Pima Air Museum, The Boneyard. Tucson, AZ

Davis-Monthan Airforce Base is located in the city limits of Tucson.  Of course out west city limits seem to extend 30 or 40 miles outside of what one would consider the end of town. Probably has to do with water.

It is desert here, higher altitude, about 2000 ft, dry, sunny, pleasant in the winter, really hot in the summer.  And the soil here is hard.  There is a name for it but it is just hard.  Hard enough that they can move aircraft around without any pavement and when it rains, the aircraft don’t sink.
Davis-Monthan Airforce Base is the home of the Airforce’s 355th Fighter Wing which flies A-10 Warthogs. It is also their primary pilot traing center for this aircraft.  The A-10 is a close ground support fighter plane.  It carries missles, bombs and it’s claim to fame, a 7 barrel Gattling gun like cannon which can fire 4,500 1-1/4″ depleted uranium cannon shells per minute.  They are particularly effective at blowing up tanks and they have earned the nickname Tank Busters.
They are very tough aircrft and are a welcome sight to troops when they need one.
The other function at the D-M Airforce Base is the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneragtion Group (AMARG) usually called the Boneyard. This is the primary storage, rehab, reclamation and disposal facitlity for all of the US Armed Services as well as many foreign counties.  This is where that hard dirt comes into play.  There are about 3,800 aircraft of every type here.  They have four storage classes from Ready-to-Fly on very short notice, to Ready-to-Fly in a month or so, to never going to fly again but good for parts and no useful parts left, waiting for disposal.

The first two types are prepared for storage and all openings are covered with a spray on latex mask to keep out sun, water, dust, bugs and everything else.  The very short notice ready to fly means a matter of days.  Storage fluids are flushed and refilled with whatever needs to be there, electronics are energized and tested, the covers are removed and the planes are tested and certified for flight.

There are only three Airforce officers that work there.  Everyone of the 550 other folks are civilian contractors.  Orders come from all over for this part or another and if they aren’t already in inventory they go out and take one off a waiting airplane, crate it up and ahip it out.  When the planes are ready for disposal they are sold as scrap at auction.  Then the airplanes are cut up and run through a shredder and pieces not bigger than a dollar bill are loaded into containers for the scrap buyer to haul away.  When they are done there is nothing left.  More planes fly in.

For every dollar of expenditure that all of this operation costs, the US government gets $11 in revenue back.  But of course we paid hundreds of billions of dollars for the aircraft sittimg there when they were new.

To see the boneyard you have to go to the Pima Air Museum and buy a ticket for the Boneyard Bus Tour.  The Pima Air Museum has one or more of just about every aircraft used by the US after WWII and many from WWII.  The WWII aircraft are stored inside. Most of the post WWII aircrafts are outside, there are hundreds of them.  A tram tour lasting about 75 minutes takes you around to see most of them. And then you can walk back to see them close up.
This Army observation plane is a Grumman OV-1C Mohawk used from 1953-1996.  I liked the way it looked, big bug eye windows.  It was probably expensive to fly and maintain but it would make quite a statement as a privately owned plane.  I have never seen one at Oshkosh.
This is another plane we don’t see very often. Out of the clear blue of the western sky comes Sky King in his Cessna Bobcat.  Some of you might remember this was the plane flown by Sky King and Penny in the first 40 of that shows 72 episodes. These were also known as the Bamboo Bomber.  Probably because they were made with wooden framing.  Sky King’s plane was retired when wood rot was discovered.

There were many planes here including an SR71 Blackbird spy plane, the Airforce 1 plane used by LBJ and a Constellation used by Eisenhower.  There was a smaller private jet also used by LBJ and Lady Bird to fly to the short runway at their ranch.  LBJ called it Air Force 1/2. There were all types of helicopters, old tankers, every type of B-52 bombers and all of its predecessors.  We have been to many aircraft museums and beyond the number of planes here the number of different types of planes that we have never seen anywhere else was exceptional.

The bus trip trhough the Boneyard was interesting but everything was over there as the bus went by. Lots of planes, row after row.  Many half disassembled.  Pretty odd to see an airplane missing one wing propped up a wooden structure.  Or a missing landing gear or a missing rudder.

There is another commercial aircraft boneyard north of Tucson where big white older passenger jets are lined up for miles.

So, that’s enough for this post.  Internet access where we are is better in the morning, worse in the afternoon and usually pretty slow.

More later.

Roger and Susan


We got to the Diamond J RV park after hours so we stayed in the dry camp area (no hookups) overnight.  We weren’t there more than 5 minutes when a guy on a three wheeled tricycle-like bike with a hand crank mechanism for propelling it showed up.  He was over a couple rows with his Foretravel coach, a 40′, 2000, single slide. His name was Frank and his wife’s name was Susan and they were full timing with a home base in Maine.  One row away was a 1992 Foretravel GranVilla that had been restored at the factory including a full body paint job in 2009.  They were Kent and Peggy mostly full timing from Oklahoma.

The park office opened on Sunday morning about 11 AM so we checked in and moved to a new spot about four down the row from Kent and Peggy.  This campground is on the SW outskirts of the Tucson area. There is a ridge of mountains between where we were and Tucson proper so we were away from the city lights, traffic and other distractions.  The park backs uo to the Tucson County Mountain Park.  The park has its own campground and many miles of trails that are open to hikers and bikers and some to horseback.

This area is where the Saguaro cactus grows.  In many areas they are like a forest. They are big things, some 20-24″ in diameter and 20′ or more tall.  I’ve never quite figured out why they have arms the way they do.  Some have one. Some have many. Some have arms on arms. I suppose it is like why trees have branches the way they do. Don’t over think it or your head will hurt.
So off we went hiking and biking on the trails.  Our maps were pretty minimal so it was good that there were a few trail signs, mostly painted on small rocks near intersections.
Susan brought her trusty hiking pole which would double as a snake defense tool or for fighting off the javelinas. Thankfully we saw no snakes here, but rabbits and birds.  Javelinas were seen elsewhere. It was late in the day, the clouds were gathering, we could see rain in the distance and felt a few drops ourselves on the way pack to the campground.
Clouds make sunsets more spectacular and every night we were there as the sun went down it was pretty amazing.
The next day we were heading for the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum.  This museum is inside the Tucson County Mountain Park only six miles or so from our campground.  A couple miles beyond that is the Saguaro National Park where we stopped first for a trip to the Visitor’s Center to pick up maps, a recommendation for hiking and a stroll through the nearby cactii gardens where everything was labeled. And then back to the Desert Museum.

The Desert Museum is a combination of zoo and museum.  There was several exhibits about geology and the history of the people in the area.  There was a large aquarium, a hummingbird walk through aviary, a walk through butterfly enclosure, several eating spots, long walks through plants of the desert, a cave to go through which highlighted the geological and natural history of the many caves in the area.  And finally there were animal enclosures that showed many of the animals, snakes, tortoises, scorpions and birds found in the desert.

There was a Mexican gray wolf, mountain lions, a bobcat and more.

When the desert begins bloomomg it is spectacular. Everything blooms with flowers.  These were very delicate looking flowers on a very tough thorny bush.

Yellow flowers seemed common.  The saguaro get white flowers on the ends of thier arms and have a red fleshy fruit that is harvested to make wine and jams by the local native american tribal people.

Ocotillio are tall and slender with small leaves and big thorns.  They have red flowers in the tips of the stalk when they bloom.  

Then there are the flat prickly pear cactus and in the bottom right a very interesting cactus whose new growth looks like fruit but the older growth has very sharp barbed spines.  Pieces break off to start new plants.  They are called jumping cactus because they seem to jump at you and embed themselves into your fingers.  At least that is what happened to me.  It took 10 minutes to get the small piece off of me and pull all of the quills out.  I had to use a pliers.

They had a bird display where desert birds were shown close up.
Barn owls live almost everywhere, even in the desert.  And there were hawks as well.

The birds flew very close to us, almost skimming our hair.

We went to the Desert Museum with Kent and Peggy, Ken and Dori and Carol, all Foretravel owners.  After we went to Carol and her husband Jeff’s house for cool drinks.  There we saw coyotes and Javelinas up close. Javelinas look sort of like pigs but they are peccaries. They have big sharp tusks and travel in groups and can be pretty aggressive.  They are pretty good size and stink.
When we got back to the Diamond J there was a new neighbor.

It was a 2003, 40′ GranVilla.  It is unique because it is the only one ever built with a tag axle (second rear axle) and it is the last one ever built. It belonged to Ed from California who drove over to see his friend who was there in a SOB (some other brand).

The next day we were off to the Davis Monthan Airforce Base where there is a museum of old planes and the BoneYard where all of the US services and many from other countries store old planes, lots of old planes.  Susan went with, bless her heart for putting up with another airplane museum.
More later.
Roger and Susan