960 and is being retired this year.

The F-4C is a large fighter which can carry 18,000 pounds of weapons and has a maximum speed of Mach 2.2. These babies cost $2.4M per copy.

This is an F-105G Thunderchief manufactured by Republic Aviation beginning in 1955. The "Thud" as it was affectionately known by its crews, was capable of flying at a top speed of Mach 2.

The F-105 was one of the primary attack aircraft of the Vietnam War — over 20,000 Thunderchief sorties were flown.

The first aircraft in the F-105 line were single seaters but later models offered two seats — and were used for specialized Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) role against surface-to-air missile sites.

The F-105 cost $2.14M each — I wonder if that included the shark's mouth paint job. They were retired in 1984.

Up next is an F-105D Thunderchief. If you compare this photo to the two previous ones of the F-105G, you can see the close similarity. The major difference is that this model is a single-seater which you can clearly discern if you look back at the F-105G's larger cockpit. Also, there are no sharks' teeth.

Leaving the fighters behind for a while, we approach a Cessna O-2A Skymaster, a militarized version of Cessna's civilian Model 337 light twin-engine business aircraft. It was used for forward air control (FAC) and psychological operations (PSYOPS) by the US military between 1967 and 2010.

As with the civilian version, the Skymaster was a low-cost (only $92K) twin-engine piston-powered aircraft, with one engine in the nose of the aircraft and a second engine in the rear of the fuselage. The push-pull configuration meant a simpler single-engine operating procedure due to centerline thrust compared to the common low-wing mounting of most twin engine light planes, and also allowed for a high wing, providing clear observation below and behind the aircraft.

It entered service in 1967 and was retired in 2010.

The next aircraft on our tour is the Grumman OV-1C Mohawk tactical reconnaissance and battlefield observation aircraft. It was introduced in 1959 and retired in 1996.

I'm sorry to admit it but I think this aircraft is aesthetically unappealing to me. I assume they were well suited for their mission since they were in service so long — just not very pretty (except maybe the shark's teeth).

I do like the appearance of our next aircraft, the General Dynamics F-111E Aardvark. However, the nickname leaves something to be desired. According to Wikipedia, an aardvark is "a medium-sized, burrowing, nocturnal mammal native to Africa". I could not find the reason behind the nickname nor does it make any sense to me.

The design was the result of the Air Force requirement for a supersonic low-level tactical bomber. The movable wings allowed the aircraft to drop bombs effectively both at low speed or at high speed.

The F-111 entered service in 1967 with the final aircraft retired in 2010. They cost us taxpayers $10.3M per unit.


Interesting — next up is a Soviet fighter, a MIG-23MLD Flogger, the Soviet Union's answer to American fighters such as the McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom II. This aircraft features a swing-wing design which facilitates low-speed maneuverability and slower speed (and distance) take-off and landing — while also providing advantages in high-speed performance.

Introduced in 1967, the MIG-23 is still in limited service with some export customers. They cost $3.6M to $6.6M depending on the customer.

Wedged into a tight parking space is a Beechcraft AT-7 Navigator, based on the civilian Beech Model 18 airliner. During WWII and for some years later, the AT-7 was used to train navigators. Each flight carried a pilot, instructor and up to three students. The latter each had a desk similar to one that they would later use in a bomber or transport. Note the dome behind the cockpit for the students to practice celestial navigation.

The aircraft that is crowding the AT-7 in the previous shot is a Lockheed L-049 Constellation, the first model of the Lockheed Constellation aircraft line. During WWII, the military had priority and Lockheed produced the C-69 military transport based on the same design.

Earlier in 1939, Howard Hughes, who owned TWA, meet with Lockheed executives pushing them to produce an aircraft design which would be a quantum leap over designs in progress at the time.

Toward the end of the war, Hughes (together with Ava Gardner) piloted the second production C-69 from Burbank to Washington D.C.

By November 1945, 89 aircraft had been ordered by TWA, Delta, Capital, Braniff, Pan American World Airways, Air France, KLM, BOAC, El Al and other less-known airlines. A total of 856 Constellation variants were built with a few still airworthy and used in air shows.

In those days, "Connies" cost from $685,000 to $720,000, depending on equipment; in today’s dollars, that’s $7.6 million to $8 million — the price of a midsize business jet. TWA and Pan Am, however, managed to buy four war surplus C-69s for $20,000 each and another two for $40,000 apiece — then retrofit them to L-049 specs.

Last for today is this huge Lockheed C-141B Starlifter military transport. In 1960, the U.S. Air Force requested proposals from U.S. aircraft manufacturers for a new jet-powered transport to replace the aging propeller-driven transports then in use. The Lockheed design was chosen and the first C-141 took its maiden flight in 1963 on the 60th Anniversary of the Wright Brother's first flight.

After the C-141 went into service, the military realized that when loading the aircraft, it ran out of interior space before hitting its maximum carrying weight. So gradually, the C-141s were returned to Lockheed to be lengthened by 23 feet — adding two sections, one in front of the wing and one behind. At the same time, in-flight refueling capability was added. The remodeled aircraft took the designation C141B.

Some 285 aircraft were built and some C-141 transports remained in service until 2006. Cost: $8.1M.

To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

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