Did it ever cross your mind that what happens to an aircraft when it’s no longer needed? What happens next?
Airlines tend to put their retired aircraft in open-air aviation museums; the popular Concorde or the Tupolev Tu-144 is also kept as one fine example. However, most aircraft end their destiny in “boneyards” or “graveyards” after retirement. Thousands of aircraft are held in vast boneyards in the deserts of the southwest United States.
A chief aircraft storage facility is located at South Kolb Road in Tucson, Arizona, known as the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (309th AMARG). The facility is also known as the Boneyard, dwelling in the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. It contains rows of aircraft with different sizes and shapes, from massive cargo lifters to heavy bombers, stretched out all motionless and quiet in the blazing desert sun. According to Aeroplane, with 2,600 acres area, it houses nearly 4,000 aircraft and 13 aerospace vehicles from the United States Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Navy, Marine Corps, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Boneyards.
The planes stored at Davis-Monthan mostly belong to military aviation. Although it is not the world’s only boneyard, by far, it is the largest. While some of the aircraft are brand new, others are covered in protective layers to keep the dirt away. In addition, few planes have been reduced to boxes of spare parts to be used in other aircraft when required.
You might be wondering why a storage facility this huge is located in Tucson. Well, there are some reasons for that. Firstly, the climatic conditions in Arizona take longer for aircrafts to deteriorate, enabling them to store in suitable working conditions. In addition, deserts can be cost-effective while providing a vast amount of area. Also, with its alkaline soil, the desert prevents aircraft from dipping into the ground.
This facility acts as a retirement home; however, if a plane is due to fly again, it’s looked after by the facility technicians. They regularly operate motors and other equipment to ensure that everything is working smoothly.
After the global pandemic, most planes have been destined to land in graveyards. However, during one of the pandemic peaks in 2020, Victorville, California, one of the world’s largest airplane parking lots, showed closely parked planes.
If you wonder what this graveyard in Arizona seems like, you’re in for a surprise because the boneyard can be visited via a bus tour.