Plane of the Week #9: 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group

This week’s plane place of the week is the Boneyard.

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The 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, often called The Boneyard, is a United States Air Force aircraft and missile storage and maintenance facility in Tucson, Arizona, located on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. AMARG was previously Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center, AMARC, the Military Aircraft Storage and Disposal Center, MASDC, and started life after World War II as the 3040th Aircraft Storage Group.

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The Boneyard takes care of more than 4,400 aircraft, which makes it the largest aircraft storage and preservation facility in the world. An Air Force Material Command unit, the group is under the command of the 309th Maintenance Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. AMARG was originally meant to store excess Department of Defense and Coast Guard aircraft, but has in recent years been designated the sole repository of out-of-service aircraft from all branches of the US government.

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There are four categories of storage for planes at AMARG:

Long Term – Aircraft are kept intact for future use
Parts Reclamation – Aircraft are kept, picked apart and used for spare parts
Flying Hold – Aircraft are kept intact for shorter stays than Long Term
Excess of DoD needs – Aircraft are sold off whole or in parts
AMARG employs 550 people, almost all civilians. The 2,600 acres facility is adjacent to the base. For every $1 the federal government spends operating the facility, it saves or produces $11 from harvesting spare parts and selling off inventory. Congressional oversight determines what equipment may be sold to which customer.

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An aircraft going into storage undergoes the following treatments:

All guns, ejection seat charges, and classified hardware are removed.
The fuel system is protected by draining it, refilling it with lightweight oil, and then draining it again. This leaves a protective oil film.
The aircraft is sealed from dust, sunlight, and high temperatures. This is done using a variety of materials, ranging from a high tech vinyl plastic compound, called spraylat after its producer the Spraylat Corporation, of an opaque white color sprayed on the aircraft, similar to garbage bags. The plane is then towed by a tug to its designated “storage” position.
The Group annually in-processes an undisclosed number of aircraft for storage and out-processes a number of aircraft for return to the active service, either repainted and sold to friendly foreign governments, recycled as target or remotely controlled drones or rebuilt as civilian cargo, transport, and/or utility planes. There is much scrutiny over who can buy what kinds of parts. At times, these sales are canceled. The Air Force for example reclaimed several F-16s from the Boneyard for the Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor Courses which were originally meant to be sold to Pakistan, but never delivered due to an early-90’s embargo.

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Next week: the famous Nazi jet.

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Plane of the Week #9: 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group

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