The largest aircraft boneyard in the world is located in Tucson, Arizona. Here, at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, around 4000 aircraft are stored. This boneyard came into operation after the Second World War in 1946 according to Business Insider, as the US Air Force had a lot of planes and not all of them were put into service.
Why this location was chosen?
Every year the U.S. Air Force needs a place to store a lot of aircraft that are retired from service. It wasn’t practical to build 4000 hangars for all these airplanes so they chose to store them in an open space but what location would be suitable for this?
Tucson, Arizona, was chosen as the location because the weather conditions here are perfect for this project. The rains are very rare, so humidity is reduced to avoid as much as possible metal rusting on the planes. Another major benefit is the dry and solid ground, so the place where the planes sit does not require paving.
How many planes are here and where do they come from?
After retiring from military service, the planes are brought here to rest. Currently, around 4,000 aircraft from the US Air Force, US Navy, and even NASA are stored here. Every year about 400 aircraft are brought here.
What happens to the planes in this boneyard?
About 800 people work here every day maintaining aircraft, taking certain plane parts for the aircraft that are into service, or even completely repairing and returning airplanes to military service.
However, some aircraft seem to be forgotten in this graveyard, such as the B52 bombers, which have been sitting here for 20 years. The reason these 350 airplanes are here is a disarmament agreement made in the 1990s between Russia and America.
The planes and helicopters that are brought here every year must be prepared for proper storage. At first, all the fuel is taken out of the planes. Then the metal part is painted with two coats of black paint to keep the metal in good condition. The preparation process takes 40 to 60 days and ends with the application of white paint. This paint reflects the sun’s rays and so the temperature inside the aircraft is kept within normal limits.
The parts of the aircraft that are brought in are extremely important. When a customer orders a particular part, it is thoroughly cleaned, carefully examined, and then shipped in good working order. Some aircraft here are even being returned to flight. About 30 aircraft are repaired and returned to service each year.
In total, the value of these aircraft is about $35 billion. The main purpose of this airplane boneyard in Tucson is to reduce the costs of US military aviation.
Can you visit the airplane boneyard in Tucson, Arizona?
Yes, you can visit the airplane graveyard, but only on organized tours. First Air & Space Museum organizes bus tours for US citizens and non-US citizens from around the world. The tour lasts approximately one hour and 45 minutes. You must keep in mind that you are in a military space so you must have all the necessary documents with you.
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