While driving along South Kolb Road in Tucson, Arizona, you’ll discover something mysterious; columns of immobile airplanes, ranging in size from giant freight lifters to fighters and bombers, all immobile and standing calm in the glaring hot desert. Anyone who is interested in aviation should pay a visit to the Tucson airplane junkyard. The 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (309th AMARG), generally nicknamed the “Boneyard,” is the world’s biggest airplane storage and conservation complex, located at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. Thousands of obsolete defense, forest service, and NASA airplanes are stored in the Arizona desert by the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group. Without any of the barking dogs, AMARG would be the world’s largest junkyard. The planes are arranged in rows with incredible precision, piled so close together as seen from above, that their wings appear to be arm in arm, a huge contrast to their previous functions. It’s a strikingly gorgeous scene, with the silver fuselages reflecting the shifting hues of the Rincon Mountains to the east during the day.
The vast collection of F-16s, C-5s, B-52s, A-4 Skyhawks, and other aircraft would constitute the world’s second greatest air force. However, the planes aren’t merely passing by. Parts are salvaged, and the whole aircraft is rebuilt so that it may be used again. All firearms, ejection seat loads, and sensitive hardware, as well as timers and recording cards, are eliminated. On arrival, each aircraft is cleaned. Washing is especially necessary for aircraft that have operated on aircraft carriers or in tropical regions where they have been exposed to the damaging effects of warm, salty air. Emptying the fuel system, replacing it with lightweight oil, and then removing it again leaves a durable oil coating.
The desert’s geography, with its saline environment, makes it nearly impossible to keep airplanes from digging into the ground. This allows planes to be positioned in the desert without the need for specialized and expensive parking structures. Despite the fact that the desert serves as an aviation retirement community, some of the planes’ flying days are still ahead of them. If a plane is scheduled to fly again, it is cared for in storage by specialists who ensure that all exits to the aircraft are blocked to keep dirt, dust, and wildlife out. They test motors and other hardware on a regular basis to verify that everything is running well.