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Incoming aircraft are processed according
to the military's use requirements at the time. There are
three basic types:
- Process In.
Arriving aircraft have their weapons, hazardous or explosive
materials, ejection seats, classified or easily pilferable
items removed. Systems under spring or hydraulic tension
are relieved. At the Flush Farm, fuel systems are drained
(the fuel is cleaned and stored for use in other aircraft)
and the systems purged with lightweight preservation oil.
The aircraft are taken to the Wash Rack, where they are
cleaned and inspected for wear and tear, damage, and corrosion.
The sealing process involves taping seams, covering all
openings: access panels, doors, intakes and exhausts, and
then covering canopies and other surfaces with 2 coats of
Spraylat, a non-hardening vinyl plastic, the final coating
in white to protect against light and heat. The aircraft
are then towed to their spot in the desert and secured.
Out. Selected aircraft are removed from storage and
prepared for flight ready condition. This may take several
months, depending on the aircraft's condition and what it's
destination will be. Target drones must be flyable by a
pilot out to the Mojave range, where they will be fitted
with the remote control equipment needed for that job.
Removal of parts and assemblies as needed for replacement
parts on operational aircraft in use around the world and
for sale. This is a very important part of AMARC and is
what keeps many of the operational aircraft in the fleet
safe and available for use. Also, it is much more economical
to use the parts off of older aircraft, because once an
aircraft has gone out of production, any attempt to get
a limited number part run from the manufacturer is going
to result in a very heavy price tag. In fact, it is these
types of circumstances that may help explain things like
the infamous $600 hammer. What AMARC does, through its Reclamation
process is maximize the fleet aircraft inventory to best
effectiveness for the military, at the best cost for the
taxpayer. In fact, AMARC may be the only part of the military
that produces more revenue than it costs.
Obviously, many aircraft are stored
at the AMARC facility, pending their disposition. There are
four categories of aircraft storage:
Type 1000: Aircraft which could
be readily made flight-ready.
Type 2000: Aircraft which may eventually
be returned to flight status, but more likely will be reclassified
to Type 4000.
Type 3000: Aircraft in flight-ready
status, held for transfer or sale.
Type 4000: Minimal preservation.
These aircraft will be parted out and eventually scrapped.
Virtually every day at AMARC, aircraft
are coming in, going through processing and assigned to storage
types, decisions have been made and will be made regarding
their status and the needs of the military to best utilize
the resources the aircraft represent in their current condition.
Aircraft are flown out, either back to duty status, to another
country, or to the target range. Still others are sold as
display aircraft and are moved to museums, parks, and other
facilities. Every scrap of worthwhile material is accounted
for and used where needed in this continuing process of renewal.
I sometimes think of myself as a naïve
child in matters like these. I hate to see something I have
affection for damaged or destroyed, and if I had my way, they
would all be preserved forever somewhere, for what utility
I do not know. Just the comfort of knowing they're there,
The military does not have the luxury of idle contemplation
concerning the future of these aircraft. They live in the
very real world of military aircraft operations and readiness,
a world of safety concerns, budgetary concerns, of having
to justify everything they do and knowing that the justification
will have to stand scrutiny years later for who-knows-what
group of Monday Morning Quarterbacks to second-guess. I recognize
the difficult jobs they have to do and now I have a little
appreciation for just how they do them and how well they do
them. The men and women of the military, and the civilian
contractors operating AMARC are doing something that deserves
appreciation. Appreciation that is not reflected in a name
But even with the knowledge I now
have of AMARC there's a part of me that wishes that 50 years
from now there will still be flying F-4 Phantoms, F-14 Tomcats,
A-10 Thunderbolt II's, and others, for our children and their
children to watch, to marvel over, to wonder about. What stories
would those aircraft tell if only they were able to tell them?
Maybe with the help of AMARC, the stories will be told and
imaginations fueled by old warriors still flying proudly.
The author greatly
appreciates the assistance of The Pima Air and Space Museum,
web site, the United States Air Force, the United States
Navy, and especially to Chris Slack and his excellent web
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