Airplanes are similar to cars in many ways, as both are incredibly complex machines made with many different types of metals and materials. Additionally, just like how some folks will take their car to the scrap yard when their car is at the end of its life, the U.S. military sends its planes to a boneyard. Here’s a look at the airplane boneyard in Arizona that’s home to about $35 billion worth of military airplanes.
A look at the airplane boneyard in Arizona
Like Business Insider wrote, this particular aircraft boneyard is commonly referred to as simply The Boneyard. However, it’s an official military facility, and thus, it has the official name of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, or AMARG. The 309th AMARG is itself located at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, which is in Tucson, Arizona.
The origins of the 309th date back to 1946, when World War II had just ended. America produced a lot of planes during the war, and after the war ended, America needed a place to store those planes. The Boneyard is 2,600 acres in size, nearly equal to 2,000 football fields. It processes and holds planes and other aircraft from a variety of sources, including the Air Force, the Navy, and even NASA.
According to ABC News, it’s currently home to over 4,400 aircraft, and combined, it’s estimated that they’re worth about $35 billion. That being said, while The Boneyard is where military planes go to die, not all of them will simply be scrapped for parts.
What goes on at The Boneyard and why Arizona is the ideal place for it
Scrapping the plane for parts is one of the more common things that happens at The Boneyard. Just like in a regular scrap yard, the workers will take out the parts that are needed or wanted elsewhere and prepare the rest of the plane for scrapping. Another common thing that happens is that workers will convert planes into drones for target practice. Other times though, the planes will simply be prepared for service, just not always for the U.S. military.
Workers at The Boneyard will commonly perform maintenance on planes that are about to be sold to other militaries. This typically means installing structural improvements, which should help keep the plane flyable for longer. That said, The Boneyard will also perform maintenance on planes that the U.S. military is currently using.
The main reason why The Boneyard is located in Arizona is because of the climate and geography. The military needs a lot of empty space with hard soil, and that’s what Arizona offers. The hot, low humidity climate, as well as the fact that the soil has low acidity, also makes the location ideal as it’ll help prevent the planes from corroding.
A quick look at the different types of airplanes in the boneyard
Since the airplane boneyard is home to so many aircraft, many types of planes are currently there. For example, one type of plane at The Boneyard right now is the C-130, one of America’s most common types of cargo planes. Some of them are being maintained for foreign military sales.
Another plane there right now is the T-38, which is a training aircraft that the military uses. Like the C-130, the T-38 is a very old airframe, and some are being maintained for continued service. One type of plane that’s just resting there is the C-5, which is the largest cargo plane the military uses.