The “Boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base

In March 2011 I visited a place that should be on every aviation enthusiasts must see list for North America: the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARG) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, South of Tucson, Arizona. What on earth is that? Well it is better known as the “Boneyard“.

After WW2 the US Air Force established an open air storage facility for Boeing B-29 Superfortress and Douglas C-47 Dakota aircraft at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (1946). The base is out in the desert where the dry conditions make it a perfect place for storing aircraft outside indefinitely with minimum deterioration and corrosion – basically preserving the airframes for use as spares, ready-reserve aircraft, regeneration of old airframes to flying status etc. for both the US military and their allies (this saves an enormous amount of money in comparison to building new aircraft). This is still the purpose of AMARG today with over 4000 aircraft (plus some aerospace vehicles – rockets/intercontinental Ballistic Missiles) out there from the Air Force (US and some European allies i.e. Norway), Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Coast Guard and federal agencies including NASA.

Boneyard Davis-Monthan Air Force  AMARG
Just one section of AMARG!
Boneyard Davis-Monthan Air Force  AMARG
AMARG (source: http://www.pimaair.org)

Now I am a self-confessed aircraft nerd and I had seen many images and documentaries on the “Boneyard” over the years. It was a place I had wanted to go to since I was a kid, so I was very excited to board the tour bus at the nearby PIMA Air and Space Museum who run tours to the “Boneyard” on a first come first serve basis (at just under 2 hours and less than $10 it’s a bargain).

Because you are entering an active airbase (they fly various combat and transport aircraft out of there along with missile target drone aircraft) you are not allowed to leave the bus which travels around a relatively small circuit of the vast storage area (you still see plenty of the base though and can manage some reasonable photos if you get a window seat). There are also numerous security rules that must be followed before you are allowed on the bus: The Air Force prohibits the carrying of firearms, weapons, illegal substances, backpacks, camera cases, and other non-essential items on the AMARG tour. You can take a small camera without the case, a small purse or belt pack and that’s about it! The guides inspect for these things and if you are 16 years old or over photo identification is required (driver’s license, military ID or passport).

The heyday of the base would have been after WW2 and during the Cold War (1945-1991) when all sorts of historic aircraft were stored there. Although they are mostly all gone today, the metal and parts long used for other purposes, it is still an impressive sight to see vast numbers of more modern aircraft of all sizes spread out across the desert.

Boneyard Davis-Monthan Air Force  AMARG B-36
Convair B-36 Peacemaker bombers in the 1950’s

Of the more modern military aircraft that are in storage, a number are cocooned in special materials in case the aircraft/helicopters needs to be put back into service, but most are just in open storage. These include:

Bombers: General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark (affectionately known as “The Pig” in Australia), Rockwell B-1 Lancer and Boeing B-52 Stratofortress (due to the SALT treaties with the Soviet Union hundreds of these were chopped into pieces by a huge guillotine, then piled up neatly to allow Soviet satellites to verify the destruction of these strategic bombers!);

Boneyard Davis-Monthan Air Force  AMARG B-1 B-52

Boneyard Davis-Monthan Air Force  AMARG B-1 B-52

Boneyard Davis-Monthan Air Force  AMARG F-111

Boneyard Davis-Monthan Air Force  AMARG B-52

Fighters: General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon, McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet and the legendary McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II;

Boneyard Davis-Monthan Air Force  AMARG F-16

Boneyard Davis-Monthan Air Force  AMARG EF-111 F-4

Boneyard Davis-Monthan Air Force  AMARG F/A-18 B-1

Boneyard Davis-Monthan Air Force  AMARG F-4

Ground Attack: Vought A-6 Corsair II and Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II (aka “The Warthog“);

Boneyard Davis-Monthan Air Force  AMARG A-10 A-7

Maritime Patrol: Lockheed P-3 Orion;

Boneyard Davis-Monthan Air Force  AMARG P-3 Orion

Boneyard Davis-Monthan Air Force  AMARG KC-135

Air to Air Refuelling: Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker;

Boneyard Davis-Monthan Air Force  AMARG KC-135

Boneyard Davis-Monthan Air Force  AMARG KC-135 F-4

Transports: Lockheed C-130 Hercules, Lockheed C-141 Starlifter and Lockheed C-5 Galaxy;

Boneyard Davis-Monthan Air Force  AMARG C-5 C-130 Hercules

Boneyard Davis-Monthan Air Force  AMARG B-52

Boneyard Davis-Monthan Air Force  AMARG C-141

Trainers: Cessna T-37 Tweet, Northrop T-38 Talon and Rockwell T-2 Buckeye;

Boneyard Davis-Monthan Air Force  AMARG B-52

Boneyard Davis-Monthan Air Force  AMARG T-37 F-4

Helicopters: Bell AH-1 Cobra, Sikorsky CH-53 Super Stallion, Hughes OH-6 Cayuse, Bell OH-58 Kiowa and Boeing CH-46 Sea Knight.

Boneyard Davis-Monthan Air Force  AMARG CH-46 Sea knight

Boneyard Davis-Monthan Air Force  AMARG EF-111 CH-46

They also have a number of one off aircraft preserved along museum row to show off historic aircraft that were once stored there in larger numbers. One that made me laugh was the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk Stealth Fighter, the “invisible aircraft“….it was actually just an empty space apart from a couple of wheels with a sign….aircraft humour folks!

Boneyard Davis-Monthan Air Force  AMARG F-117 Stealth Fighter
Stealth Fighter!

Boneyard Davis-Monthan Air Force  AMARG F-14

Boneyard Davis-Monthan Air Force  AMARG A-4 A-6 F/A-18

Boneyard Davis-Monthan Air Force  AMARG F/A-18

Boneyard Davis-Monthan Air Force  AMARG F-15

Boneyard Davis-Monthan Air Force  AMARG F-106 F-111 A-10

Boneyard Davis-Monthan Air Force  AMARG F-14 A-4 B-1

If you find your way down South in Arizona do not miss the “Boneyard“. Although it’s kind of sad to see so many aircraft awaiting their demise it’s an impressive place to see (even if you are not totally into aviation)! Luckily many aircraft from AMARG have also ended up in museums over the years and the nearby PIMA museum is a classic example of that (to see photos from my visit there please click here). ūüôā

Oh and not that far away, just North of Tucson is another open air storage facility Pinal Airpark which is used for commercial airliners and transport aircraft. You cannot tour this facility, but you can see it quite clearly from the nearby interstate highway. I have read that it was a former Central Intelligence Agency airfield used as a headquarters for CIA covert air cargo operations during the Cold War and the Vietnam War i.e. “Air America“.

Pinal Airpark
Pinal Airpark

Deano In America

In March 2011 I visited a place that should be on every aviation enthusiasts must see list for North America: the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARG) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, South of Tucson, Arizona. What on earth is that? Well it is better known as the “Boneyard“.

After¬†WW2 the US Air Force¬†established an open air¬†storage facility for Boeing B-29 Superfortress and Douglas C-47 Dakota aircraft at¬†the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (1946).¬†The base¬†is out in the desert where¬†the dry conditions make it a perfect place for¬†storing aircraft outside indefinitely¬†with minimum¬†deterioration and corrosion ‚Äď basically preserving¬†the airframes for use as spares, ready-reserve aircraft, regeneration of old airframes to flying status¬†etc. for both the US military and¬†their allies (this saves an enormous amount of money in comparison to building new aircraft).¬†This is still the purpose of AMARG¬†today with over‚Ķ

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