AMARC is a 2600 acre United States Department of Defense facility at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona. It is also called the "boneyard" for the hundreds of seemingly dead aircraft packed nose to tail across the desert surface. It exists to "process and maintain aerospace vehicles and components in extended storage for all military services." The short version of that is "Storage, Regeneration, Reclamation and Disposal."

At the end of World War II, Davis-Monthan AFB was selected for storage of B-29 and C-47 aircraft. Tucson provided ideal conditions due to low rainfall and low humidity which minimize deterioration and corrosion. The Caliche soil is hard enough that even the largest aircraft may be parked directly on the ground.

There are around 5000 aircraft stored there now, although these are always in flux. AMARC has several storage categories including Long-term Storage (aircraft are preserved every four years, maintaining systems integrity), Storage for Reclamation (systems, parts and components are removed and returned to active service), Flyable Hold (aircraft are maintained in flyable condition for up to 180 days) and Disposal Storage. Historically, about 25 % of AMARC aircraft have gone back into flying status.

Long-term storage at AMARC is something unique. When a plane arrives, workers first remove guns, ejection seat charges and classified equipment. Then the fuel systems are drained and coated with a lightweight, protective oil. Engine intakes, exhausts and other gaps are covered with paper and tape. These and other easily damaged areas are then sealed with black, vinyl plastic "Spraylat". The black Spraylat keeps dust and other contaminants out of the aircraft. Another layer of white Spraylat is put on top to reflect the sunlight. It keeps temperatures inside the aircraft to within 15 degrees of the outside temperature. The underside of the aircraft is left unsealed so that air may circulate and prevent water condensation.

In addition to whole aircraft and parts, AMARC also has stores of production tooling--the parts to make the parts for various aircraft such as the B-1 bomber. Another function of the center is the destruction of B-52s in compliance with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. AMARC also supplies aircraft that are sold to museums and foreign militaries.

Tours of the facility are given Monday through Friday by the Pima Air and Space Museum (conveniently located across the street). Adult admission is less than $10, reservations are highly recommended and people over 16 years old must show photo ID. Visitors are taken by bus from the Museum to the base property and the on-board tour guide, who is usually a retired Air Force pilot, explains the various sights. The tour gives a close-up view of the rows upon rows of military aircraft, each covered with protective white Spraylat. Sometimes visitors get to see a new arrival towed out to the field. Photographs are allowed, so bring your cameras.

This tour is one of my favorite things to do in Tucson. The tour guides are very friendly and willing to answer any questions about aircraft history and usage. Although you don't get to walk around by yourself on the property, you should enjoy "Celebrity Row" and other exhibits. If you are not able to visit in person, you can take the virtual tour on the AMARC webpage.

For more information:
the official site
and a fan site

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