The Boneyard - Arizona Desert sites (April 1988)

Boneyard Arizona Desert

Phoenix AZ
Phoenix Arizona is the capital and largest city of the U.S. state of Arizona, as well as the fifth most populous city in the United States. Phoenix is home to 1,567,924 residents, and is the anchor of the Phoenix metropolitan area (also known as The Valley of the Sun), the 12th largest metro area by population in the United States with 4,281,899 residents. In addition, Phoenix is the county seat of Maricopa County, and is one of the largest cities in the United States by land area. Phoenix was incorporated as a city in 1881 after being founded in 1868 near the Salt River, near its confluence with the Gila River. The city eventually became a major transportation hub in North America and a main transportation, financial, industrial, cultural and economic center of the Southwestern United States. The city has a notable and famous political culture and has been home to numerous influential American politicians and other dignitaries, including Barry Goldwater, William Rehnquist, John McCain, Janet Napolitano, Carl Hayden, and Sandra Day O'Connor. Residents of the city are known as Phoenicians. Located in the northeastern reaches of the Sonoran Desert, Phoenix has the hottest climate of any major city in the United States. The average high temperatures are over 100°F 40°C for three months out of the year, and have spiked over 120°F 50°C on occasion
Boneyard Arizona Desert

Boneyard Arizona Desert

Boneyard Arizona Desert

Tucson AZ
Tucson is a city in and the county seat of Pima County, Arizona, United States, located 118 miles (188 km) southeast of Phoenix and 60 miles (98 km) north of the U.S.-Mexico border. As of July 1, 2006, a Census Bureau estimate puts the city's population at 541,811, with a metropolitan area population at 1,023,320 as of July 1, 2008. In 2005, Tucson ranked as the 32nd largest city and 52nd largest metropolitan area in the United States. It is the largest city in southern Arizona and the second largest in the state. Tucson is home to the University of Arizona.
Major incorporated suburbs of Tucson include Oro Valley and Marana northwest of the city, Sahuarita south of the city, and South Tucson in an enclave south of downtown. Communities in the vicinity of Tucson (some within or overlapping the city limits) include Casas Adobes, Catalina, Catalina Foothills, Flowing Wells, Green Valley, Tanque Verde, New Pascua, Vail and Benson.
The English name Tucson derives from the Spanish name of the city, Tucsón which was borrowed from the O'odham name Cuk Ṣon , meaning “(at the) base of the black”, a reference to an adjacent volcanic mountain. Tucson is sometimes referred to as "The Old Pueblo".

The city’'s elevation is 2,389 ft (728 m) above sea level. Tucson is situated on an alluvial plain in the Sonoran desert, surrounded by five minor ranges of mountains: the Santa Catalina Mountains and the Tortolita Mountains to the north, the Santa Rita Mountains to the south, the Rincon Mountains to the east, and the Tucson Mountains to the west. The high point of the Santa Catalina Mountains is 9,157-foot (2,791 m) Mount Lemmon, the southernmost ski destination in the continental U.S., while the Tucson Mountains include 4,687-foot (1,429 m) Wasson Peak. A view of Tucson from Windy Point, at elevation 6,580 feet (2,010 m) on Mt. Lemmon Tucson is noted for its abundant saguaros that, on rare occasions, are covered with light snow The city is located on the Santa Cruz River, formerly a perennial river but now a dry river bed for much of the year (called a "wash" locally) that floods during significant seasonal rains. The Santa Cruz becomes a subterranean stream for part of the year.

Tucson is located along Interstate 10, which runs through Phoenix toward Santa Monica, California in the northwest, and through El Paso, Texas, and New Orleans, Louisiana, toward Jacksonville, Florida in the east. I-19 runs south from Tucson toward Nogales and the U.S.-Mexico border. I-19 is the only Interstate highway that uses “kilometer posts” instead of “mileposts”, although the speed limits are marked in miles per hour instead of kilometers per hour.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


During April 1988 I made a trip to Arizona in search of the numerous deserts bone-yards and aircraft storage facilities. My TWA B747 flight took me from the cold Amsterdam Schiphol airport to New York JFK and then onwards with a TWA L1011 Tristar towards Phoenix Arizona. This was a low budget trip which I had planned and included a rent-a-wreck automobile which was within my budget and had no air-conditioning. To save money I spend several nights in the car.

I only spend a short time at Phoenix – Sky harbor airport and after a couple of hours I was on my way to Mesa Falcon field which was to the East of Phoenix. Mesa was the home of Air Response fleet of Douglas DC-4 tankers and Harpoon tankers. During my visit they were inactive and I believe already stored. Next door March Aviation fleet of Grumman S2F Trackers was in much better shape. Some were being converted to air tankers.

Boneyard Arizona Desert

Boneyard Arizona Desert

Boneyard Arizona Desert

Next was a visit to Chandler Memorial field on the Gila River Indian reservation. The field was located south of Mesa on highway 10. At first it was hard to find, the road leading up to the gravel strips was not sign posted. Chandler was home of two remarkable air-tanker operations: Biegert Aviation and T & G Aviation. As I drove up the dusty gravel road, which also acted as an aircraft taxi way I was captivated by the large numbers of Douglas DC-4’s, Harpoons and Douglas DC-7C tankers.

Still driving South on highway 10 towards Tucson I stopped at the Evergreen Air Center facilities for a guided tour around the ramps and storage area. Prior to my visit to Arizona I had written Mr. AE (Schnozz) Mayer, who heads the PR department requesting a photo-tour. I received a nice letter from him that I was welcome and report in at the gate. I remember having an excellent tour. He drove me around in his air-conditioned pick-up tour and asked for direction to the planes. At the time I collected an interesting article on Mr Schnozz and the Evergreen facility, which I reproduced below.


By Torn Mangold – Airport magazine 1988

Boneyard Arizona Desert

Thirty miles North West of Tucson, Arizona, on the edge of the brittle Sonora Desert, is the place where old aircraft go to die. Like the legendary elephants' graveyard in Africa, this final sanctuary for once-proud mechanical mammoths is littered with the bleached corpses of those which just managed to fly on their own to their final resting ground. Jack-rabbits scuttle insolently from shade to shade of old 707s, rattlers doze beneath the burning aluminium of partially disembowelled DC8s. At night, when the temperature still drops to freezing, coyotes pad softly between the huge hulks. Around mid-day, when the mercury touches the nineties, the animals vanish and the dealers, brokers and plane spotters take over.

This is Evergreen Air Center at Pinal Air Park, the world's largest aircraft storage and maintenance centre. It is not just a graveyard for planes; it is also a deposit bank for airworthy planes to be stored, like cocoa futures, waiting for market prices to rise and profits to be skimmed. Aircraft are commodities too. Also the centre is, increasingly, a place where 400 trained specialists are around to service, maintain, reconfigure or just tart up passenger jets for new functions. Roughly speaking, when a plane lands at Pinal, if it turns right off the single runway it is heading for the graveyard or the deposit bank, but if it turns left, it is due to be caressed, pampered and loved back into the air again.


Current pride of place on the maintenance tarmac is held by two American Airlines Boeing 747 SPs, whose interiors are being converted into what should become one of the more luxurious commercial seating arrangements in flight today. The SPs are to inaugurate American's brand new Dallas/Fort Worth-Tokyo route. Each Boeing will have only 185 seats, 29 in First Class, 78 in Business and only 78 in Economy. There will be two standing bars on the plane. This unusual seating configuration reflects the hard reality of a long (15-hour) non-stop flight and the demands of the Japanese for business-class flying. It also acknowledges the growing desire of Western businessmen for a 'Pullman' type journey on a long night flight, as opposed to sitting cramped and jet-lagged in an upright position all night. But the big SPs are only two out of some 80 planes parked in the 2080 acres of desert at Pinal, a location where temperature and humidity combine to create an almost pollution-and rust-free atmosphere for the storage of planes, if necessary, for decades.

Consequently, the Pinal Air Park is, although wholly functional, also a bit of a de facto museum as well as a plane spotter's paradise. Special tour groups, particularly from England, make constant pilgrimages to see the Leviathans. If they're lucky, they'll spot an interesting human too: A E 'Schnozz' Meyer, legendary 'customer service representative' at the Evergreen Air Center. Evergreen is still nice enough to be a public relations amateur, so Schnozz, if he's around, will pop you in his battered pick-up for a free ride round the field, plus a potted history of each plane. Schnozz (oddly named for a man with an ordinary-sized nose) loves his nick-name so much he will no longer reveal his true first name, so Schnozz it is on his visiting card and on the specially made key-rings and ballpoints he gives to plane gapers like me.

First he explained the mechanics of storing a plane in the desert. 'You can't just leave it there,' he pointed out, 'it needs a bit of special treatment, like a car.' In fact, the plane windows are sprayed with a rubberised solution (easy to peel off) which protects the glass and the plane's interior from the scorching sun. Next the plane's water and oil systems are thoroughly drained, the engines are mothballed, and all open vents are then sealed with aluminium foil carefully taped on. The engine air intakes are stuffed with huge bags of silicon gel (the kind you leave in your camera box) to absorb any damp. Finally, because jet fuel can promote bacteria growth, the empty tanks are treated with a special liquid to prevent this.


The parking fee at Pinal varies from a minimum of £230 a month to a maximum of £500. These charges can run up alarmingly, as Schnozz demonstrated when he rode me over to the saggy corpse of an old Fairchild F27 which had been parked in the same position, and paid for, for an astonishing 17 years. By my calculations the owner (Schnozz would not reveal who) has paid a whopping £49,920 plane parking bill — and the meter's still ticking.

Several of the giant passenger jets at Pinal have been left by banks or aircraft brokers waiting for the market to come right before they sell. The second-hand aircraft market is a volatile one at the best of times, and many of the planes awaiting sale don't look like good investments. Some are old-fashioned gas guzzlers, hopelessly uneconomic by the standards of today's tight margins in passenger flying; others have failed to meet new noise requirements and will need expensive hush-kitting (silencing) before they can fly commercially once more.

Two former Air New Zealand DC-8s have been accumulating seven years of parking fees waiting for a break in the market. Similarly, a South African 707 waits patiently for a buyer. The market for these planes is currently down, but speculators did recently make a killing on a batch of old Convair 580s. The market for smallish turbo-props has revived with deregulation, and the group that invested in the 580s made a 300 per cent profit. Planes belonging to famous people ' I asked Schnozz. 'You must have handled a few. Well,' he sighed, many years ago we had President Amin's C-130 here, painted in the colours of Ugandan Airways.

He wanted a conversion into a troop carrier. I don't know why. The plane flew in and the press went crazy trying to get pictures and interviews. I got plenty of tape and paper to try to disguise the plane from the photographers. All hell was breaking loose and then suddenly one night, carloads of FBI agents and customs and excise men arrived to shake the plane down. We never did finish that conversion.' Schnozz admits the Bee Gees had their personal 727 serviced at Pinal, as did a clutch of (unnamed) sheikhs who wanted the interior gold-plated fittings of their flying palaces polished at the same time as the maintenance men got on with their work. Today, there are less exotic but still odd craft around Pinal.

There's a military camouflaged private C-130, seized by a bank for non-payment of debt, waiting forlornly for a buyer (anyone want to buy a second-hand C-130? Just apply to Schnozz). There are nine strange Albatross seaplanes, parked like a file of ugly ducklings, also seeking purchasers. The small amphibious planes had once been operated by the U S coastguard service in the Fifties and were then sold to Resorts International, the huge American entertainment and casino Corporation. The plan had been to ferry punters between Miami (where gambling is illegal) to the Bahamas (where Resorts own the legal casino). But this exotic idea didn't work.

Boneyard Arizona Desert

Not everything on the 'graveyard' side of the Air Park is gloomy. Schnozz showed me two De Havilland Vampire trainer jets that must have seen original service with the RAF after the war. Their unique wooden airframes remain unharmed in the desert atmosphere even though the silver paint has begun to peel. The planes had belonged to a real estate broker who bought them as an investment. Recently they were sold to a wealthy Californian flying buff for £40,000. He will have them refurbished and then they'll fly once again.

Boneyard Arizona Desert

But for some of the oldies, there will come a time when the parking fees are too great, and Evergreen will be instructed to move their huge dismantling cranes over to the broken hulks to administer the final, sad, coup de grace. There is nothing dignified about the death of a plane and no one will wish to see it happen. But it will. Then the fat-cat scrap dealers around Tucson will gorge on endless helpings of aluminium sold to them in job lots. Just like the vultures at the elephant's graveyard, someone has to do it. There is one distant hope for the doomed jets at Pinal. If spectator demand were to reach the level at which Evergreen could actually organise paying tours, then it might be worth keeping the old planes around. Trouble is, Schnozz would not remain Schnozz if he were paid to organise tours. Like the planes he loves, he's been around Pinal for ever. What he does, he does for pleasure.

Boneyard Arizona Desert

Boneyard Arizona Desert


Boneyard Arizona Desert


There are many reasons why the Military Aircraft Disposition Centre at Davis Monthan AFB (MASDC) is situated in Arizona. The warm, dry climate is the biggest factor, with low humidity of 10-20% and an alkaline soil. These factors create very little corrosion and a/c can be stored for many years without harm. Additionally the hard desert surface is the perfect place to store a/c without concrete or metal matting. Several Scrapyards sprang up around the MASDC base and Tucson area. Allied Aircraft Sales Inc. owned the largest yards. Situated by the South Perimeter road fence of MASDC on the South Wilmot road, they specialized in the sale of a/c and parts, plus the removal and storage of a/c from MASDC. Allied actually owned two yards close together, one of them was famously known as Bobs Airpark. At the time of my visit there were numerous Grumman HU-16 Albatross lying around.
Additionally I found various transports including the C-54 Skymaster, C-117s, C-131s and C-118s Liftmasters.


Between the two Allied compounds lay another Scrapyard which was owned by Time Aviation. Further down the road I came across Desert Air Parts Inc. situated next to the railway line and didn’t have a fence around the compound. Deserts offered a wide range of services including the sale of a/c and a/c parts. During my walk about over the Desert yard I came across a sad looking Millard Air Douglas C-54 Skymaster of Canada. I had no idea why it was there? Further inventory was a mix of small fighters, helicopters, a bunch of T-29s Convairs, C-117s Super Dakota’s and C-118s.
Along the perimeter of MASDC past the Pima Air Museum I came across to Dross Metals Scrapyard.
Its compound was famous for the storage of the many Boeing KC-97L Stratotankers.


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