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Pima Air and Space Museum, Part 6

Continuing our tour of the Pima Air and Space Museum, we first encounter a Northrop YC-125A Raider which was intended for use as a tactical transport for rough, short fields. Note the configuration of three engines — the last tri-motor propeller aircraft used by the U.S. military. Once the YC-125A was delivered to the Air Force in 1949, it was decided that other aircraft (including helicopters) could better perform its intended mission. The delivered aircraft were sent to Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas where they were redeployed as ground instructional trainers. When they were retired in 1955, they were sold to various bush operators in Central and South America.

Our next aircraft is a Sud Aviation SE-210 Caravelle, a short/medium-range airliner developed by a French aircraft company, SNCASE who subsequently merged with the larger Sud Aviation conglomerate. It was the first jet airliner with the engines mounted on the rear of the fuselage (not visible in this photo) which supposedly made the cabin quieter. (I have not flown on this aircraft but I have flown on a Boeing 727, which has three engines at the rear and I found it quite noisy if you were seated in the rear of the cabin.)

This model went into service commercially in 1959 and is now regarded as being one of the most successful European first-generation jetliners. It even managed a toe-hold in the U.S. with an order for 20 aircraft by United Airlines. As you would probably guess, they are no longer in service.


Here is quite an unusual model — a Budd RB-1 Conestoga cargo aircraft. It was constructed primarily of stainless steel due to the expected shortage of aluminum during World War II. Working with the War Department and the Navy, Budd used construction techniques they had developed for manufacturing stainless steel railroad cars in order to construct the RB-1. The fuselage and part of the wings were made with thin-gauge stainless steel but trailing surfaces and the control services were fabric covered.

However, the expected aluminum shortage never developed then cost increases and production delays resulted in all but 25 aircraft for the Navy being canceled. In the end only 17 were built and all but one went straight from the factory to storage and sale as surplus.

You might notice in the photo that the engines are missing as well as parts of the wing. I don't this bird will be flying anytime soon.


With machine gun nozzles projecting out of the front, this Douglas B-26K Invader looks incredibly menacing when you stand right in front of it. The B-26K was actually remanufactured from the aging B-26A during 1964-65 for use in Vietnam. It was a fast aircraft capable of carrying twice its specified bomb load. A range of guns could be fitted to produce a formidable ground-attack aircraft. Invaders served until 1969 when the last of them were returned to the United States and retired.

The Grumman HU-16A was designed as a twin-engine amphibious flying boat for purposes of search and rescue. It went into service with the U.S. Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard in 1949. Its design was an improvement on an earlier Grumman aircraft and could operate in 4-foot ocean swells — however for larger waves it required jet-assist or booster rockets.

The landing gear for the HU-16A looks like some type of Rube Goldberg invention but I guess that is required for an airplane that lands on land or water.

The majority of Albatrosses were used by the Air Force for search and rescue, primarily during the Korean War. Some 466 were built. The Albatross served until well into the 1970s. Some can still be found flying in private hands.

Next up is the Fairchild C-123 Provider which began service in 1949 with a design from Chase Aircraft for an all-metal cargo glider. The design was versatile enough that engines could be successfully added resulting in an aircraft that first flew later that same year. Because of difficulties within the company, the USAF canceled their contract and awarded a new contract to Fairchild in 1953.

A total of 307 aircraft were built and used primarily by the Air Force for transport but also by the Coast Guard for search and rescue. These aircraft are no longer used by the military but are still flown by a number of flying clubs.

This impressive aircraft is the Douglas C-124C Globemaster II, a heavy-lift cargo plane built for the United States Air Force Military Air Transport Service (MATS). It was introduced in 1950 and remained in service until 1974.

It was powered by four large Pratt & Whitney R-4360 piston engines producing 3,800 hp each. The design featured two large clamshell doors, a hydraulic ramp in the nose plus a cargo elevator in the rear.

The Globemaster II could carry 200 fully-equipped troops on two levels or guns, trucks, tanks with no disassembly. That black nose contains a sophisticated weather radar unit.

Next we have a Boeing C-97G Stratofreighter painted with markings of the International Red Cross. This aircraft was the result of a request from the U.S. Air Force for a transport aircraft based on the design of the B-29 bomber. The distinctive shape is the result of incorporating a "double-bubble" pressurized fuselage.

Between 1947 and 1958, 888 C-97s in several versions were built, the vast majority (811) being KC-97 tankers. C-97s served in the Berlin Air Lift as well as in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Some aircraft served as flying command posts for the Strategic Air Command — while others were modified for use in Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadrons (ARRS).


This is a Boeing KC-97G Stratofreighter — the aerial refueling tanker version of the precious aircraft. The KC-97G carried aviation gasoline for its own piston engines but also carried jet fuel for its refueling mission — this required an independent system for each type of fuel.

While it was an effective tanker, the KC-97's slow speed and low operational altitude complicated refueling operations with jet aircraft. B-52s typically lowered their flaps and rear landing gear to slow the aircraft enough to refuel from the KC-97. In addition, a typical B-52 refueling engagement profile would involve a descent that allowed the aircraft pair to maintain a higher airspeed (220-240 knots).

This is the refueling boom on the rear of that same KC-97G aircraft. Note the airfoils near the end of the boom which would be controlled by an operator to line up the nozzle with the "receptacle" in the receiver aircraft during fuel transfer. A poppet valve in the end of the nozzle prevents fuel from exiting the tube until the nozzle properly mates with the receiver's refueling receptacle. Once properly mated, toggles in the receptacle engage the nozzle, holding it locked during fuel transfer. The two aircraft would continue to fly in close formation until the receiver aircraft's tanks were filled.

Last for today is the Boeing B-50 Superfortress, a post-war design based on the highly successful B-29. Improvements included more powerful engines, wing modifications plus a larger tail. This was the last piston-powered bomber produced by Boeing for the USAF. Later, as jet-powered bombers began to replace the propeller aircraft, the B-50 was repurposed to serve as an aerial refueling tanker. In addition, some of the B-50s were modified for use as hurricane hunters and other weather reconnaissance missions. In fact, such aircraft had an important role during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when they monitored the weather around Cuba to plan photo-reconnaissance flights. They were retired in 1965 due to metal fatigue and corrosion.

To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

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