Friday, October 10, 2014

 No Drag on Split Scimitar™ Winglet Developments
PR Newswire

SEATTLE, Oct. 10, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Aviation Partners Boeing (APB) announced today that it has received FAA Supplemental Type Certification (STC) covering the installation of Split Scimitar Winglets for three additional configurations of the Boeing 737-800. 
View photo
. of South Africa is one of the latest airlines to install APB Split Scimitar Winglets.
Split Scimitar Winglets can now be installed on all Boeing 737-800 and 737-900ER aircraft.  All remaining commercial and private variants of the 737 Next-Generation aircraft are scheduled to be certified by May of 2015.

"Our Split Scimitar Winglet program is by far and away the most successful product launch in our history," said Patrick LaMoria, Aviation Partners Boeing executive vice president and chief commercial officer. "We expect to announce another major sale to one of the world's largest airlines, later this week."

APB's Split Scimitar Winglet program is its latest fuel efficiency success and the culmination of a five-year design effort using the latest computational fluid dynamic technology to redefine the aerodynamics of the Blended Winglet into an all-new Split Scimitar Winglet. The unique feature of the Split Scimitar Winglet is that it uses the existing Blended Winglet, but adds new aerodynamic scimitar tips and a large ventral strake. Split Scimitar Winglets can save up to 60,000 gallons of fuel per aircraft per year.

"We will continue to lead the industry with innovative fuel saving solutions that benefit the environment," said Bill Ashworth, Aviation Partners Boeing president and chief executive officer. "That is what we do."

Since launching the Split Scimita

r Winglet program early last year, APB has taken orders and options for 1,657 systems.  Over the last 10 years, APB has sold nearly 8,000 Blended Winglet Systems.  More than 5,300 Blended Winglet Systems are now in service with over 200 airlines in more than 100 countries. APB estimates that Blended Winglets have saved airlines worldwide 4.5 billion gallons of jet fuel to-date thus eliminating over 47 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions. 

Aviation Partners Boeing is a Seattle based joint venture of Aviation Partners, Inc. and The Boeing Company.

FAA, flight attendants square off over electronics

WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation's largest flight attendants union says it wants airline passengers to return to stowing cellphones and other electronics during takeoffs and landings, but the group's arguments didn't seem to fly Friday in court.
A lawyer for the union argued before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that aviation officials acted improperly last year in clearing passengers to use small electronics during takeoffs and landings.

The union says the devices can distract passengers from safety announcements and become dangerous projectiles. The union also says that in letting passengers keep the devices out, the Federal Aviation Administration changed an agency regulation without steps required by law.
But the judges hearing the case suggested they won't be prying portable electronics out of passengers' hands.

"Airlines have always had discretion on how to handle this," Judge Harry T. Edwards told a lawyer for the union, the 60,000-member Association of Flight Attendants.

The FAA announced late last year that it was changing guidance that had for years resulted in passengers stowing cellphones, tablets, and music and video players during takeoffs and landings. Under new guidance, airlines can let passengers use the devices during those times as long as the plane is properly protected from electronic interference and the airlines get the FAA's approval. Cellphones still must be in airplane mode when in use.

The FAA says that since the announcement, it has cleared 31 airline operators to let passengers use small electronics on takeoffs and landings. Last year, those operators together carried 96 percent of U.S. commercial passengers.

Union lawyer Amanda Dure told the judges that "anyone who has been on a plane in the last year has seen a huge change."

But Dure argued that in greenlighting the expanded use of electronics, officials violated the federal Administrative Procedure Act. The act requires government agencies to give the public notice and the ability to comment when a rule is changed. That didn't happen properly, the union argues.
Judge Janice Rogers Brown asked about the flight attendants' concern that allowing passengers to keep out electronics leaves "more things to fly around" the airplane cabin during turbulence. But a lawyer for the government, Jeffrey Sandberg, told the judges that cellphones and other small devices are no more dangerous than books that passengers have been allowed to keep out.

The government argued in court documents that the judges hearing the case don't have authority to review the issue and that the FAA's action didn't trigger public notice and comment requirements. The FAA did request and receive public feedback before updating its guidance, attorneys wrote, telling the judges the agency considered some 1,000 responses including one from the union.

Still, the government said FAA just notified airlines that it believed small electronics could safely be used during takeoff and landing, a departure from previous guidance that encouraged airlines not to permit them during those times. The airlines themselves have long determined whether and when passengers can use electronics and that hasn't changed, the government said.
The court will issue a written ruling at a later date.
Follow Jessica Gresko at

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

DFW, Love Field get makeovers in time for end of Wright Amendment

Posted Saturday, Oct. 04, 2014         
Dallas/Fort Worth Airport and Dallas Love Field have spent several years and millions of dollars getting gussied up for Oct. 13. When the Wright Amendment flight restrictions are lifted next week at Dallas Love Field, travelers will be able to board long-haul flights out of a brand new terminal. And 15 miles away, DFW is overhauling all of its domestic terminals with features including terrazzo floors, windows that admit more natural light and high-end concessionaires. Both airports have improved the customer experience, adding power ports for passengers to charge phones and laptops in the terminals and changing out restaurants to offer a greater variety of food and beverages.  The changes aren’t all operational either. A kinetic fine art piece hangs in the new baggage claim area at Love Field while DFW Airport offers comfort zones where passengers can take a nap or get a massage. “The airport of the future really needs to be more than just a place where you walk off one plane and get on another,” said Byford Treanor, DFW’s vice president of customer service. “You want to enjoy yourself and you want to experience the airport and then be ready to get on the plane to sit for several hours.” The end of the Wright restrictions at Love Field, which have allowed flights from the Dallas airport only to cities in Texas and nearby states since 1980, was a catalyst for the big improvements. But both facilities were also showing their age.  In Dallas, Love’s primary tenant, Southwest Airlines, agreed that it was time to update the 1950s-era terminal after Dallas, Fort Worth and other major parties, reached the historic agreement in 2006 to open up long-haul domestic fliying out of Love Field. “With or without the Wright Amendment, the age of Love Field’s terminal facilities meant it was due and we were going to have to do some kind of renovation or remodel,” said Mark Duebner, Dallas’ aviation director, who oversees Love Field. “Old facilities become expensive to maintain, so sometimes you’re better off building new facilities.” And that’s what Dallas has done, spending about $500 million and issuing bonds backed by Southwest, to build a new 20-gate terminal. The first half of the terminal opened in April 2013, and the remaining gates opened last month. Since the airport only has 7,000 parking spaces in its garage, Duebner said, the city has started planning for a new garage. Airport workers are still putting the finishing touches on concessions in the new terminal and a new baggage claim area opened a couple of weeks ago. Southwest had already moved all of its operations to the new terminal but Virgin America, which will shift its operations from DFW to Love Field this month, has yet to occupy its new gate and check-in counter. While DFW’s four original terminals were not as old as Love Field, Terminals A, B, C, and E were starting to show their age, prompting DFW to announce the Terminal Renewal and Improvement Plan in 2010. TRIP, as it’s called by the airport’s staff, is an extensive overhaul of the terminals’ heating, cooling and electrical infrastructure while cosmetically changing the interior of the terminals. “The TRIP program certainly without a doubt allows us to be more competitive in the local area. But it really is also to modernize the airport to bring it out of the ’70s,” Treanor said. The program’s budget has swelled to $2.7 billion, and it will not be completed until 2020 since it must be done in stages. The airport cannot shut down an entire terminal at one time for renovations. Two-thirds of Terminal A is expected to be completed by December, and significant portions of Terminal B and Terminal E are already complete. Creating comforts for customers For modern airports, it’s all about bringing power to the people.“Charging is the No. 1 customer issue,” Duebner said. “At the old terminal, any available plug at any available wall had someone sitting near it with their phone plugged in.” With its new terminal, Love Field purchased chairs that have a power plug and a USB port underneath the seat so travelers can plug in their iPhones or tablets. About 90 percent of the chairs in gate areas have the plugs, Duebner said. DFW also has charging stations and hopes to have about 30 percent of all gate seats with power access by the time the TRIP program is completed. Treanor added that new concessionaires in the renovated terminals are being asked to provide electric plugs at all of their tables for passengers as part of their lease terms. Both airports have also upgraded concessions to give travelers choices from a $30 steak dinner to a fast-food hamburger and everything in between. Passengers can dine at Sky Canyon by celebrity chef Stephan Pyles, savor gelato at Paciugo or sip wine at Vino Volo.  “We’re running a 25 percent increase in our concession revenue and that’s just because there are more choices,” Duebner said, noting that Love Field has added more healthy food options.Concessions revenue has also grown at DFW, partly because the airport allowed concessionaires to individualize their storefronts to make them more inviting to customers, Treanor said. For example, Natalie’s Candy Jar has large plastic lollipops to attract travelers into their stores in Terminals A and D. DFW has focused its concessions program to include more high-end retailers even in the domestic terminals. Brighton, a high-end seller of women’s handbags and accessories, has a location in the renovated section of Terminal A while Michael Kors and Coach will be going into the international Terminal D. The airport has also added more premium club space for first class and business class travelers in Terminal D. The American Express Centurion Lounge opened last year with spa services, comfy wing-back chairs, a full-service bar and an all-you-can-eat buffet. “We’re always rated as the top airport in the U.S. for customer service but as we get all the service to China and the A380s and the service to the Middle East, customers traveling on those airplanes are used to the customer service they receive at international airports,” said DFW Airport Chief Executive Sean Donohue. “We’re raising the bar so that means we have to improve our customer service.”

Andrea Ahles, 817-390-7631817-390-7631 Twitter: @Sky_Talk

Read more here:

Delta threatens legal action against city


File 2013/Special Contributor
Delta’s attorney says the carrier is being unfairly squeezed out at Love Field, where it has operated since 2008.

An attorney for Delta Air Lines Inc. threatened to sue the city of Dallas unless it takes “immediate action to implement a short-term solution” that keeps the Atlanta-based airline flying from Dallas Love Field.In a nine-page letter to Dallas aviation director Mark Duebner, attorney Kenneth Quinn demanded that the city find room for Delta, which has been flying from Love Field since 2008. It flies five daily nonstops to Atlanta and had planned to add more flights after the Wright amendment expires Oct. 13.

Earlier this week, the city told Delta that it would have to leave Love Field come Oct. 13 because there was no space to accommodate it.

The new Love Field has 20 gates, 16 of which are being used by Southwest Airlines. Two others will be used by Virgin America beginning Oct. 13, and the final two are leased by United Airlines. United is subleasing one to Southwest and has told the city it will use the second to increase its flights to Houston next year.

In his letter, Quinn said Delta was under the impression “as recently as last week” that the city “had notified United by letter that it must accommodate Delta on its gates.”

Instead, United handed over one of its gates to Dallas-based Southwest, which had been looking to add to its gates at the city-owned airport.

Delta also said United was not playing fair with its second gate. While the airline is doubling its flights to Houston, it’s also going to “triple its aircraft ground times in an effort to preclude Delta from using its gates,” Quinn said.

In his letter to Duebner, Quinn included a copy of United’s proposed service levels in 2015, showing that each plane will spend about 90 minutes on the ground, which is three times longer than its planes spend on the ground now.

“It is simply not true, as the city would have it, that there is no room at the inn for Delta,” Quinn said in his letter. “The truth is, the city decided the available gate space should go to hometown favorite Southwest — which already controls 80 percent of the gates at Love Field — instead of to Delta, which would have used the gate space to compete with Southwest.”

Duebner, First Assistant City Manager Ryan Evans and City Attorney Warren Ernst did not respond to emails seeking comment.

Earlier this week, City Manager A.C. Gonzalez said, “We understand that while the situation we’re looking at is subject to some disagreement, we are going to maintain our view that we want full utilization and robust competition for Love Field.”

Quinn said that at the minimum, Delta wants the city to let it keep flying out of Love Field until January, if only to accommodate the 16,000 passengers who have already purchased tickets out of the airport. But it also wants to stay in Dallas. Anything less, writes Quinn, will probably wind up with a trip to the courthouse.

“Although we are hopeful that the city will accommodate Delta’s request,” he writes, “these attempts to resolve this matter will not preclude Delta from seeking additional relief at law or in equity.”
Delta also had asked Virgin America to find space for Delta’s flights at Virgin’s two gates. Virgin America chief executive David Cush said his carrier turned down Delta’s request.

“Our answer is: We’re fully utilizing our gates,” Cush said this week.

Virgin America will move its operations from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to Love Field on Oct. 13, the day that federal law will allow nonstop service from Dallas to any U.S. airport. It begins operations with nine departures a day, going to 13 departures Oct. 28 and 16 departures in April.

Virgin America is allowing tiny carrier SeaPort Airlines to use its gates for two daily departures for El Dorado, Ark.

“We’ll accommodate them as long as we can. We’ll see how long it is,” Cush said.

“But certainly with 16 flights, we can accommodate them. With 18, it’ll be a little trickier,” he said. “But you know, they wanted two flights a day. They didn’t want the pattern of service that Delta was looking for.”;

18 most annoying things people do in airports

By Karla Cripps, CNN
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Tue October 7, 2014

Travelers could learn a thing or two from this dog, who knows that on the moving walkway you walk, not stop. Travelers could learn a thing or two from this dog, who knows that on the moving walkway you walk, not stop.
1. Traveling without moving
2. Carousel crowding
3. Surprised by security
4. Purposely arriving late
5. Trying to check overweight baggage
6. Holding up the immigration line
7. Overzealous duty-free sales people
8. Seat-hogging
9. Loud music/games/movies
10. Kid wilding
11. Getting hammered in the airport bar
12. Bogarting electrical outlets
13. Bringing your last puff onto the plane
14. Currency confusion
15. Bare feet
16. Gate lurking
17. Aggressive touting
18. Not opening that passport
  • Airplanes aren't the only place where travelers have to face annoying behavior from fellow voyagers
  • Annoying things people do in airports include hogging seats and talking too loud
  • Sometimes the people who work in the airport can get on nerves, such as aggressive taxi tout
  • (CNN) -- Whether they're cutting their fingernails mid-flight or aggressively establishing armrest hegemony, we've already addressed the most irritating things travelers do on airplanes.
But what about the airport itself?
Shouldn't it be easy to escape your fellow fliers' antisocial behavior in a space as large as an arrival hall or a departure terminal?
Sadly, it isn't.
As this list of annoying airport behaviors supplied by CNN Travel staff, writers and readers shows, courtesy and sense (neither are as common as they ought to be) are often the first two things to fly out of the gates.
1. Traveling without moving
Moving walkways -- "travelators," if you want to get fancy -- are delightful.

Seriously, who does this on a flight?!

This device caused an in-flight fight
They make us feel like super people (If only we could always walk this fast!) and help us get to our gates without feeling like we just ran the New York City Marathon.
Some travelers, however, apparently feel they were designed like a theme park ride, meant to be enjoyed arm-in-arm with their amour and shopping bags as they gawk at the exotic sights passing by at 1 mph.
Standing to the side to make room for travelers with a plane to catch remains an unattainable skill to an aggravating number of passengers.

2. Surprised by security
Most veteran travelers glide through security checkpoints with little drama.
Even travel newbies can read directions posted at said checkpoints and readily adapt.
So what's with the people who always look like they've been told the existence of alien life has just been confirmed when their liter-bottle of water is confiscated and they're asked to take their laptop out of the bag before it goes through the scanner?
More than a decade into the era of airport hyper-vigilance, the "security stumble" remains a perplexing airport behavior
Would it hurt everyone to stand back a few feet?
Would it hurt everyone to stand back a few feet?

3. Crowding the baggage carousel
A baggage carousel is an easy concept to grasp.
You stand back a few feet, watch a conveyer belt inch along, then slip in and grab your suitcase before swiftly retreating to make room for other travelers.
Alas, retrieving luggage is rarely so hassle-free, thanks to an impatient few who press their shins against the carousel, guarding the belt like power forwards protecting the rim in the closing seconds of the NBA Finals.
Some even push aside the elderly and children with their carts to secure a space directly in front of the little door flaps the bags slide through, forcing the rest of us to shove through the scrum when our suitcases appear.

4. Arriving late accidentally on purpose
Ever show up at the airport late and have the check-in staff kindly allow you to jump to the front of the line so you don't miss your flight?
Ever do this multiple times, on purpose, knowing full well you'll be allowed to skip the queue?
Trust us.
These people exist.

5. Re-packing overweight baggage at the counter
The line at the check-in counter is so long it's starting to merge with the Sbarro line in the next concourse.
Finally you make it to the front, only to be held up by the guy who's shocked to find his 200-pound suitcase is over the weight limit and going to cost him a week's salary to check.
His next move?
Frantically shuffling a few pairs of socks and a tube of toothpaste into another bag to get the weight down -- "197 pounds is cool, right?" -- before breaking into a loud soliloquy lamenting the injustices faced by travelers on this airline that he'll never fly with again.
That cologne smells great. We don\'t want it.
That cologne smells great. We don't want it.

6. Duty-free shadowing
Sometimes it's the airport staff that does annoying things.
Example: overzealous duty-free shop employees.
All we wandered in here for was a bottle of cheap vodka.
We don't need to be followed around and spritzed with perfume as a lady with immaculately applied makeup (in fairness, she does spend her days surrounded by expensive cosmetics) tries to upsell us on the smooth taste of a $2,000 bottle of whisky.

Nothing beats the sweet bliss of not sitting next to someone when you're waiting for a flight.
We don't want to bump elbows with others any more than others want to trade breathing particulates with us.
But in a civilized society, seats are meant to have one thing and one thing only placed on them.
Here's a hint: that something isn't suitcases, food trays or computers.
There's a name for that one thing meant to be put in a chair -- ironically, it doubles as a description for the kind of people who take up three seats in a crowded departure lounge with their jacket, shopping bags and assorted carrion.
This is why they invented headphones.
This is why they invented headphones.

8. Videos at full volume
Nobody cares if someone wants to pass the time waiting for a plane by zoning out with the mind-numbing pleasure of Candy Crush or "Hot Tub Time Machine."
Just not on the iPad. At full volume.
There's a reason they sell ear buds and headphones at every third shop in the concourse on the walk to the gate.

9. Kid wilding
Granted, nobody knows how to parent other peoples' kids better than we do.
And even childless travelers need to chill out and stop griping while little ones burn off some energy before a four-hour flight.
But shouldn't "not allowing children to climb over seats, maul strangers with wet paws and screech at nine-second intervals" be a requisite skill for parents who travel with tot terrors?

10. Getting hammered in the airport bar
Getting a head start on a vacation is a time-honored tradition, but so is waiting until after the rest of humanity has finished breakfast before starting in with the beer-scented belching and pontificating on the referees who completely blew last night's game.
It's an airport, not a frat house.

11. Bogarting electrical outlets
You know the guy.
He's got a Kindle, laptop, iPhone and iPad in his backpack.
And he needs to charge them all before the flight.
At the same time.
Using the only two outlets within a 100-meter radius.

12. Bringing your last puff onto the plane
Some travelers need a nic fix before a flight. Fine.
But for those who don't smoke, that last ciggie huffed down 90 seconds before boarding makes a lasting impression.
A breath mint should be mandatory after a hurried puff puff session.
Even smokers shouldn't get on a plane smelling so bad the Marlboro Man would ask to change seats if he had to sit next to them.

13. Currency confusion
"Oh sorry, that's a not a quarter. Just wait, I think I have a couple dimes kicking around in here."
There's a right way and a wrong way to get rid of foreign coins before you leave a country.
The first is donating them.
The second is trying to identify each one then matching the total with the cost of three bags of candy (nice try at a souvenir, by the way) at the gift shop while six other customers stand around waiting for "The Price is Right" game at the counter to end.

14. Bare feet
If there's any need to elaborate on this one, you're too far gone to be helped, anyway.

15. Gate lurking
It's no picnic being in boarding group Z.
But fliers who lurk around the boarding gate like they're casing a mark for a robbery -- waiting for ground crew staff to announce it's time to roll so they can be the first on the plane to hog the overhead bins -- sort of force the rest of us to do the same thing.
Occasionally, there is justice.
The truly bold of this bratty bunch can sometimes be spotted feigning innocence when a gate agent calls them out for trying to board before their row is called or slipping in with the business-class passengers.
Follow the rules and we\'ll all get along just fine.
Follow the rules and we'll all get along just fine.

16. Holding up the immigration line
Immigration desks simply aren't happy places.
People who hold things up by not filling in the details on their paperwork only make the experience more miserable for the rest of us.

17. Power-tripping
It's gratifying when airport staff bust travelers guilty of the above behaviors.
But when they're just being plain miserable to everybody?
It sets the tone for a bad trip.
We know airport jobs are serious, important and, at times, incredibly stressful.
But (true story) is it really necessary to make an eight-year-old cry because she forgot to throw away her juice box before her backpack went through the X-ray scanner?

18. Taxi touting
When you've just gotten off a 12-hour flight in a country you've never been to, even the simplest acts can be a challenge.
Like finding transportation.
Everyone needs to make a living, but we shouldn't have to negotiate a phalanx of unscrupulous touts who skulk around arrival halls preying on the weary and confused, insisting on providing rides into town for quadruple the price of a regular taxi.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Qantas celebrates debut of A380 flights to Texas

DALLAS/FORT WORTH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT -- Qantas' superjumbo Airbus A380 is now flying to Dallas/Fort Worth.

Qantas Flight 7 departed Sydney Airport for Dallas/Fort Worth Monday, giving the Qantas the honor of operating the longest A380 flight in the world.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said using the A380 offers the carrier both greater fuel efficiency and a 10% increase in the number of seats it offers on its route between Sydney and Dallas. Qantas previously flew a Boeing 747-400 on the route.

TODAY IN THE SKY: Qantas bumps out Delta for longest flight to depart USA

Joyce touted the A380 service between Sydney and DFW as offering "direct access right in the heart of the U.S. with over 50 connections to all U.S. major cities within four hours, including Orlando, Boston and Houston."

Qantas is able to offer those connections through American Airlines, a member of the oneworld frequent-flier that also includes Qantas. In addition, American and Qantas have a codeshare alliance that allows them to sell seats on connecting flights operated by the other carrier.
To celebrate the new service milestone, Qantas' A380 received a traditional water-cannon salute as it arrived at DFW.

Qantas painted the A380 operating its maiden A380 flight to Texas with a special livery: the iconic kangaroo on the airplane's featured a Stetson cowboy hat and a blue neckerchief decorated with American-style stars. A "G'Day Texas" emblem was added to the forward doors.
And through Oct. 5, Qantas' in-flight menu from Sydney to DFW will includes U.S.themed dishes, beverages and sweets.

First-class passengers can order a 28-day Nolan dry-aged cowboy rib eye, with mac and cheese on the side. Fliers in the business class can dine on chipotle port tortillas while Premium Economy passengers can munch on Texas hot dogs with chili black beans.

And through March, coach-class passengers can snack on a variety of American favorites, including Dr. Pepper, A&W sodas, Route 66 Root Beer, pulled beef sliders and Jolly Ranchers hard candy, which a flight attendant on board the flight said was quite popular in Australia.

Qantas now flies six round-trip A380 flights each week (every day except Tuesday) on the route between Sydney and DFW. The Sydney to DFW flight (QF7) is scheduled to take 14 hours and 50 minutes. The DFW to Sydney flight (QF8) is scheduled at 15 hours and 30 minutes.

The Qantas A380 has 484 seats: 14 in first class, 64 in business, 35 in Premium Economy and 371 regular coach.

Among those on Qantas maiden A380 flight to DFW was Qantas Ambassador and certified pilot John Travolta, who greeted arriving passengers as they exited the A380 in Texas.

Speaking to reporters at DFW, Travolta said he began collecting old airline tickets and old airline schedules as a child.

He said he became enthralled with Qantas early on because it "has a long history of offering some of the world's longest flights."

"It's really quiet and spacious," he said about his experiencing flying as a passenger on the A380.

The secrets of the desert aircraft ‘boneyards’

(USAF) Tucson Arizona
What happens when an aircraft is no longer needed? In the desert dry of the south-western US, vast ‘boneyards’ are homes to thousands of aircraft, Stephen Dowling writes.
If you find yourself driving down South Kolb Road in the Arizona city of Tucson, you’ll find the houses give way to a much more unusual view; rows of military aircraft, still and silent, spread out under the baking desert sun. On and on, everything from enormous cargo lifters to lumbering bombers, Hercules freighters and the F-14 Tomcat fighters made famous in Top Gun.

This is Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, run by the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (309 AMARG). It’s home to some 4,400 aircraft, arranged over nearly 2,600 acres (10.5 sq km). Some look like they were parked only a few hours ago, others are swathed in protective coverings to keep out the sand and dust. Inside the facilities' hangars, other planes have been reduced to crates of spare parts, waiting to be sent out to other bases in the US or across the world to help other aircraft take to the air again. To those who work here, Davis-Monthan is known by a far less prosaic name, one more in keeping with the Wild West folklore from Arizona’s earlier days. They call it The Boneyard.

Davis-Monthan is not the only aircraft boneyard in the world, but it is by far the biggest. The climatic conditions in Arizona – dry heat, low humidity, little rain – mean aircraft take a lot longer to rust and degrade.
An aerial view of Davis-Monthan, including partly disassembled B-52 bombers (SPL)

What’s more, underneath the top six inches of dirt topsoil is a clay-like sub layer called caliche. This extremely hard subsoil allows the planes to be parked in the desert without the need to construct expensive new parking ramps, according to the 309 AMARG.

Planes are expensive things to build and maintain, but even at the end of their flying lives they still have their uses. But it takes a lot of room – and a lot of money – to store these unused planes in the kind of hangars needed to keep them warm and dry. It’s much cheaper to store them in the kind of conditions found in Tucson. That’s the reason why many of the world’s biggest aircraft boneyards are found in the dry deserts of the south-western US.

But it’s not simply a case of landing a plane at Davis-Monthan, parking it in one of the rows and handing someone the keys. Many of the aircraft are considered inactive, but have to be able to be brought back into service if need be. That takes a lot of work.

Broken bombers
The Boneyard’s workers have an exhaustive checklist. Any planes that have served on aircraft carriers have to be thoroughly washed to get rid of corroding salt. All aircraft have their fuel tanks and fuel lines drained, and flushed with a light, viscous oil similar to that used in sewing machines to ensure all the moving parts are lubricated. Then they must have any explosive devices – such as the charges that activate ejection seats – safely removed. Then, any ducts or inlets are covered with aluminium tape and the aircraft are painted over with a special easily strippable paint – two coats of black, and a final white layer to help deflect the fierce desert sun and keep the aircraft relatively cool.

(US Air Force)
Jets like these F/A-18s may be used to provide spare parts to keep other aircraft flying (US Air Force) Tucson

Aircraft are kept at various levels of restoration – some are kept in as close-to-working order as possible if they are deemed to be needed to fly at a later date, while others are partially dismantled. Some of the aircraft stored at Davis-Monthan include retired B-52 bombers, aircraft capable of carrying nuclear weapons. As part of strategic arms limitation treaties with the Soviet Union, the B-52s were stored with their wings removed and placed next to the plane – allowing Soviet satellites to verify that the bombers had been taken out of service.

Others are used for spare parts, with the components sitting in the aircraft until they’re needed. On site is a smelter, where some of the surplus aircraft are shredded and totally recycled.

And with the original assembly lines of most of these aircraft long-since mothballed, Davis-Monthan is home to some 400,000 piece of tooling and machinery needed to create specific aircraft parts. Aircraft all over the world, not just those flown by the US, contain parts from the base’s enormous stockpile.

Post-Soviet boneyards
“As long as there are aircraft flying, military and commercial aircraft boneyards will always be necessary to keep other planes in the air,” says aviation author Nick Veronico, who has visited Davis-Monthan as well as the Mojave facility and other boneyards in the desert states.
(Phil Coomes/BBC)
After the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, irradiated Soviet helicopters like this Mil Mi-6 were stored in a giant boneyard (Phil Coomes/BBC)

“Each of the storage yards typically performs a variety of functions from storing aircraft that are temporarily out of service but expected to return to the fleet, to reclaiming useable parts which are inspected, overhauled, and then held until needed by active aircraft, to dismantling of the aircraft carcasses. These functions go hand-in-hand and are part of the lifecycle of an aircraft.

“I have flown on aircraft that have gone to the boneyard and provided parts to the fleet,” he says. “I’ve had the opportunity to watch parts being removed from a plane, and then having flown on an aircraft flying with salvaged parts – the exact parts I saw being removed, preserved, and installed.”
There are boneyards in Russia that contain some of the old Soviet Union’s military aircraft, but it’s fair to say the aircraft here are not in any fit state to return to the skies. The former bomber base at Vozdvizhenka, some 60 miles north of Vladivostok in far-eastern Russia, used to be home to Soviet supersonic bombers. After the end of the Cold War the aircraft were surplus to requirement – and simply left where they were parked. The once-secretive base in now abandoned, and this ghostly bomber fleet now poses for photographers who clamber through the rusted fences.
(Getty Images)
At Mojave Airport, more than 1,000 airliners ended up in the California desert after their flying days (Getty Images)

Another post-Soviet boneyard is in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone – the area evacuated after the 1986 nuclear disaster in Ukraine. The vehicles used to help clean up the disaster area were contaminated with radiation. A line of giant Soviet helicopters has been left to rust in the fields. BBC News pictures editor Phil Coomes visited the site in 2006, on the 20th anniversary of the disaster. “After the nuclear accident at Chernobyl, many of the contaminated vehicles used in the clean-up operation were placed in graveyards in the vast exclusion zone around the reactor.

 Some remain there today,” he says. “The largest graveyard, Rassokha, [is] where the remains of helicopters, military and civilian vehicles and fire engines are slowly rusting away. It’s a vast site, but over the years parts have been reclaimed for spares but contamination levels vary, so souvenir hunters would be wise to keep away.” Despite the danger of radiation poisoning, many of the helicopters have been stripped of useful parts; their skeletal remains dwindle with every passing year.

In eastern California, Mojave Airport carries out a similar role for civilian aircraft that have reached the end of their operational lives. Airliners have been flown here for decades, and stored in the dry desert heat until broken up for scrap.
(AFP/Getty Images)
Some aircraft end their days being hacked to pieces to be sold as scrap, like these Russian-built Ilyushins in Belarus (AFP/Getty Images)

“Driving across California’s high desert, the airliner boneyard at Mojave airport is visible from miles away,” writes aviation photographer Troy Paiva, who photographed airliners here in the 1990s and 2000s before security concerns made it a no-go area. “The long rows of faded tails seem to stretch to the horizon.”

The Royal Aeronautical Society’s Keith Maynard says aircraft are less of a headache to dismantle than other heavy transport. “I’m not sure how easy an aeroplane is to dismantle, but what goes together comes apart, and there’s a lot less heavy or dangerous materials associated with aircraft than ships.” But as less and less recyclable metal goes into making modern planes, the epic scale of the desert boneyards may be reduced. “In the future, the use of composites may make life more difficult to deal with final disposal, but there are industry protocols that are addressing the issue. But bone-yard parking will still be useful when demand fluctuates. Indeed, the numbers of parked airliners is often a good sign of slump or recovery, and is monitored by analysts.”

Back in Tucson, the long rows of planes at Davis-Monthan sit in the Arizona heat. For some, the sun-baked desert is a kind of aviation retirement home. For others, their flying days are not quite over.