Did you know that aircrafts also have a lifespan?
It is said that the life span of aircrafts strongly designed for safety is close to 100 years. But they don’t usually operate for more than 30 years. This is because the older the model, the greater the risk of defects and the higher the cost of repairs, so the efficiency decreases. It’s common to replace an airplane in 20 to 40 years.
The aircrafts that served out their purpose will stay in a ‘third place’ rather than an airport or an airline hangar. We would like to talk about the behind story in this posting!
The place where 4,400 aircrafts went to sleep
Let’s take a closer look at the picture above.
Different kinds of aircrafts are gathered in one place. Even from satellite imagery, it’s easy to find out that there are a lot of huge aircrafts here.
It’s not an airport full of planes, it’s not an air force base for military aircrafts, it’s the ‘Aircraft Boneyards’, in Tucson, a city in Arizona, U.S..
It is also well-known for being managed by the ‘Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG)’ under the Air Force Material Command. Since there are more than 4,400 managed aircrafts and 13 spacecrafts, it could be regarded as a huge depository in nature.
Why do aircrafts gather at Tucson?
The Tucson area of Arizona, known as ‘land of desert and cactus’, has a high altitude of 780 to 880 meters and a solid alkaline soil. It’s also a place where it rarely rains all year round, with an average annual rainfall of only 300 millimeters.
Because of these regional characteristics, Tucson has become the eligible place to store aircrafts.
The important thing about storing airplanes is preventing corrosion. Thanks to dryness of desert region, Tucson is the best place to store aircrafts rust-free.
The Tucson aircraft boneyards is drawing attention because of its overwhelming scale. How big is this spectacular place with thousands of planes?
The place is so vast that it’s hard to tell with the naked eye. It is said to be as large as 1,400 soccer fields.
This is why it can store all kinds of aircraft, from various transport planes to bombers and fighter jets.
It's more like a ‘storage’ than a boneyard
The ‘AMARG Aircraft Boneyards’ was originally an air force base established by the U.S. military right after the end of World War II. It’s already been 75 years since it first settled here in 1946, so it must have been reborn as a historic place in the aviation and military industries.
This facility is divided into 4 areas, as shown below.
1) Area where stored aircraft are kept for immediate flight
2) Area where aircraft are kept for use after long-term storage
3) Area where aircrafts are dismantled and parts are utilized.
4) Area that sells part or all of aircraft
In other words, the facility stores aircrafts that were retired, but it also maintains and repairs them so they can be used again, and it dismantle them and find new parts that can be used internally.
In fact, there are dozens of tons of aluminum coming from a single aircraft, so it could be widely recycled, right?
Surprisingly, about 70% of the planes stored here are in a state of being able to return to active service after maintenance and repair. In fact, there are many retired aircraft to prevent defects rather than to come at the end of their lifespan, so if you replace the main parts with new ones, you can put them back in and operate them.
For your information, AMARG is a controlled area and cannot be entered without permission. But it’s possible to visit with a bus tour at the ‘Pima Air & Space Museum’, which is located nearby. The Pima Museum, the largest aerospace museum in the world, attracts more than 150,000 visitors every year. Since it is a military facility, it requires photo ID cards for all tourists over the age of 16!
Then, where do Korean aircrafts go? Unfortunately, there is no dry and spacious space to store aircrafts, so they are often donated to educational institutions or museums or sold to foreign airlines.
It’s a museum that stores various kinds of retired airplanes, and it’s also a laboratory-like place that draws new life from old aircrafts!
So far, we have looked through the world’s largest ‘aircraft boneyards.’
Next time, we will come be back with more interesting aviation common knowledge!