TUCSON, Ariz. —Since its inception in the mid-1940s, the mission of a former Army aircraft storage facility located near this desert oasis has grown increasingly popular.
Now, it seems the entire country is starting to discover what folks in the Air Force Sustainment Center have long known about the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group – that it is indeed a national treasure.
“The Boneyard,” as it also is affectionately known, has become so popular in fact that NBC’s Weekend Today decided to visit the facility last week for a tour and to capture video and conduct interviews for an upcoming episode.
According to Brig. Gen. Steve Bleymaier, Ogden Air Logistics Complex commander, who has oversight of AMARG, the Weekend Today crew conducted interviews with Tim Gray, 309th AMARG deputy director, and Lt. Col. Shirley Mercier, 309th Aircraft Maintenance Group deputy commander.
“The name ‘Boneyard’ is a misnomer,” Bleymaier said. “Tim Gray and Colonel Mercier did a great job continuously emphasizing how AMARG helps AFSC provide readiness to the warfighter and how it’s a national level airpower reservoir.”
Immediately after World War II, the Army’s San Antonio Air Technical Service Command established a storage facility for B-29 and C-47 aircraft at Davis-Monthan AFB. Today, the 309th AMARG has grown to include more than 4,400 aircraft and 13 aerospace vehicles from the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and several federal agencies.
The facility supports the Department of Defense, NASA and other government agencies by providing selected aerospace depot maintenance and modifications, aircraft regeneration, storage and preservation, and aircraft parts reclamation and disposal.
The NBC crew began their tour of the base bright and early on July 13, capturing video of an Arizona sunrise coming up over stored aircraft at the facility.
They followed that up by getting video footage of stored aircraft engines; a variety of stored aircraft types; a maintenance shelter to depict restoration to flight capabilities of C-27J for USCJ; an F/A-18 overland withdrawal for Marines and C-130 wing refurbish for AFSOC; aircraft preservation on C-12 and P-3 for the Navy; and a NASA T-38 aircraft staged for withdrawal to support Quiet Super Sonic Transport.
According to Gray, the producer developed an interest in filming nose art and captured quite a bit of B-roll of the same during the visit.
“This played really well into our Air Force history and the 70th anniversary of our Air Force,” he noted.
Weekend Today show talent Craig Melvin arrived later that morning and proceeded to the aircraft maintenance hangar to conduct a standup interview with Mercier.
“The interview was conducted on the aircraft hangar mezzanine overlooking the F-16 regeneration and A-10 LARS production lines,” Gray noted.
Gray mentioned Melvin’s questions focused on an overview of AMARG, to include the definition of regeneration, modifications on various aircraft, why some aircraft were decommissioned and used for parts reclamation, the number of stored aircraft, oldest aircraft, facility size, and AMARG’s history of an almost entirely civilian workforce.
Melvin and crew then headed over to another area of the base where aircraft are displayed, a.k.a. “aircraft row,” to conduct an interview with Gray, who used the Air Force’s Century Series aircraft as a backdrop to expound on AMARG’s and the Air Force’s history.
“I defined AMARG’s mission as part of the Air Force Sustainment Center enterprise and focused on AMARG’s role as a national level airpower reservoir and how Art of the Possible methodology is used to provide highly cost effective national defense support,” Gray said.
He noted the crew then captured some additional B-roll of more nose art, satisfying the producer’s interest.
“I used this as a bridge back to the Air Force’s 70th Anniversary and AMARG’s role as a national asset in supporting every major conflict from the Berlin Airlift to present day operations,” Gray said.
Mercier and Melvin then took a limited golf cart tour of the facility with Go-Pros to capture additional footage and continue their overall discussion. Assets visible during this portion of the tour included C-130s, F-16s, stored aircraft engines and the regenerated F-16 candidates on the flight line.
The tour culminated at the C-5 being prepared for storage, where a brief interview between Mercier and Craig Melvin took place in the cockpit.
The video footage and interviews conducted at AMARG are due to air in an upcoming episode of NBC’s Weekend Today live broadcast to be determined at a later date.