The happy accident that means planes at largest aircraft boneyard will never die despite being in desert

  • Davis-Monthan Air Force Boneyard lies in the Tucson desert
  • In fact, it’s evolved into the largest aircraft boneyard in the world
  • But rather than rusting away to nothing, a happy coincidence means its planes last forever

Published on May 22, 2024 at 4:09 PM (UTC+4)
by Amelia Jean Hershman-Jones

Last updated on May 23, 2024 at 3:28 PM (UTC+4)
Edited by Tom Wood

Davis-Monthan Air Force Boneyard (AFB) in Tucson lies in the desert – but rather than allowing planes to rust away in peace, the aircraft boneyard actually allowed the planes that lie there to last longer than ever expected.

Over the years it has become the largest aircraft boneyard in the world.

Davis-Monthan today is the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG), as well as a major storage facility.

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That makes it the only aircraft boneyard and parts reclamation facility for aircraft belonging to the US military and government.

Originally its role was to house military aircraft after World War II, including more than 600 B-29 Superfortresses and 200 C-47 Skytrains.

While some were returned to action in the Korean War, others were preserved.

And this return to action is still a possibility for some planes, with this aging supersonic plane retrieved from a giant aircraft boneyard and set to return to duty.

The Convair B-36 Peacemaker fleet and the B-47 Stratojet fleet were also taken there after being retired.

Airplanes Online

In fact, those aircraft are amazingly still there today – but how?

The humidity of the area is low, sitting in the 10%-20% range.

Add to that meager rainfall of 11″ per year, hard alkaline soil, and an altitude of 2,550 feet.

These climactic conditions conspire to allow the aircraft to be naturally preserved for cannibalization or reuse.

Some historic aircraft, including the Enola Gay and Bockscar were eventually sent to museums.

The geology of the landscape also enables aircraft to be moved with ease without having to pave storage areas.

Due to changes in U.S. Air Force security, the offsite bus tours of the 309th AMARG are no longer available.

However, the Pima Air & Space Museum gives visitors the chance to learn about the history of the on-site aircraft.

Visitors can view rare aircraft outdoors in a desert climate and immerse themselves in the rich aviation history of the Davis-Monthan AFB itself.

In other news on retired aircraft, this airport employee was recently spotted giving an old plane bound for the scrapyard one last flight.

And, while there was nobody in the cockpit ,this 747 sitting in boneyard with no engines appeared to try to take off one last time.


Amelia Jean Hershman-Jones

London-based Amelia cut her journalistic teeth covering all things lifestyle, wellness and luxury in the UK capital. Fast-forward a decade and the experienced content creator and editor has put pen to paper for glossy magazines, busy newsrooms and coveted brands. When her OOO is on you can find her spending quality time with her young family, in the gym or exploring the city she loves.