Military aircraft and commercial airliners have limited lifespans. Ultimately, they must be retired from service, stored in "airplane boneyards" or graveyards, and finally dismantled and scrapped.
|Fighter boneyard at Walnut Ridge AAF, Arkansas, post World War II
Once peace was assured in August of 1945 and WWII ended, the military found itself with a huge surplus of aircraft. The United States had manufactured about 294,000 aircraft for the war effort.
A large number of planes on flying status had to be ferried back to the U.S. and dealt with. The Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) established depots to store and sell surplus aircraft. At least 30 sales-storage depots and 23 sales centers, or "aircraft boneyards", were opened, and by November 1945 a total of 117,210 aircraft had been designated as surplus.
If a plane was not sold at boneyards such as those at Kingman AAF, Cal-Aero Field, and Walnut Ridge AAF, aircraft were stripped of classified information, sliced up with guillotines, and melted in smelters into ingots. The military airplane boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson remains active today (see below).
... about Post-World War II Aircraft Boneyards and Disposal Depots
|Continental ExpressJets in storage at Kingman Airport in the Arizona desert
Photo by the PlanesOfThePast Staff
Commercial airliners eventually reach end-of-life due to airframe wear and/or obsolescence. Some jetliners are temporarily taken off flying status, and must be stored in a environment that is conducive to preservation. Others are kept for spare parts for flying aircraft.
To protect airliners during their storage from wind and sun damage, engines and windows are tightly covered with white, reflective materials. A sealed airliner can thus be stored safely, for years, until the time comes to return it to active duty, or salvage. Eventually, all airliners are removed permanently from service and must be "disposed" of.
Airliner "boneyards" in the deserts of the western United States serve several functions: temporary storage, maintenance, parts reclamation, and scrapping.
With the area's low humidity and hard, alkaline soil, which allows the aircraft to be naturally preserved for cannibalization or possible reuse, Davis-Monthan AFB became a major storage facility for thousands of surplus airplanes after World War II.
Today, as Air Force, Navy and Marine planes become obsolete and need to be disposed of, or saved for future return to service, they are stored in the Arizona desert. The storage facility is operated by the Air Force Materiel Command's 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson.
It is the sole aircraft boneyard for all excess military and government aircraft. AMARG's typical inventory comprises more than 4,400 aircraft, which makes it the largest aircraft storage and preservation facility in the world. Bus tours of the Davis-Monthan AFB AMARG facility are available from the nearby Pima Air & Space Museum.
... and view photos of Davis-Monthan AFB boneyard and AMARG
The Mojave Air and Space Port serves a variety of aviation and space industries. It is also a storage facility for commercial airliners, due to its vast area and dry desert conditions.
Large Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, Lockheed, and Airbus aircraft owned by major airlines are stored at Mojave. Some aircraft reach the end of their useful lifetime and are scrapped at the Mojave aircraft boneyard, while others are refurbished and returned to active service.
... and view photos of the Mojave Airport
The Kingman Airport & Industrial Park is located five miles north of Interstate 40 in Kingman, Arizona. It is home to more than 70 businesses, including the storage of airliners.
When we last visited in May of 2012, dozens of airliners were parked, including those from American Eagle, Continental, DHL, SAS and other airlines.
... and view photos of the Kingman Airport
Abilene Regional Airport in southeast Abilene, Texas is home to retired Saab 340 aircraft from American Eagle Airlines. The turboprops are parked in a corner of the airport’s property, near the intersection of Loop 322 and State Highway 36.
When American Eagle started looking for a place to store the Saabs, they settled on Abilene because the planes would be close to the airline's maintenance base where they could be kept in a condition in which they can easily be sold.
... and view photos of the Saab 340s at Abilene Airport
The Pinal Airpark is located in Marana, Arizona, just northwest of Tucson. It acts as a "boneyard" for civilian commercial aircraft as well as a site for airliner storage and reconfiguration. Old aircraft are stored there with the hope that the dry desert climate will prevent any form of corrosion in case the aircraft is pressed into service in the future.
Among the current tenants at the airpark is the Evergreen Aircraft Maintenance Facility. Now known as Marana Aerospace Solutions, the company offers more than 600 acres of secured ramp and storage area for all sizes of aircraft.
... and view photos of the Pinal Airpark
This facility in Phoenix, Arizona was originally constructed during World War II as a naval air facility known as NAF Litchfield Park, and later renamed Naval Air Station Litchfield Park.
In 1941, the Goodyear Aerospace Corporation offered land to the U.S. Defense Plant Corporation. The U.S. Navy used the land to build aircraft flight decks and established a U.S. Naval Air Facility to test fly and deliver aircraft. This necessitated the construction of a landing field, hangar and runway.
The Goodyear facility was used to modify AAF twin-tail B-24 Liberators for use as Navy PB4Y-1 aircraft, and to accept delivery of Navy single-tail PB4Y-2 Privateers.
Its primary role following the end of World War II was that of storage and preservation of obsolete or excess U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Coast Guard aircraft. Its location in the dry desert was an ideal location for long-term aircraft storage.
At one point, more than 5,000 aircraft were in storage. The Korean Conflict brought the airfield back to active duty in the 1950s. By early 1958 the inventory was down to about 2,500 aircraft. In 1965, the Defense Department decided to consolidate military aricraft storage. Thus, 800 aircraft at Litchfield were moved to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson either by air or by truck for storage, and another 1,000 were salvaged.
Following the closure of NAS Litchfield Park in 1967, the city of Phoenix purchased the airport for a general aviation facility. Today, the airport is home to several private companies offering aircraft maintenance and commercial pilot training, and serves as a reliever airfield for Phoenix Sky Harbor.
Located in Roswell, New Mexico, this facility was originally known as Roswell Army International Airfield during World War II, and Walker Air Force Base in later years.
At the time of its closure in 1967, the facility was the largest air base of the Strategic Air Command (SAC). During its active duty years, Walker supported B-29 Superfortress, B-50, KC-97, B-36 Peacemakers, B-47 Stratojets, KC-135 tankers, and B-52 Stratofortresses.
The Roswell International Air Center was developed after the close of the base. Two runways are provided, one at 13,001 feet, the other extending 9,999 feet.
Today, various industry are located at the Air Center, including aircraft repair and refurbishing companies which store airliners onsite.
The Southern California Logistics Airport (SCLA) is located in Victorville, California. Also known a Victorville Airport, it is home to many aviation related businesses, including Southern California Aviation, a large transitional facility for commercial aircraft.
The facility is located on the site of the former George Air Force Base, in active service from 1941 to 1992.
Southern California Logistics Airport includes a precision instrument runway of 15,050 feet and a secondary runway length of 9,138 feet to accommodate any aircraft flying today.