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AMARG: America's Military Aircraft Boneyard - A Photo Scrapbook Paperback – 15 Oct 2012
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Publishers Crecy from the UK have furnished us with an excellent book this month - "AMARG America's Military Aircraft Boneyard". This one hundred and fourty-four page A4 book is a detailed pictorial of the many many aircraft put out to storage in "The Boneyard " or the "Aerospace Maintenance And Regeneration Group" located in Tucson Arizona.
I was told by my dad when I was young when I saw pictures of all of these aircraft "wasted" on the deserts sands of Arizona that they were extra - "wow" I thought "maybe I can get one for myself when I was older?" When I saw this book it immediately brought me back to those thoughts, so many aircraft sitting on one patch of ground - so many stories - there is rich material to be mined by the authors here - who by the way did a great job, as did the many photographers who contributed here. Each chapter is started with some pictures and a few pages of text describing each of the parts of the AMARG's operations - through an introduction and then the theory behind the bone yard and the story of its inception. Through to the Storage and disposal, and then the many different aircraft types, then the documentation of the storage methods and the eventual scrapping of 75% of aircraft that arrive here. You are almost rooting for an aircraft you like to be one of the 25% that fly back out.
This massive base of over four thousand aircraft was set up to store surplus combat aircraft after the cessation of hostilities in World war Two. Aircraft of all types of the inventories of the American armed forces are stored here - and even some from foreign countries that have past their used by date. This base is actually a very useful branch of the armed forces, not just a place for aircraft to go to "die". As the AMARG title says, it's a maintenance and aerospace regeneration facility. When the armed forces need spares, to conduct tests and experiments or even to maintain and return aircraft for the front line service, this is what the base does so well.
The first chapter describes the various bases set up by all of the branches of the armed forces at the end of the second world war. There was 30,000 aircraft left at the end of the second world war, and the government wanted to know what to do with them. They had learned the hard way by the selloff of spare aircraft at the end of the first world war nearly killed of the American Aerospace industry as there was no need for new aircraft. Where as in Europe the aerospace industry flourished and advanced rapidly in the 20's and 30's with the need for new aircraft, by the start of the second world war the Americans were severely lacking in airpower and technology. One thing they did have though was the production and research capacities to compete with the rest of the world combined. America soon matched, then overtook by several times, the aircraft numbers of the rest of the counties of the western world.
So at the end of hostilities to avoid the ruin of the home-grown aviation industry as they did previously , large storage yards were set up for all of the branches of the armed forces, and research was carried out to try and ascertain how to make the most out of all of these aircraft and the spares, precious metal(and fuel) that they contained. A B-24 bomber "Herkimer" was stripped of parts and the parts were then offered to customers in the aviation and commercial industries. No one wanted these parts however, as they would rather the guarantee of a working part which came with a newly fabricated piece of equipment.
This left the armed forces in a quandary. In 1947 the Airforce used Davis Monthan Army Air Force field in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona to temporarily store their surplus aircraft. This base was chosen as it had the perfect weather for storage of aircraft due to the low humidity of the desert which in WW2 made it an ideal base for flight training for its crews. Aircraft were sealed from the elements and drained of fuel and the airframes put into a state of future readiness for potential further use. There is a picture essay and a great description on each of the pictures of how this was achieved, this is revealing and fascinating, especially when all you can think of is how great it would be to still have these aircraft flying now. Tests were conducted on these first birds sealed up and it was found after nine months in storage the airframes and internals survived surprisingly untouched.
In 1948 with the start of the Korean War one hundred B-29's stored were brought back out of storage into the front line service to help ease the strain on the then existing bomber fleet. The base was already proving its worth, and with the hundreds of aircraft kept in the air by the reclamation of spares from the base the US armed forces were finally reaping the rewards of the effort of conserving these beasts.
In 1965 the US Navy, who had a base similar the Airforce 150 miles north in Litchfield Park in Arizona amalgamated their resources with Davis-Monthan to create the super base that we know today. The Navy, marines, army and coast guard all joined together with the Airforce on the one facility to save in efficiency. Navy aircraft are shown in some of the pictures as well as army helicopters and experiments that were conducted to help the armed forces in many other areas like aircraft maintenance and repair, as well as battle damage testing and feasibility tests.
There are several great pictures in this section and these rest of the book, I liked some of the aerial pictures, as you could really get the scope and perspective of the base with them. I had great fun with a magnifying glass picking out all the different aircraft types from above!
The second chapter describes the storage and disposal of the aircraft at the base. How airframes are first logged, de-armed and explosive devices such as ejector seats removed, the internal systems inventoried and classified material removed, fuel systems drained and the engines preserved, hydraulics drained and the airframes sprayed with anti corrosional materials, then sealed against the elements. The upper surfaces intakes and the canopies are all sealed, while the undersides are not - as to keep the aircraft's interior within an average of about 20 degrees of the outside conditions. The book describes that 25% of aircraft leave on their own power (back into service of museums) and the other 75% go out on a truck (smeltered).
There are some excellent pictures of some exotic aircraft like the super guppy, Russian fighters, rare transports and even the US navy's last blimp that they used. Amarg plays an important part in the maintenance of the Current T-38 Talon trainer fleet and the SLEP (Service Life Extension Program) for the A-10 tank buster, and this chapter explains how this is achieved. It also has many pictures of the mighty F-4 Phantom and its conversion into drones. As well as the mooting of the replacements of these Phantoms by F-16's. ( actually the first QF-16have been brought into service just recently)
The next chapter "Along the Storage Rows" goes some way into explaining the different types of aircraft on display now at the base. How they are all stored and organised, and how they can be easily found and identified as to what their fate is by the several marks put onto aircraft after each of the storage processes are carried out. Also how tests are carried out with things like setting off explosives inside aircraft to test which are the best ways to protect passengers from terrorism, something that you never really would think of. This chapter alone has a good 50- odd pages packed with pictures and text to describe some of the aircraft and their individual eccentricities, as well as some touching notes left by their aircrews including autographs and poetry and well wishes. A really touching part of the book.
"Scrapping the Big Fleets" in the last main part of the book, describes the storage of the bigger aircraft, the transports bombers, tankers and passenger aircraft that are stored and eventually taken apart at Davis-Monthan. It tells of the first major aircraft recycling efforts, planes like the B-36 Peacemaker bombers. Of the F-84 Thunderjets that to save space were stacked five high to await the smelter. Through to the B-47, KC-97, B-52 and Americas first double supersonic bomber the B-58 hustler were all housed here, most have shared the same fate. Particularly sad (for me anyway) is the photo essays and text that show the aircraft right outside the Smelters, which are burning away. Oww man if I had some money!!!
Large sections on all of the Major types in the armed forces are shown, the C-141 Starlifter, through to the massive C-5 Galaxy and the KC 135s (and their civilian airliner counterparts Boeing 707's) are all shown. The START treaty with the soviet union is discussed, how the US is, in conjunction with the Russians, mutually scrapping its nuclear arsenal, there are great pictures of parked B-52's awaiting and being chopped up by the massive 13,000 pound crane. The Americans have to leave the aircraft chopped up in one place for 90 days to show proof to the Russian satellites that they are keeping their end of the bargain. AMARG even had to get permission from the Russians to use a finer plasma saw to cut the aircraft to pieces, as they could salvage more by using this almost surgical method. Lastly the B-1 Swing wing bombers are shown, on the ground - they look like they should be in the air.
This book pulls off a little coup at the end, it has for starters, a list of all of the current aircraft stored at AMARG, as of 2009. What a list! Most Airforces would love this roster. There is also a detailed description as to how to join one of the tours that take place on the base - That's It - I'm going!!!
This book is about 70% pictures 30% text. Usually this isn't good - BUT the text in this book I so informative and interesting the book really is a great read that you can come back to again and again.
So what do we think?
The only way to make this book better is to make it a hardcover and do "arty" shots - which I don't really want !!
It's a great book well worth the cover price - something you can read again and again, and a great way to inspire youngsters about aviation.
A great book
Overall 9.5/10 --Adam Norenberg - scaleplasticandrail.com
From the Back Cover
Just hearing the word "boneyard" evokes vivid images of mortality's wrath. For aircraft, however, arriving at this nation's official military boneyard may not necessarily mean they've reached the end of the line. The 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) located adjacent to Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona, is the official repository for all of America's military aircraft that attain the end of their useful life. Some go into long- or short-term storage while others serve as donors for valuable spare parts harvested for use in other, newer examples of the type. Some meet their inevitable end under the scrapper's torch or guillotine. Whatever their purpose when arriving at AMARG, these aircraft are veritable time capsules representing what they looked like in their original operational state. Authors Nicholas A. Veronico and Ron Strong bring the AMARG story to life in this beautifully crafted and well-researched book, with historic archival images coupled with their own modern photographs. From the B-29 Enola Gay of World War II fame to modern jet fighters and bombers, the airplanes of AMARG are shown in vivid detail. You will see not only the step-by-step process of sealing and preserving aircraft in the arid heat of the Sonoran Desert, but appendices that show the entire inventory of all 4,288 airplanes currently at AMARG listed by aircraft type.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
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on 23 March 2013
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This is a competent book for the style - paperback, mainly picture book. The printing and picture quality is good, and I liked the mix of both recent photos and historic photos showing the different fleets and aircraft that have been held at AMARG - from the 1960s on. The book is broken into four chapters with a short explanation for each chapter like 'Scrapping the Big Fleets,' which breaks the book up nicely. It also has decent explanations for the captions of each included picture
Whilst not outstanding, it is certainly competent and a worthwhile read.
Whilst not outstanding, it is certainly competent and a worthwhile read.
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