The Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona is home to the largest military aircraft boneyard in the world. The 2,600-acre boneyard currently holds over 4,440 aircraft and 13 aerospace vehicles from the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Navy-Marine Corps, and NASA. Users interested in the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, not the boneyard, should click here

The boneyard is located north of Valencia Road and south of Escalante Road, in between Wilmot Road and Kolb Road. This is near the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, which is located at 2720 S. Craycroft Rd.

The airfield was established in 1919, and the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base was established six years later. However, the aircraft started being transported to the boneyard, whose official title is 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG), as far back as 1946.

WHY TUCSON?

(Photo Credit: Phil on Flickr shared per Creative Commons License)

Tucson’s weather plays a large role in the preservation of the aircraft. Tucson offers low humidity and an average of only 11 inches of rainfall annually. Because of the minuscule risk of any natural disasters in the city, the aircraft in the boneyard are well preserved and could potentially be reused in the future. 

Another contributing factor in the smart decision to move aircraft into Tucson is the city’s hard alkaline soil, which contains sodium, calcium, and magnesium. Tucson also offers a high altitude of around 2,550 feet. 

And because Tucson is located in the Sonoran Desert, it’s easy to transport aircraft back and forth without needing to pave any areas. 

RECEIVING NEW AIRCRAFT

(Photo Credit: Aeropho.toyo on Flickr shared per Creative Commons License)

When aircraft is received at the boneyard, they are gifted with the aircraft's documented history, which includes the kinds of maintenance it once underwent since its active service in the military. 

Prior to being stationed in the boneyard, guns, ejection seats, clocks, data plates, and classified hardware are all removed. The aircraft is then washed, which is especially important when dealing with aircraft that has been in tropical locations. If they aren’t washed, they could be subject to corrosive effects in Tucson’s hot climate. In this process, the fuel system is also drained and refilled with lightweight oil, only to be drained once more. Following this, the aircraft is sealed from exposure to any dust, sunlight, or scorching summer temperatures. This can be done with chemicals such as Spraylat, but simple garbage bags are also utilized as a protective force. From here, the aircraft is ready to be pulled to its designated location in the boneyard.

However, not all aircraft are able to be reused again. Much of the aircraft is maintained in case it is called back in to active service, but the boneyard also reclaims the aircraft and sells or recycles certain parts. Some aircraft are also placed at Davis-Monthan on temporarily, until they can be shipped to a different area of the world. 

BONEYARD HISTORY

Boneyard in 1980 (Photo Credit: fsll2 on Flickr shared per Creative Commons License)

By May of 1946, over 600 B-29 Superfortresses and 200 C-47 Skytrains were moved to the boneyard. Some of said aircraft were actually refurbished and used in the Korean War, but others were completely scrapped. 

By February of 1956, the first Convair B-36 Peacemaker arrived at the boneyard for scrapping. In the end, 384 Peacemakers were scrapped and dismantled, but four were saved for air museums. 

At the time, Litchfield Park in Phoenix, Arizona also held an aircraft storage facility. By 1965, the facility merged into Davis-Monthan’s boneyard. The majority of the aircraft was all transported by truck because it was less expensive than attempting to prepare the planes to fly to Tucson, just to preserve them once again. 

This was also the year when the boneyard changed their name to Military Aircraft Storage and Disposition Center (MASDC). 

In 1964, the last B-47 aircraft left Davis-Monthan, as they needed space for the 50 F-4 Phantom II aircraft. By 1969, the last Air Force B-47 Jet Bomber was retired and scrapped at Davis-Monthan, with the exception of 30 Stratojets that were saved for air museums. Around this time, ICBM missiles were also introduced to the boneyard, along with 365 B-52 Stratofortress Bombers in the ‘90s. 

By 1985, the boneyard underwent a new name, Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC), but is now called 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG). 

In 2013, the final F-4 Phantom was refurbished and performed its last flight in Tucson.

BONEYARD TODAY

(Photo Credit: Gloria Knott)

Today, Davis-Monthan’s boneyard is the sole aircraft boneyard to hold excess military aircraft for possible reuse and miscellaneous refurbishments. 

Tours of the boneyard are offered to individuals through the Pima Air & Space Museum, which is located on Valencia Road. This guided motor coach tour, occurring Monday through Friday, generally lasts about an hour and a half and provides individuals with the history of the site and aircraft. However, no one is allowed off of the bus during the tour. Baggage checks and valid identification are required before getting on the bus.

For those who want a closer peek at the aircraft, it’s recommended to visit the Pima Air & Space Museum separately, which houses over 300 planes within 80 acres, and allows you to go within inches of the aircraft.

BONEYARD FUN FACTS

Filming Transformers 2 (Photo Credit: Movie Chronicles)

  • Part of the second Transformers movie, Revenge of the Fallen, was filmed at Davis-Monthan’s boneyard. The movie was released in 2009.

  • The Pima Air & Space Museum, a privately funded air museum, is the largest of its kind in the world.

  • The famous Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird is housed in Tucson. 

  • Mainly set up for the purpose of tours, the boneyard offers “Celebrity Row,” which is a line of iconic aircraft. 

  • In 2012, the boneyard held more than 10,000 aircraft parts, which valued at $472 million combined.

Sources: 

(Photo Credit: Aeropho.toyo on Flickr shared per Creative Commons License)

Air Space Mag. http://www.airspacemag.com/daily-planet/tour-boneyard-180952460/

Airplane Boneyards. http://www.airplaneboneyards.com/davis-monthan-afb-amarg-airplane-boneyard.htm

Airplane Mart. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfTNxbVnKJQ

AMARC Experience. http://www.amarcexperience.com/ui/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2&Itemid=213

CGM Findings. http://cgmfindings.com/cgm/content/some-interesting-fun-facts-about-tucson-arizona

Internet Movie Data Base. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1055369/locations

Movie Chronicles. http://www.moviechronicles.com/transformers/transformers-2-revenge-of-the-fallen/page/41/

Pima Air & Space Museum. http://www.pimaair.org/tour-boneyard

The Living Moon. http://www.thelivingmoon.com/45jack_files/03files/Davis_Monthan_Air_Base_Air_Force_Boneyard.html