Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Pima Air & Space Museum: awesome!

Inside Hangar 3

A word of advice if you’re planning to visit the Pima Air and Space Museum in rural Tucson: go early. This isn’t a warning to go early to avoid the crowds. Rather, it is a warning to go early so you’ll have enough time to see this marvelous facility.

Some of the planes outside
We spent five hours at this 80-acre facility, and still didn’t see everything. The average visitor spends four to five hours, a ticket seller told us, noting visitors who are really fascinated with aviation usually buy a two-day pass. The museum is one of the largest aviation museums in the world, and the largest one that is privately funded.

In five hours, you’ll probably only be able to tour the space building and four hangers. Most of the planes, however, are outside and you’ll only see a small fraction of them as you walk between the buildings..

Believe me, this is not a place you’ll want to rush right through. The museum boasts more than 300 planes of every description and associated memorabilia. The planes are either on loan or were donated to the museum. For example, mostly military planes fill the four hangars; the military retains the ownership of the planes.

The main hangar is where visitors enter and leave the museum. It is chock-full of planes of all sizes. Two hangars are devoted to World War II planes. The space museum has a docking simulator, a portrait gallery of Arizonans who played active roles in this country’s aviation programs, and displays a moon rock. Another hangar/building is a stand-alone museum honoring the 390th Air Force wing and starring a B-17 Flying Fortress from World War II.
Inside the main hangar
All facilities have interactive or hands-on exhibits, like sitting in a plane’s cockpit. There’s also ample opportunity for kids to have their pictures taken “flying” miniature wooden aircraft.

The museum charges admission; optional guided tours are an additional cost. It is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Pima Air and Space Museum is located at 6000 E. Valencia Road. To get there, take Interstate 10 east toward El Paso, exiting at Valencia Road. Follow the signs from there.

The museum is handicapped accessible, with push wheelchairs and walkers that can be borrowed.  These work fine inside the buildings or on a few asphalt paths that connect some buildings, but are difficult to push elsewhere outside where gravel and dirt surfaces prevail.

A final word of advice: Take plenty of bottled water with you. Water fountains are available throughout the facility, but that water tastes highly chlorinated after drinking the bottled stuff.

More pictures of the air and space museum can be found on my Youtube channel.

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