In the Arizona desert lies one of the strangest graveyards in the world. Known as ‘the boneyard’, the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) is a large plot of land where more than 4,000 airplanes rest.
Under the hot southern Arizona sun, the aircraft graveyard is inside Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona. The planes are kept in case spare parts are needed for aircraft in use elsewhere. The site is approximately 10.5 square kilometers in size and while it is not the only aircraft graveyard in the country, it is the largest.
According to Interesting Engineering magazine, one of the reasons why the boneyard is in Arizona is because of the climate. The area is known for its dry heat and low humidity, which helps to avoid rust and potential corrosion. In addition, beneath the soil is a clay-like sub-layer called caliche, firm enough to park planes directly in the desert without having to spend money to create parking aprons. Large areas of land are more affordable in the desert.
Aircraft belonging to private companies and even NASA have also ended their existence at AMARG. One of the aircraft resting in this cemetery is the C-5M, one of the largest cargo aircraft in the world, which at one time transported US military aircraft.
The US Air Force began storing its surplus aircraft here in 1946. Initially it was used only for air force aircraft, but after 1962, aircraft from the army, navy and other government agencies were also brought in.
Decades of accumulating aircraft have resulted in this base being home to everything from fighter jets to commercial aircraft, light aircraft to helicopters. It is possible to find them in all states, from those that are almost new to others that could not fly again.
One can see deteriorated museum pieces that will never fly again, like the C-47A, a model of military transport aircraft manufactured in 1944. Seen from the air, the Davis-Monthan base is a huge expanse filled with perfectly aligned aircraft. Many of them are just passing through while undergoing maintenance before redeployment. But there are also others that are broken down to reuse their components, or that simply end up being parked for decades.
The base is so large and wide that it is almost impossible to put a Google Maps capture in which you can see it completely and appreciate the details.