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ISSUE 128 - July 2010
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By Kevin Moore, Contributing Editor & Photographer
Roslin, Ontario, Canada

From the air you get a small sense of the amount of space utilized for aircraft storage. What you see here less than 5% of the total size of the "Boneyard."

In Tucson, Arizona, across from the Pima Air & Space Museum, is Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. At first glance you might think it's just like any other military base and, for the most part, you'd be right. However, the one outstanding difference is a place known to most as the "Boneyard."

Entering the 309th AMARG "Boneyard"

The "Boneyard," AMARG or the (309th) Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, is adjacent to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. Covering acres and acres of Arizona desert floor, the "Boneyard" is home to thousands of military aircraft that have been placed in storage, possibly for an eventual return to active service or for parts or demolition.

There are more than 4000 aircraft stored on the desert floor.

After World War II a storage facility was created to store C-47 and B-29 aircraft at Davis-Monthan. The San Antonio Air Technical Service Command of the Army decided that Davis-Monthan was ideal. Today, the numbers exceed some 4000 aircraft, plus 13 aerospace vehicles from the Air Force, Army, Navy/Marines, Coast Guard and other agencies such as NASA.

F-16 Falcon fighter jets that are awaiting the word to return to flying.

Though there were no B-29 or C-47 aircraft at the "Boneyard," there were airplanes as far as the eye could see. As you approach the gates to enter the area, among the first aircraft you see are rows of F-16 Falcon fighter jets. These are among the flyable aircraft that are simply stored until they are required for service or to replace older or damaged aircraft.

Stored on the hard desert floor, the F-14, as with all the aircraft, is coated in a latex/rubber-like material to protect it from the elements, left. The old F-106 Delta Dart with P-3 Orion aircraft behind, right.

Davis-Monthan was selected for a number of reasons including a very low annual rainfall, very low humidity, and low alkaline soil. These conditions mean aircraft can be stored there indefinitely with very little corrosion. Another added bonus to the area is that the soil, known as caliche, is extremely hard making it possible to park the aircraft right on the desert floor without the need of any manmade surfaces such as concrete.

In the 1980's aerospace vehicles were also being stored in the "Boneyard," left.
Even presidential aircraft have found a home here, right

In the 1960s the site was known as the Military Storage and Disposition Center (MASDC). However, in the mid 1980's, aerospace vehicles such as the Titan II missiles were added to the mix of aircraft and the facility was renamed the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC).

Rows of F-18 Hornets supported off the desert floor, left. Fifteen T-38 Talons dwarfed by C-5 Galaxies, both either awaiting parts stripping or demolition, right.

In 2007 it was again renamed becoming the 309th AMARG, Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, under the 309th Maintenance Wing at Hill Air Force Base in Utah. Its operational task has grown beyond that of storage and preservation of aircraft to include, in their own words, "aircraft regeneration (restoring aircraft to flying status), programmed depot-level maintenance, and parts reclamation, in addition to its historic storage and disposal functions."

There are rows and rows of C-130 Hercules aircraft from militaries around the world.

A workhorse with military forces in the U.S. and around the world is the C-130 Hercules. These multi-function 4-engine aircraft, first designed and built in 1954, are still in service and have seen many upgrades over the years. In fact, the latest version, some of which have recently been delivered to the Canadian Forces, are replacing some of the oldest flying Hercules aircraft in the world.

From large aircraft such as the Boeing 707/KC-135 4-engine jet aircraft, left, to the smallest of aircraft such as this T-46 prototype, almost every type of U.S. military aircraft is or has been stored in the "Boneyard."

As you tour the site, you are struck with a sense of awe in the absolute numbers of aircraft stored around the facility. To give you an idea on just how many aircraft are stored in the "Boneyard," there are more aircraft in storage here than the RCAF/Canadian Forces have had post World War II. That's not a slight against the Canadian Military, just an idea on the absolute size of the U.S. Military considering the numbers of aircraft stored here do not include the numbers of aircraft currently active with U.S. Forces around the world.

The F-111 Aardvark, left, and the NP-3D Orion, right, are among the
many assorted aircraft along the bus tour route.

The first part of the tour takes you down a road that is home to a row of aircraft on both sides. There are individual examples of many fighter jets, transports, trainers, helicopters, prototype and other aircraft used by each branch of the military. Every one is covered or partly covered in a specially formulated latex/rubber like material in order to protect it from the harsh desert conditions.

This Boeing 707/KC-135 has all but completely stripped for parts. Its next destination just could be the cutters torch, left. There are many F-18 Hornets, including a former Blue Angels aircraft, right.

The whereabouts of each aircraft is recorded so that, if and when needed, a crew can be sent out to retrieve the aircraft for whatever role it is required for. Whether it is to return to flying, refurbished and returned to flying, cannibalized for parts, or demolished for scrap, every movement of every aircraft is tracked.

A row of T-38 Talons that have found a new home and were awaiting their departure, left.
The once mighty B-52's, some already facing demolition, right.

While touring the site it was amazing to see just how many different states of repair, or disrepair, various aircraft were in. From a row of T-38 Talon's that look pilot ready, to B-52's that were simply ready for the cutters torch. Regardless of the condition of the airplane, there was a purpose for that condition and, eventually, every airplane on the desert floor will find a new home in one form or another.

More than 100 T-37 Cessna Tweety Birds awaiting reactivation, left. F-4 Phantoms are being converted to drones that will be flown by a remote pilot sitting behind a computer, right.

Maybe you have an interest in airplanes, or maybe a particular aircraft. It could be that you were once a fighter, transport or helicopter pilot and want to spend some time looking at some of the old birds you once flew. Whatever your reason, head to the Pima Air & Space museum and while there, go take the one hour tour of the "Boneyard." Whether for history or just pure interest, it's a great place to see... no bones about it!

For more information on the Pima Air & Space Museum and a link to the 309th ARMARG, visit

A-10 "Warthogs" are among some of the airplanes that have been stripped for parts, left. Apparently, the U.S. Military has been buying up all the Boeing 707 aircraft it can find worldwide in order to keep them flying as long as possible, right.
In some areas, each row of aircraft was different but they seemed to go on forever.
By Kevin Moore, Contributing Editor & Photographer

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