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Last Updated on April 24, 2024

INSIDE: The Arizona Plane Graveyard (Tucson Boneyard) no longer offers on-base tours. How to see the planes using nearby roads – NEW for 2024!

NOTE: IF YOU ARE READING THIS POST RIGHT NOW (4/23/24) IT MIGHT LOOK AT LITTLE HINKY–I’M UPDATING IT WITH NEW PHOTOS AND INFO . . . .PLEASE CHECK BACK IN A FEW DAYS!

A few years ago we took a tour of the Arizona airplane graveyard–also known as the Tucson “Boneyard.” It was an awesome way to see the place where over 3,000 surplus military aircraft are stored. Then in early 2020 COVID hit and tours were stopped. We waited, and waited, and waited . . . for tours to resume, but 4 years later it looks like it’s not gonna happen. 🙁

Fortunately there are still ways to see the planes without going onto the military base where they’re located.

You just have to know where to look . . .

. . . And you’ve come to the right place. We’ll tell you all about it.

The Arizona plane graveyard is a must-visit site for anyone who loves aircraft (that’s us!). Learn about this amazing place, and how you can see “the Boneyard,” as it’s unofficially known−even if you can’t get on base. Visiting the Boneyard is one of the truly unique things to do in Tucson-there’s nothing else like it. Anywhere.

What, exactly, IS the Arizona Plane Graveyard?

“The Boneyard” is officially known as the 309th AMARG Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (military-speak for a really cool airplane junkyard Tucson Az).

It’s located at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, on the southeastern edge of Tucson, where it is the final resting place of more than 3,000 aircraft.

AMARG is the world’s largest salvage yard (minus the snarling dogs). The aircraft are lined up in rows set up with military precision, stacked so closely together that from above their wings look like they are holding hands with each other, a sharp contrast to their former roles.

It’s a starkly beautiful setting as, throughout the day, the silver fuselages reflect changing colors of the Rincon Mountains to the east.

Aerial view of hundreds of planes lines up at the Tucson airplane graveyard, aka the tucson boneyard
Tucson Arizona aircraft graveyard: isn’t it a beautiful sight?

Why is there a Plane Graveyard Arizona in Tucson?

The military has a problem. It has thousands of aircraft that are no longer being used, but they don’t want to just send them to the scrapyard like a used ’92 Chevy. So what to do?

It would be impractical to build giant hangars for 3,000+ aircraft, especially when many of them are no longer operational. How about sending them into semi-permanent outdoor storage?

The Sonoran Desert of Arizona provides the perfect location, where the arid climate prevents rust. So now theres a Tucson Arizona aircraft graveyard.

Out-of-service military aircraft at the Boneyard, with Tucson’s Rincon Mountains in the background

Despite its moniker, the “Boneyard” is not a place merely to stockpile airplanes in eternal rest. Some have been mothballed for spare parts and potential future activation.

In 2015 a B-52 bomber old enough to qualify for AARP membership was restored and returned to flying condition (those things are solid! 💪).

Though the Cold War may have ended, the men and women deployed at the Arizona plane graveyard are on constant alert for any future chills in relations between the superpowers.

Can you tour the Tucson Airplane Graveyard?

Unfortunately, no. Due to their placement on an active military base, tours are not offered of the Boneyard. (They once were, it’s true, but those days are past, and we civilians have to accept that. 🫤)

BUT . . . it’s kind of difficult to tuck 3,000+ aircraft out of sight, so you CAN see them. You just have to know where to look.

The amount of hardware on display is striking. Some of the planes look ready to take off while others are partially salvaged, as if turkey vultures soaring overhead have been picking them clean.

Where can you go to see the Aviation Graveyard Arizona?

The best place to see planes is on the northern perimeter of the Tucson Boneyard. Additionally, there are a few other places you can spot the aircraft, however they may be little more than fleeting glimpses.

But, fear not, we’ll give you a rundown below:

View of the Tucson airplane graveyard through the fence on Escalante Road

1. Escalante Road (northern perimeter): Viewing rating-10/10

There are a few reasons the viewing from Escalante Road is so good:

  • You’re as close to the aircraft as you might be driving on base (which I remember from my on-base tour years back
  • There’s plenty of room to park, so you can take your time and ogle to your heart’s content. (Yeah, so I totally did that.)
  • Lots of time to take all the photos you want (you just need to be strategic with your camera lens, so you don’t see chain link fencing in your shot−unless you want to get “artsy” 🤔)

You can see the view as you approach the fence, above ⬆️

This is the view I was able to get by placing my camera lens in juuuuust the right spot: (& doing some strategic cropping), alongside a similar photo where I kept just a bit of fencing in the shot:

Rows of aircraft from various military branches lined up at the Boneyard Tucson. Note the Coast Guard plane amidst the others.

In a sign that the military possesses its own unique brand of humor, a lone ladder waiting for a pilot to climb into the cockpit is angled ten feet into the air, hovering over a set of landing gear and . . . nothing else. A sign in front of it says that this is an F-117 Stealth Fighter. It makes the grizzled tour guide’s day when groups of unsuspecting schoolchildren exclaim, “Wow! You really can’t see it!”

AMARG’s sense of humor is evident at this display of the F-117 Nighthawk “Stealth Fighter.”
Some planes are sent to the scrap yards adjacent to the Boneyard, where the aircraft are not set up in such neat rows.

Afterwards, the Pima Air & Space Museum offers a fine collection of more than 350 aircraft including a B-24 Liberator, Sikorsky Skycrane helicopter, Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the unique Aero Spacelines 377-SG “Super Guppy” cargo plane that is cobbled together from parts of a retired U.S. Air Force C-97 Stratofreighter and a former Pan American Boeing 377 Stratocruiser.

Fast facts about the Tucson Airplane Graveyard, aka “The Boneyard”

Can anyone visit the Tucson Boneyard?

(As of early 2022 tours of the Tucson Boneyard is closed; plans to reopen are unclear) Yes, all nationalities are welcome on the tour. Be advised that you will be touring an active US Military site; as such, be prepared with proper identification.you must take a guided bus tour, which starts at the adjacent Pima Air & Space Museum

Do you need to make a reservation to tour the Tucson Boneyard?

(As of early 2022 tours of the Tucson Boneyard is closed; plans to reopen are unclear) Yes, Tucson Boneyard tours are only available by advanced reservation.

When can I make a reservation to tour the Tucson Boneyard?

(As of early 2022 tours of the Tucson Boneyard is closed; plans to reopen are unclear) Reservations must be made a minimum of 16 days in advance. Tours can be reserved up to 60 days in advance.

What type of information is required by US citizens to reserve a tour of the Tucson Boneyard?

(As of early 2022 tours of the Tucson Boneyard is closed; plans to reopen are unclear) When making a reservation, adult US citizens (aged 16 and older) must provide the following: Full name as it appears on a driver’s license or valid state-issued photo ID (including middle initial or middle name), plus ID number & state of issue, date of birth and social security number. Be prepared to bring this same ID with you for the tour. For children under 16 years of age you must provide full name and birthdate (no ID required).

Can US citizens use a passport or military ID to reserve a Boneyard tour in Tucson?

(As of early 2022 tours of the Tucson Boneyard is closed; plans to reopen are unclear) NO. US passports and military IDs are not acceptable means of ID for the AMRAD Boneyard Tour.

What type of information is required by NON-US citizens to reserve a tour of the Tucson Boneyard?

(As of early 2022 tours of the Tucson Boneyard are closed; plans to reopen are unclear) When making a reservation, adult NON-US citizens (aged 16 and older) must provide the following: Full name as it appears on a passport (including middle initial or middle name), along with passport number, date of birth and country of issuance. Be prepared to bring this same ID with you for the tour. For children under 16 years of age you must provide full name and birthdate (no ID required).

How long is the AMRAD Boneyard tour?

(As of early 2022 tours of the Boneyard ae closed; plans to reopen are unclear) The tour is approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes long.

Can you walk around the Tucson Boneyard?

(As of early 2022 tours of the Boneyard are closed; plans to reopen are unclear) NO. The Boneyard is on an active US Air Force Base. Visitors must stay on the bus for the duration of the tour.

How much does the AMRAD Tucson Boneyard tour cost?

(As of early 2022 tours of the Tucson Boneyard is closed; plans to reopen are unclear) Cost of the tour is $10 per person and is non-refundable.

Where do I make reservations for the AMRAD tour?

(As of early 2022 tours of the Tucson Boneyard is closed; plans to reopen are unclear) Contact the Pima Air & Space Museum.

For another Cold War relic head nearby to the Titan Missile Museum, home of the last of the 54 Titan II missile sites that were on alert from 1963 through 1987.

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