The Pima Air and Space museum has over 300 aircraft on display at its 120-acre campus in Tucson, Arizona. One of the world’s largest aviation museums, Pima is also the world’s largest privately funded aviation museum. It receives no government funding and much of the restoration work is done by volunteers. It is located adjacent to Davis Monthan Air Force Base which is home to the 309th Aerospace maintenance regeneration group (AMARG). Davis-Monthan is the world’s largest aircraft restoration and storage center and the only aircraft storage center for the US Government. It is also home to over eighty A-10 Thunderbolts (Warthog) ground attack aircraft. During our visit it seemed like every five minutes another flight of A-10s made the pattern and passed over the museum. As an aviation enthusiast this actually added to the experience.
At Pima, docent-led walking and tram tours are available. The tram tour takes about an hour and was well worth the six dollar ticket. Docents are retired aviators and well versed in the history and facts surrounding these aircraft. Our guide was a retired Air Force pilot who had actually flown one of the aircraft on display. A few of the aircraft you’ll see are an SR-71 Blackbird, Convair B-36 Peacemaker, B-52 Stratofortress, and a Convair B-58 hustler.
To see the Davis-Monthan “boneyard” a guided bus tour is available. For seven dollars this tour takes visitors from the Pima Museum for an hour long tour in the “boneyard”. The tour takes you through an active Air Force base therefore visitors are required to have a government issued picture ID. Approximately 4,000 aircraft are in storage here. Most are either in storage for use at a later time, waiting to be recycled, or providing parts to aircraft that are currently being used. On the tour you can see row after row of once front line aircraft that for one reason or another are being slowly disassembled to keep other aircraft flying. One thing that stands out is the vinyl covering that’s used to cover the cockpits and other areas of the aircraft. This is done to reflect the sun and keep the temperature in the aircraft lower to protect its more sensitive components. If you have the time both tours are well worth doing and a fantastic deal for the price.