Home Is Where We Park It: NOMADS Project, New Hope United Methodist Church
February 3, 2020
Temperature 55 Degrees, Winds SW at 30 to 40 MPH
Bracing for the Deep Freeze
309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group – The World’s Largest Boneyard
Tonight is the first of three nights in which temperatures are supposed to be at or below freezing. We’re talking about temperatures in the 20’s. Not at all what we signed up for that’s for sure.
Outside water is off and hoses are drained. So are Wesley and Fredia. Our tanks are empty. We’re on internal water. Curtains are up. Heaters are in place. Cabinet doors are open so heat can get to all the nooks and crannies. I believe we are as ready as ready can be.
Enough about the weather let’s go sightseeing. Today we’re going
on a bus tour from the Pima Museum.
All aboard. We had a full bus.
We’re off to Davis Monthan AFB home of the
309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group – The World’s Largest Boneyard. It currently contains over 4,000 aircraft and aerospace vehicles on some 2700 acres. With the area’s low humidity in the 10%-20% range, meager rainfall of 11″ annually, hard alkaline soil (often referred to as Mexican Concrete), and lack of hurricanes and tornadoes allowing the aircraft to be naturally preserved for cannibalization or possible reuse, Davis-Monthan is the logical choice for a major storage facility.
There are of course a few negatives, such as
various critters that like to live in and around the aircraft which makes removal of parts often very interesting for the crews that do so.
When an aircraft arrives at the storage facility
- All guns, ejection seat charges, and classified hardware are removed, along with clocks and data plates.
- Each aircraft is washed on arrival . The washing is especially important for aircraft that have served aboard aircraft carriers or in tropical locations where they were subject to the corrosive effects of warm, salty air.
- The fuel system is protected by draining it, refilling it with lightweight oil, and then draining it again, leaving a protective oil film.
- The aircraft is sealed from dust, sunlight, and high temperatures. This is done using a variety of materials, ranging from “spraylat” (a white, opaque, high-tech vinyl plastic compound sprayed on the aircraft) to simple garbage bags. With the white coating, interior temperatures will usually remain within 15 degrees of the outside ambient air temperature.
- The plane is towed by a tug to its designated “storage” position.
During our tour we were fortunate to actually see the process in action. This is the first black coat being applied. After this will come the white and final coat. We were told that this has to be done every three years.
Before we actually go on the base
Now for the storage facility itself. The first road we went down was Celebrity Row. Here you find all different kinds of aircraft. Sorry, my memory is not what it once was therefore I can’t really tell you which is which.
Here we have an Air Force Stealth Fighter. Can’t see it? Oh, I forgot you need special glasses to see it!
Acres of C-130’s
Lots and lots of helicopters. Here you can plainly see the final white coating that is applied to aircraft in storage.
Maybe you need an engine.
Sometimes, for instance during the Vietnam ‘war, aircraft are pulled out of storage and put back in active service. More recently in 2015 a B-52 was returned to service after being in storage for seven years.
As a result of the SMART Treaty
Three hundred sixty-five B-52s were flown here. The bombers were stripped of all usable parts, then chopped into five pieces by a 13,000-pound steel blade dropped from a crane. The guillotine sliced four times on each plane, severing the wings and leaving the fuselage in three pieces. The ruined B-52s remained in place for three months so that Russian satellites could confirm that the bombers had been destroyed, after which they were sold for scrap.
Another role of AMARG is to support the program that converts old fighter jets, such as the F-4 Phantom II and today the F-16, into aerial target drones. A most expensive drone if you ask me. But, I guess all those new pilots do need something to shoot at during practice.
More often rather than putting aircraft back into service they are stripped for parts to help maintain active aircraft. This section of the facility is where the nickname Boneyard comes from.
How about that a smiley face.
They also have their own version of a flea market here.
Well, I hope I have given you a new view on old aircraft and the important part this facility plays in keeping our current fleet of fighters, bombers, helicopters, etc. in the air and in good repair. I so enjoy tours like this and the information I gain. I admit it I do indeed have an insatiable curiosity that keeps me always on the lookout for interesting places to visit. If you haven’t been here yet it deserves to be on your bucket list of places to visit.
Our day on The Road of Retirement has drawn to a close. Time to find a few more blankets for later tonight. I already told the team when the temperature goes below thirty degrees I hibernate until it goes back up to seventy. They were not impressed. I guess that mean they expect me to show up for work tomorrow regardless of the temperature. Oh well.
Oh, how did I feel after eating my first Sonoran Hot Dog? Ready for a second!
Thanks for checking in again. We look forward to having you travel with us and we enjoy your comments and questions. Till tomorrow.
These are the voyages of Graybeard and it’s two intrepid travelers. Our continuing mission: to explore as many new states as possible, to seek out new acquaintances and make new friends, to boldly go where we have never been before
See you on down the road!