Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Boneyard Of The 309th

Today we delivered old aircraft parts to the Airplane Graveyard at Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, which is known as 309 AMARG - the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group.

According to the AMARG fact sheet, "Immediately after World War II, the Army's San Antonio Air Technical Service Command established a storage facility for B-29 and C-47 aircraft at Davis-Monthan AFB. Today, this facility is the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (309 AMARG), which has grown to include more than 4,400 aircraft and 13 aerospace vehicles from the Air Force, Navy-Marine Corps, Army, Coast Guard, and several federal agencies including NASA. With an original purchase price of more than $35 billion, this aerospace fleet provides a unique savings account from which military units throughout the world may withdraw parts and aircraft. The government earns additional income by selling aircraft to our allies."

This plane, the C-5 Galaxy, is one of the largest aircraft in the world. It's so large, one of the guys unloading our truck said you can drive four tractor-trailers into it!
The aircraft are lined up, wingtip to wingtip, in the shadow of the mountain ranges that ring Tucson. "The chief reasons for selecting Davis-Monthan as the site for this storage center were Tucson's meager rainfall, low humidity, and alkaline soil. These conditions make it possible to store aircraft indefinitely with a minimum of deterioration and corrosion. In addition, the soil (called caliche) is hard, making it possible to park aircraft in the desert without constructing concrete or steel parking ramps." Today, the facility has grown to include more than 4,400 aircraft and 13 aerospace vehicles from the Air Force, Navy-Marine Corps, Army, Coast Guard and several federal agencies including NASA.

According to Wikipedia, an aircraft going into storage undergoes the following treatments:

1. All guns, ejection seat charges, or classified hardware are removed.
2. The fuel system is protected by draining it, refilling it with lightweight oil, and then draining it again. This leaves a protective film.
3. The aircraft is sealed from dust, sunlight, and high temperatures. This is done using a variety of materials, ranging from a high tech vinyl plastic compound, called Spraylat, an opaque white colour sprayed on the aircraft, to simple garbage bags. The plane is then towed by a jeep to its designated "storage" position. You can see the storage techniques being used on these helicopters.

There are four categories of storage for planes at AMARG:
1. Long Term - Aircraft are kept intact for future use
2. Parts Reclamation - Aircraft are kept, picked apart and used for spare parts
3. Flying Hold - Aircraft are kept intact for shorter stays than Long Term
4. Excess of DOD (Department of Defense) needs - Aircraft are sold off in whole or in parts.

The 2,600 acre facility is adjacent to the base and employees 550 people, mostly civilians. For every $1 the federal government spends operating the facility, it saves or produces $11 from harvesting spare parts and selling off inventory. Congressional oversight determines what equipment may be sold to which customer.

I love this row of aircraft tails.

Here are some tiny Navy aircraft. They looked newer than some of the other planes that are at the facility.

I know there are lots of pictures, but there are lots of planes. Wikipedia also said that they annually in-process an undisclosed number of aircraft for storage and out-process a number of aircraft for return to the active service, either repainted and sold to friendly foreign goverments, recycled as target or remotely controlled drones or rebuilt as civilian cargo, transport, and/or utility planes.

Another helicopter...

Just sitting around with a view of the mountain...

And here is a retired Air Force One plane...

Getting on the base to deliver requires a background check (done while-u-wait after providing a social security number), and an escort to the unloading area.

Wikipedia again says that AMARG is a controlled-access site, and is off-limits to anyone not employed there without the proper clearance. The only access for non-cleared individuals is via a bus tour which is conducted by the nearby Pima Air & Space Museum. I guess we were pretty lucky being able to drive around (even with an escort) and get out to take pictures and look at the planes!

You can see a bunch of aerial views, which will give you an idea of how big the area is and how many planes there are, by clicking

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mar said...

MacGyver is going to have a fit when he finds out about this load. He LOVES airplanes, LOVES them! probably more than me. How absolutely cool.

Happy Turkey Day - tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

FAK load and even though you are escorted onto the base, you can take all the photos you want and usually you get within spitting distance of all kinds of cool aircraft.

j said...

We get an education with you guys, Happy Thanksgiving... got to do a post on the word verifications sometime, they are so right on sometimes.

june in florida said...

Ss,clicked too quick.This word verification is 'amind', obviously mine is not working too well.

all things bradbury said...

brad thought this was your most awesome post ever!...like macgyver, he loves planes..in the navy he worked on the flight deck of aircraft carriers...so he was all over the pics...he does the same thing when we get near that graveyard near borax, ca....thanks for posting this!

Silvia John said...

oh. You have a lovely family. I am also planning on getting a family on my own. But my husband could not come home for the past 2 years. So it was not possible. He is a army personnel. If you want to find Hawaii army base you can look into the website.