The other day, Don told me that the US Airforce has finally allowed Google Maps to show the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, often referred to simply as the Boneyard. It’s an aircraft storage and reclamation facility in Tucson, Arizona. I’ve heard of it and even seen some photos, but there’s nothing like a satellite photo to really show you what a collection of 5000 aircraft really looks like. See for yourself.
The Boneyard serves both as a storage facility and a place where aircraft go to be disassembled and recycled. This dual purpose is why old and new aircraft are both well-represented. It’s not just a parking lot, however. Even aircraft in storage are stripped of their engines and avionics. All the engine and fuselage openings are covered and coated with ‘spraylat.’ This is a white latex liquid that seals the aircraft from the elements and reflects the heat of the sun.
On the north side of Coolidge Street you see a B-52 Stratofortress, a B-1B, and C-141 StarLifter. I can’t identify all of the aircraft on the south side of the street but I believe I see an F-4 phantom, a Cessna O-2 Skymaster, an EC-135, an F-16 Falcon, and two T-33 aircraft.
In this image is a formation of C-5 Galaxy transports:
Although the C-5 is still in use by the air force, you can see that some of the aircraft have been cannibalized for parts. Most have been stripped of their control surfaces and one is even missing its nose and most of one wing!
When looking at these images, it’s so easy to not realize the scale. The C-5 Galaxy is 75.5 metres (248 feet) long. Both the nose and the tail open so vehicles can be loaded and unloaded “first-on, first-off.” The length of the cargo bay is 121 feet … a foot longer than the first flight of the Wright Flyer at Kitty Hawk in 1903. Another type of scale that’s easy to lose track of is cost. A new C-5 costs $168 million.
The Boneyard would be on my ‘places to visit if I were rich’ list but the public cannot access it. There is a bus tour but I can’t imagine one would get the opportunity to take many good photos.