Photos of the Week: Aviation’s Retirement Home

Special facility in Arizona – nicknamed The Boneyard – offers final stop for thousands of planes

By BlueSkyStaff

Published April 11, 2022

Read Time: 2 mins


Tens of thousands of people retire to Arizona’s sunny, dry climate every year. Only Florida attracts more people over the age of 60 annually than the Grand Canyon State.

But did you know that Arizona is the prime destination for retired aircraft?

Aviation enthusiasts are well aware of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base outside Tucson, Arizona – so much so that most just call it by its nickname, “The Boneyard.”

Home to approximately 4,000 aircraft, it is the largest such storage facility on the planet. Originally built to house excess or decommissioned military aircraft, it now includes planes from all branches of the federal government as well as some civilian aircraft.

Turns out the area is perfect for housing old aircraft. The low humidity and rainfall curtail metal corrosion, and the hard desert surface precludes the need to pave the facility. Depending on the status of the aircraft, their placement at the Boneyard could be relatively temporary before being put back into service, or they could be slowly disassembled for spare parts.

For our purposes, there may not be a better place on Earth to get up-close photos of airplanes.

Last month, Jeff Cole of Beaver Falls, Pa., took this shot of American Eagle Embraer EMB-140s lined up along one of the Boneyard’s endless rows of aircraft.

Of course, planes aren’t really meant to sit still on the ground, even if the sheer number of them in Tucson inspires awe. So we’ll pass along this palate-cleanser of a photo from Bob Topich, who took this nighttime shot of Orlando from his Southwest flight just last week.

The City Beautiful, indeed. Thanks, Jeff and Bob!

Our readers continue to pass along shots of unique aircraft, international airports, historical events, gorgeous views and even family vacation photos for this feature. We love them! Keep them coming—you can click here for submission guidelines.

A view from the wing at night aboard a Southwest Boeing 737 from Orlando. (Photo submitted by Bob Topich)

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