The Boneyard was originally published as part of a larger story, Atomic Road Trip Through America’s Southwest. If you enjoy reading about scientific and military oddities from the Cold War, click here for more.
The Pima Air & Space Museum is filled with interesting examples of aviation history. It’s easy to spend an entire day at the museum itself, but the real gem is signing up for a guided tour of the nearby 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, also known as “The Boneyard.”
The Boneyard is an active Air Force base; sprawling desert land where decommissioned and out-of-service aircraft are stored indefinitely. There are all kinds of aircraft from all branches of the military, from single-engine training planes to massive B-52 bombers. They’re kept here until they’re either put back into service, used for parts, or finally declared obsolete. This is the largest facility of its kind, and the rows of aircraft seem to stretch on to the horizon. There are oddities you might not expect, such as a fleet of Norwegian Air Force cargo planes (America’s NATO partners also use this base), and a modified 747 equipped with an experimental missile destroying laser that was part of Reagan’s “Star Wars” program.