Postcard from... Tucson


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The Independent Online

At 248ft long and with a wingspan almost as wide, a single C-5 Galaxy military cargo jet is a seriously big beast. Passing rows and rows of them, parked side by side, is like stumbling across a pod of blue whales on a fishing trip.

The Galaxies are just one of many impressive sights to be seen at the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, an aircraft storage facility better known as “The Boneyard”.

With well over 4,000 aircraft, big and small, it is the largest such storage facility in the world. And while visitors are not permitted to wander around the planes at will, you can get a pretty good look at them on the bus tour put on by the neighbouring Pima Air and Space Museum.

Why Tucson? First, the warm, dry air discourages rust. Secondly, the planes can sit for years on the hard desert soil without needing concrete and the maintenance that comes with it. No surprise, then, that the world’s largest civilian plane boneyard, the Pinal Airpark, is also nearby.

The AMARG inventory features not just US Air Force planes, but also those from other services: the US Army, Navy, Coastguard, Forestry Service – even NASA. Some date back as far as the 1950s.