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The Boneyard: Where Planes Go to Die?

The Boneyard: Where Planes Go to Die?


Plane boneyards, also known as aircraft graveyards, are massive landscapes littered with once-mighty planes that are now mere skeletons of their past. But this process is of utmost importance to the aviation industry. 


Abandoned military aircraft at Davis Monthan Air Force Base | Photo: Visit Tuscon


Let's Dive into The History


We must travel back to 1946, to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, to learn about these famous boneyards. After World War II, the first official boneyard, a surplus of military aircraft, needed a resting place. More than 600 B-29 Superfortresses and 200 C-47 Skytrains were stored at Davis-Monthan. While some were preserved and sent into action during the Korean War, others unfortunately didn't have the same fate, being scraped for parts. 


Photo: AeroXplorer | Peter Cuthbert


Davis-Monthan remains one of the biggest yards, housing over 4,400 retired aircraft. Over the decades, other boneyards sprouted up in dry, remote locations, like the Mojave Air & Space Port in California and the Alice Springs Airport in Australia, each with its unique collection of aircraft.




What are they Actually?


While they sound like a place for planes to rest and never return, they play a crucial role in the aviation industry. 




Airlines and manufacturers often store aircraft in "boneyards" when not currently used. This allows for cost-effective storage if the planes must be reintroduced into service. 


Abandoned aircraft in Australia | Photo: Stefan Drury




While the plane itself might not fly again, its spirit definitely will. These retired planes have still-usable parts, landing gears, engines, avionics, and many more. Technicians disassemble these planes, trying to salvage as much as they can. This provides a great way to maintain still-active airplanes and keep them flying longer. 




A little joke for the crowd. "What do you call a plane that can't fly anymore? Grounded." 


Photo: AeroXplorer | Cooper Palubeski


A Legacy That Endures


While plane boneyards may seem like places where dreams go to die, they are also testaments to human inventiveness and the enduring spirit of aviation. These silent giants remind us of their incredible journeys and their impact on the world. And who knows, some of these planes may yet take to the skies again, carrying new dreams and adventures into the blue.


Abandoned aircraft in Tuscon, Arizona | Photo: Library of Congress


So next time you see a picture of a plane boneyard, remember it's not just a graveyard. It's a place where history sleeps, resources are recycled, and dreams sometimes get a second chance to take flight.




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Franco Grobler
Passionate aviation enthusiast from South Africa dedicated to bringing you articles on the latest aviation news, I aim to inspire and inform. I am set on embarking pilot training in 2024 to soar to new heights in the aviation world.

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