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z28luvr01

Where Do Old Airplanes Go to Die?

9 posts in this topic

z28luvr01    170

Why, Tuscon, AZ of course :P

Got these in an email this morning, and I've seen this "boneyard" in person. Military aircraft as far as the eye can see.

Email text follows:

I agree it is difficult to comprehend the size of the facility and the number of aircraft stored there. Of course the important thing to remember is that they are all capable of being returned to flying condition if the need ever arises. There was an excellent book published a few years ago on the celebration of the "Boneyard's" 50 anniversary. It was written by Philip D. Chinnery and is entitled "50 Years of the Desert Boneyard" published by Motorbooks International and can be obtained through any good bookstore. If you are ever in the Tucson area, the weekly tours of the boneyard are still given through the Tucson Air Museum, located just south of Davis Monthan AFB. Both the museum and the boneyard are very popular attractions here in the Arizona desert.

Things of interest.

1- The 3rd largest Air Force in the world is sitting on the ground here.

2- It's the only unit in the U.S. Air Force that actually makes a profit.

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In that last pic, the Pima Air and Space Museum is just off the lower left hand corner, on the other side of the road.

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Saw someting simillar west of Phoenix but this is amazing. :blink:

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CSpec    515

I used to go to Tucson every year for February vacation. I've been the boneyad many times; it's a very interesting place.

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Camino LS6    866

Fascinating place. I'd visit.

All sorts of questions come to mind.

How many planes?

How much did they originally cost?

What value do they have now?

Ultimately, what will happen to them?

How the hell can this place turn a profit? The text of the e-mail indicates that it does.

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Flybrian    0

For the record, the Boneyard is part of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tuscon, Arizona. Besides the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMRAC) - aka the Boneyard - Davis-Monthan is responsible for training A-/OA-10 pilots.

How many planes?

About 5,000 at any given time, mostly Cold War relics either obsolete, supplanted by new models, or - as is the case with the B-52s - condemned to the Boneyard by US/Soviet nuclear treaties.

How much did they originally cost?

Heh. Varies by aircraft. The Stratofortresses cost ~$30million when new in the mid-50s, F-4 Phantom IIs (second pic) cost around $18.4mil per and the Tomcats (also in that pic) ran about $38 million.

What value do they have now?

Scrap or whatever they can get for them. Some airframes have infinite value...

Ultimately, what will happen to them?

One of several things. For those destined to be scrapped, the airframes are first 'demilitarized' which involves removing all weapons sytems, electronics, and anything else of intrinsic military/national security value. Many times (as is the case with B-1s housed at Davis-Monthan), the airframes are cannibalized to provide spare parts for active units' aircraft.

Some planes stored here are sold to foreign nations with various levels of demilitarization. A few are even obtained by civilians; an Air and Space Magazine article years ago showed an AH-1 Cobra, UH-1 Huey, and the majority of an A-4 Skyhawk owned and (except for the A-4) operated by a gentleman, albeit stripped of all warfighting capabilities.

Also, some planes (especially fighters and trainers) end up as target drones and carry the 'Q' designator in front of their service one, i.e. QF-106. Speaking of which, the Convair F-106 Delta Dart illustrates a true 'circle of life' for a military airframe. Introduced in 1959, it was our premier front-line interceptor for almost two decades. It never saw combat and was never exported, though. F-15s replaced them starting in the 1970s and the F-106 continued to serve in ANG units until 1988 when many of the were converted to drones (QF-106). The last one was shot down in 1998, effectively drawing its service to a close.

How the hell can this place turn a profit? The text of the e-mail indicates that it does.

See above. Scrapping and reselling is very lucurative. Ask your local chop shop. :)

The method of scrapping some of the larger aircraft is interesting. Typically, the wings are sheered off first, then the empennage, then the fuselage itself is sectioned into smaller pieces. The way its done seems very symbolic if you're an aviation buff like me and also saddening./

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Camino LS6    866

Thanks,Fly. If we were walking through that place, I'd be peppering you with more specific questions.

I still think someone is playing loose and fast with the term "profit". Maybe it would be more accurate to say the facility provides a "small rebate" to the Air Force. :smilewide:

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trinacriabob    21

Z, buddy!

My kind of thread.

One fine Cali. day, I was driving to the Southland. And I took the route from Bakersfield (fuggedaboutit) and on through Mojave (Mow-haw-vee, not Mow-jayv).

At any rate, I am driving through town and there is an AFB near there. Behind the strip of Dennys, MickeyDs and Dunkin Donuts, there were mothballed 747s peering their heads (humps).

YYYYIIIIIPPPPEEEEEE!!!! I found the next turn lane and drove all around the fence, looking at these lonely beasts. They looked deserted (no pun) and a little dowdy. Nacelles: yes, Engines: no.

What a way to end a career -- having rattlesnakes encircling your feet (landing gear). :nono:

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Flybrian    0

Is that where they store the last of the A3 Skywarriors or is that some other base? I always liked those nifty looking planes.

I'm not clear on that, but I've heard two things. Of course, most of the Navy's A-3 and USAF's B-66s (same basic jet) were destroyed. I believe the last A-3s in Navy service were retired in 1991. Development units in California wanted to keep their remaining A-3s as testbed aircraft and a Vice Admiral in charge at the time - being a former Skywarrior navigator - allowed them.

There was some convoluted agreement amongst the Navy, Westinghouse, Raytheon, Hughes, and Thunderbird Aviation about who was to keep what active, for what, with what money, and where under different 'bailment' agreements in which the contractors would use the jets for testing and research. Unfortuntately, some of the planes were lost in the process as firms lost the need for them, needed funds for other projects, etc.

Hughes did use an A-3 for F-15 radar software testing in the early 90s and this Skywarrior actually had an F-15's nose section grafted onto it. The jets owned by Westinghouse were sold to Thunderbird, who transferred them to Hughes when they went belly-up, and when Hughes sold off their aeronautics companies to Raytheon, Raytheon acquired them all in addition to its own. I have absolutely no idea how many, etc., but apparently Raytheon Systems still operates their A-3s out of Van Nuys Airport in California.

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