The 2 U.S. Airplane Boneyards Open To The Public

by SharonKurheg

Plane enthusiasts are a special breed. Like any person who is especially interested in a particular topic, plane enthusiasts can tell you the minutia about aviation. They don’t need a blog post to tell you how to know the difference between an Airbus and a Boeing, because they already know. They’re also very aware of what Delta’s “Preferred Seats” are and if you should pay extra to sit in them. They even know why plane windows are round, what all the different-colored lights are on the outside of a plane, and why we only board planes from the left side.

Personally, I’m not a plane enthusiast. I view planes the way I view cars – they’re a means to get me from Point A to Point B. I’m good as long as they get me there safely and in the allotted amount of time. But I’ve had my share of things I’ve found very interesting in my life, and knew the minutia about, so I “get it.”

I don’t think there’s a plane enthusiast out there who wouldn’t love the opportunity to go to an airplane boneyard. Sometimes known as aircraft boneyards, they’re big, outdoor storage areas for aircraft that either need to be stored for long or short term, or are retired from service. Most aircraft at boneyards are either kept for storage so maintenance can be done to them (many planes were stored in boneyards during COVID, when few commercial planes were flying), or they have their parts removed for reuse or resale, and whatever’s left is scrapped.

Most airplane boneyards in the U.S. are in deserts in the southwest (particularly California and Arizona). The dry conditions reduce corrosion, and the hard ground doesn’t have to be paved.

a close-up of a plane

PC: Phillip Capper / flickr / CC BY 2.0 DEED

The boneyards open to the public

Most aircraft boneyards have never been open to the public, but there’s a small handful of (some limited) exceptions.

Mojave Transportation Museum

Previously called the Mojave Air and Space Port, the Mojave Transportation Museum, located in the California desert, is a storage and reclamation facility for commercial airliners. It’s not open for tours but does host a “Plane Crazy Saturday” event on the third Saturday of every month. That’s when you can see the airport, displays, hear speakers, sometimes fly in, etc. This is their schedule, although it looks like it hasn’t been updated in a few months.

Mojave Transportation Museum also offers a the airport offers a Virtual Driving Tour, which shows several stops around the facility.

Aircraft Restoration & Marketing (ARM)

Perhaps the only true “tour” of an airplane boneyard in the U.S. is that of Aircraft Restoration & Marketing (ARM), which is located next to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona. Once a month (give or take), The Boneyard Safari offers a hands-on tour in cooperation with ARM. From Boneyard Safari:

Take a unique tour and see a side of aviation with an exclusive look through aircraft in their different conditions at Aircraft Restoration Marketing, which is one of the last regeneration facilities in Tucson.  Boneyard Safari Docents will guide 10 guests through a C-130, DC-3/C-47, Boeing 727, and walk around various other aircraft including a C-27A, T-37, C-131F, and P-3.  It is limited to 3 hours due to weather conditions.  Bring your cameras because this is a unique opportunity to go inside of aircraft as they are being regenerated or seeing their final days.  Be prepared for hot weather, so bring a hat, sunscreen and good hiking shoes (lots of critters).

Tours had been suspended during the pandemic but were reinstated in late 2022. They occurred nearly monthly in 2023 (sometimes more than one in a given month). Although you can’t tell from their website (their “Tour” page shows no link, calendar, dates, etc.), monthly-to-near-monthly tours appear to be announced via their Twitter (whoops sorry…”X”) presence.

Other boneyards of note

These boneyards do not appear to have tours at this time, but they did in the past (one says they do, but I think it’s questionable):

Pinal Airpark

The Pinal Airpark is located in Marana, Arizona, northwest of Tucson.  The Airpark is open to the public. However, there are 2 distinct sides to the airport:

  • The Landside is generally accessible to anyone.
  • The Airside is where the planes are parked, the runway, and other areas that are dangerous or off limits for security reasons

The FAQ on Pinal Airpark’s website states they have limited availability for tours and to contact them with questions. I’ve tried emailing them and did not get a response.

Davis-Monthan AFB AMARG Facility

There used to be bus tours of Tucson’s Davis-Monthan AFB AMARG Facility, but they have been suspended indefinitely, as per the request of the U.S. Air Force (sad trombone).

Southern California Logistics Airport

a group of airplanes parked on a runway

PC: Bill Wilt / flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0 DEED

According to the airport’s FAQ tours for educational purposes may be scheduled with the Airport’s Operational staff. However, they don’t offer tours on any sort of regular basis.

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