There are some fascinating aircraft in the Pima Air Museum. Their collection is approaching 500 types. The Bad Angel is a P-51 that was piloted by Lt. Louis Curdes. He shot down nine German 109s and an Italian fighter before being shot down himself. He escaped an Italian POW camp and was reassigned to the Pacific where he also got one Japanese kill. One day he saw a wayward C-47 approaching Japanese held Bataan and tried to warn them off. Failing this he shot out both engines of the C-47 and the nurses aboard were rescued after the plane ditched in the ocean. He is the only pilot with German, Italian, Japanese and American kills to his credit...
I love this old C-124. I flew 2,800 hours in one criss-crossing the Pacific. One day we took off from Guam heading 1800 miles west to Clark Air Force base in the Philippines. We were doing 200 nautical miles an hour (a nautical mile is about 1.15 real miles). It's another nice day to cross the Philippines Sea. I hum and update my fuel consumption chart. I'm dead reckoning but I can get a sun line every 45 minutes. As the day passes the sun line changes from a speed line to a course line. There is a wall of black clouds ahead. I turn the weather radar up to its maximum range of 100 miles. I see a solid wall 75 miles ahead. The pilot asks if we have enough gas to go back. I tell him no. He wants to know if we can divert North to Taipei. I tell him no way we have enough gas. We are at 8,000 feet. Nobody predicted a typhoon. We press ahead. Night is falling.
As we enter the wall we hit a severe updraft. The altimeter looks like a clock gone crazy. We are climbing thousands of feet a minute. We pass 16,000 feet and put on our oxygen masks. It's really turbulent. The pilot noses us over into a dive. The airspeed goes from 200 to 450 and hangs there. We're diving and still going up. Blood boils above 30,000 feet without a pressure suit...we hit 22,000 feet, still diving, still going up. It's pitch black except for red instrument lights.
The pilots talk to each other. Holy shit these controls are stiff, one says. Then comes the first downdraft. The combined effects of the downdraft and dive are spectacular. The pilots stop worrying about boiling blood and start to worry about hitting the ocean. They put the plane into a climb. The flight engineer kicks in the superchargers. We go to MAX power. The engines start to overheat and are approaching red lines for heat and RPM. The airspeed drops to 130 and the stall warning klaxon sounds continuously. Still we plummet. We pass 3,000 feet.
This aircraft was old. The wings fall off sometimes in just moderate turbulence. The airplane is climbing and falling and bouncing and shuddering on the thin edge of stalling. The stall warning horn keeps droning. The pilots talk again on the intercom. One says, Don't lose it. The other grunts. Oh. Here's another updraft in the nick of time. The cycle repeats again and again.
The B-29 was the technological wonder of its time, it cost $600,000 a copy, it made for a $3 billion wartime Cadillac investment. The 250 mph jet stream over Japan fouled up plans for high-altitude bombing. Navigator genius Curtis Lemay stood methods on their head by stripping armament and machine guns and sending in waves of these giants and their children crews with 10-pound incendiaries at night, at 500 feet, to set fire to hundreds of thousands of women, children and old men.
The names of these lovely shining birds included:
• Sentimental Journey
• Laden Maiden
• Liberty Belle
• Uninvited Guest
• American Beauty
• Lethal Lady
• Lucky Strike
• Arson, Inc
• Bad Penny
• Blind Date
• Enola Gay
A silhouette of "Fat Man" and "Little Boy". Fat Man was designed with a 64 inch diameter girth to fit into the B-29's bomb bay.
Only three of these Columbia X5Cs were built in 1947 due to structural problems. We are leaving the RV in Benson for a week for structural repairs and taking a road trip to southern California.
36 of these Martin PMB-5As were built in 1940.
Three F-107s were built in 1956. They lost out to the F105 which had an internal bomb bay for nuclear missions.
The SR-71 Blackbird could do 2200 MPH at 85,000 feet. I saw one land at dawn in Okinawa in 1966.
The Douglas B-18 Bolo came out in 1936. It was obsolete by WWII and was used to detect submarines.
The A-10 Warthog is built around a 30 millimeter cannon that spews 4,200 rounds a minute. It's heavily armored and has a top speed of 380 MPH...
The Grumman F-18 came out in 1974. It has a speed of 1544MPH and a range of 2,400 miles.
F-18 front view.
Allison engine used on the P-38, P-39 and P-40.