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Boneyard: Where airplanes go to die.

Boneyard Where airplanes go to die

Stashed in: Best PandaWhale Posts, Awesome, Flying!, History of Tech!, History, Flight, Desert

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Julie Johnsson has a nice piece in Businessweek about how Boeing is buying up old 747sin order to sell more new 747s, referring to "desert storage" of the planes that are going to be taken out of service in hopes that at some future point someone will want them. Desert storage? My interest was piqued. And of course it makes sense. The arid temperatures of a desert are a good place to store complicated machines that you don't want to corrode.

The facilities are called "boneyards" and the largest one is outside Davis Monathan Air Force Base in the Tucson area. Here it is courtsey of Google Maps:

tucson zoom1

tuscon small


The standard application for old 747s is to convert them into cargo use, but structurally higher fuel prices has really cut down on demand for the aircraft. If the unconventional oil optimists prove correct and jet fuel gets cheap again, the mothballed 747s will presumably come out of retirement and start doing cargo duty. If not the planes can always be broken down for scrap.

There's something about this that just screams "What a damned shame" to me.

But I'm not sure what it is. It seems wasteful, no?

It does.  Key barrier to converting to cargo use is fuel prices.

(I'm wondering why sandblasting isn't a problem.)

Is there no fuel alternative that would make giant airplanes economic?

Well, I found this:  Progress on alternative jet fuels "stunning", says aviation industry, but commercialization is now the major challenge

Yeah, I was thinking they would be hard to commercialize.

You saw the charity:water rental of the 737 that cost them $82,000, right?

Yep, stashed it in Philanthropy.  So, between towing icebergs and re-purposing 747's ....

I wonder if re-purposing 747's is a thing that will be done more in the future.

Awesome thread guys, I loved this.

You and me both, Semil!

It really does seem like a waste, especially hearing that Boeing is buying old 747s to sell new ones. I'll bet it would be cheaper to retrofit/upgrade an old one (but maybe not, given the complexity of airplanes and need for inspections, etc.)

For all we know, that's what they're doing.

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