Catching a flight is as mundane as taking a bus for most people. But when aviation enthusiast Phillip Capper stumbled across this abandoned Boeing 707 in a plane graveyard in Tucson, Arizona, he recognised the derelict jet as one that had transported him across the Atlantic some 20 years earlier. While many won’t feel any particular connection to the airliners that ferry them across the world, it must be an odd feeling to one day find the remains of one in a boneyard.
(All images via Google Earth)
Officially titled the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) but known simply as “the Boneyard”, this vast collection of surplus military aircraft in Tucson, Arizona is without doubt the largest plane graveyard in the United States. But according to a March 2011 Google Earth overview, there’s evidence that the “second largest air force in the world” is shrinking rapidly.
This February 2010 article on Treehugger revealed a plane graveyard with barely an empty parking space available. But it’s changed dramatically over the past year, as dwindling aircraft numbers reflect the return to service of some and scrapping of others. Roughly 87 massive B-52 bombers survive in the Boneyard, with around half cut-up to satisfy treaty obligations.
F-4 Phantom numbers have also declined, with many of the stored Vietnam-era warplanes returned to service for use as target drones, while an ongoing process of regeneration and recycling has seen other Boneyard occupants give up the ghost. But even if the massive 2,600 acre (four square mile) site no longer houses 4,200 aircraft, it’s still one of the most impressive aircraft facilities on the planet.
More to the point, when the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter eventually enters service, AMARG will once again be filled to capacity with a new crop of redundant F-16s and F-18s, among other older airframes. For the aviation enthusiast – or anyone that wants to be awestruck – a tour of the Boneyard is available from the Pima Air & Space Museum, adjacent to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.