The Valley of the Sun’s brilliant weather makes it a natural draw for retirees, pilots and airplanes. Our dry heat protects planes from rust. Our big sunny skies are lures for the newest fighter jets and for stalwart bombers from World War II. Arizona is celebrated for stark desert beauty but my favorite aspect of the desert comes from looking upward.
The best part of this for you gentle reader is the quality of the volunteers at our aviation museums. The docents in the museums I’ve visited here in the area rival the collections when it comes to interesting stories. My boys routinely meet vets from WWII, Korea, Vietnam. These men and women take time with my kids to tease them, pat their heads and try to draw them out and help them to love our country as much as they do. You can’t put a price tag on that experience. To the women with her brothers WWI letters in hand to the retired B17 bomber vet who unlocked a classroom to show my boys the coolest moon exhibit, the people you meet at these events are ordinary in their demeanor and extraordinary in their life experience.
The AZCAF Museum has big hangars, shiny planes and best of all the glittering silver massive Betty Grable emblazoned Sentimental Journey one of only a handful of B-17 Flying Fortresses still in the air. This plane is cherished by the people that form the Museum. It is a friendly ambassador from Arizona and spends the summer months traveling the country. 80,000 people tour the interior every summer.
We climbed inside the plane ogling the bomb bays, the massive wings and the ball turret. My boys ran the lot weaving under wings, climbing to peer into cockpits and admiring their reflection in the propellers.
Today the Museum was free, they were hosting a WWI traveling show. The big band 40’s dance is slated for March. Check times and the calendar, their programming is excellent. You can find BOGO tickets for this museum in the Phoenix Entertainment book. The Museum does not receive federal funds.
Mom note: this Museum is stroller friendly. The restrooms are large and contain one toilet, not stalls. There is a large grassy area out front to burn off energy before you go in. In the strip mall next door there is a Starbucks if you want to grab a snack.