Photo Of The Day

Photo: Google/GeoEye

Photo: Google/GeoEye

The Boneyard

 World’s ‘Biggest’ Plane Cemetery Up Close

Before they are put to rest, airplanes undergo funeral-esque rituals known as ‘pickling’. Their engines are removed, the windows covered and the fluids drained. But of course these giants are too big to bury.

In the parched deserts, where a dry climate is an old machine’s best ally, aircrafts young and old lie nose to tail, row after row like fallen soldiers in the secluded airplane boneyards of America.

Planes can be preserved here for years you would be able to see “just about every kind of airplane that the military has flown since WWII,” says John Weeks, an avid field researcher into aircraft boneyards.

Post 9/11, most of America’s boneyards became fairly secretive restricted areas and close-up photography is rare, although satellite images like this high resolution one from Google maps are certainly impressive.

It is however, possible to go on a chaperoned visit of the AMARC site. According to the terrorist threat levels at the time, the nearby Pima Air & Space Museum operates weekly bus tours of the storage area, but you’re not allowed to get off the bus.

Dubbed The Boneyard, but officially known as the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) facility, this sprawling US airbase is reputed to be the world’s largest military aircraft cemetery.

Spread across the huge 2,600 acre site, equivalent in size to 1,430 football pitches, is a collection of over 4,000 retired aircraft including nearly every plane the US armed forces have flown since World War II.

A series of high resolution satellite images of the four square mile-site have been released by Google Earth. They show in incredible detail the full range of aircraft found at the site.

Among the aircraft are B-52 Cold War-era bombers that were retired in the 1990s under the the terms of the SALT disarmament treaties signed between the US and the Soviet Union.

Also, on show are dozens of F-14 fighter planes which were retired from the US Navy in 2006 and featured in the Hollywood movie, Top Gun. The Boneyard has also featured in a series of films, another one being Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

Located in Tucson, Arizona, on the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, the facility was first set up shortly after World War II. It was chosen for its high altitude and arid conditions, that mean the aircraft can be left outdoors without deteriorating too quickly.

A major industrial centre, AMARG manages an inventory of more than 4,200 aircraft and 40 aerospace vehicles.

In addition to being a massive plane park, AMARG also refurbishes aircraft, returning them to flying status or preparing them to be transported overland.

Officials at the base say that the parts reclaimed and aircraft withdrawn turns every tax dollar spent into 11 dollars in return.

See it bigger here

Scope out the new high-res Google Map.


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