How the world’s largest airplane boneyard stores and regenerates 3,100 retired aircraft

Following is a description of the video:

Narrator: The 309th AMARG stores the world’s largest collection of military aircraft here in the Arizona desert.

Col. Jennifer Barnard: I like to call this the ugliest plane out here, the YC-14. It was an aircraft that never went into production.

Narrator: Eight hundred mechanics work nonstop, reclaiming critical old parts and regenerating aircraft so they can go back into service.

Barnard: I can’t just pull over an airplane like you can a car. And we have to make sure that these aircraft are safe to fly. Our goal is not to be like a cemetery for the aircraft.

Narrator: That’s Col. Barnard. She’s served 25 years as a US Air Force Aircraft Maintenance Officer.

Barnard: As a commander here, I am in charge of the whole operation. The assets stored here are worth somewhere between $34 billion and $35 billion, if you were to try to replace them all. It’s a big number.

Narrator: She took us inside this massive facility to see how these military planes get a second chance at life. AMARG got its start back in 1946. After World War II, the Army needed a place to store old planes. They chose Davis-Monthan Air Force Base here in Tucson. With nearly 2,000 football fields worth of open desert, there was plenty of space.

Barnard: We’re known worldwide as the boneyard. Our guys take pride in being boneyard wranglers.

Narrator: Arizona has the perfect weather for storing these assets. It’s hot, there’s little rainfall, no humidity, and the soil?

Barnard: It’s as hard as concrete.

Narrator: So planes won’t sink.

Barnard: The dryness, as well as the lack of acidity in the soil, prevent corrosion on the assets.

Narrator: Aircraft come here from the Department of defense, military, other government agencies, and froeign allies.

Barnard: We have about 3,100 airplanes. The planes are mostly military. They come from the Air Force, the Navy, the Army, and the Marines. We have over 80 different types of airplanes here.

Narrator: Planes and helicopters arrive and are lined up in sections.

Barnard: So we’re driving down display row here, or celebrity row as some people call it. We do have a sense of humor here. That’s our stealth aircraft, which is actually just Wonder Woman’s jet. The LC-130s have skis along with their landing gear so they can land down in Antarctica and support the National Science Foundation all across that continent. We’re coming up on a NASA aircraft. It’s affectionately called the vomit comet.

Narrator: Some aircraft will be here for weeks before they’re called back into service. Other aircraft can be here for 50 years, similar to this A-4 Skyhawk. Each plane goes through a preservation process before it’s put in the desert. Those that may fly again are re-preserved every four years. They’re defueled, then oil is pumped through the engine to preserve it.

Barnard: The black material that we have on here is the base layer that seals up the aircraft. And then later, as you can see, the rest of the aircraft around here, the coats on top are white. And those white coats will reflect the heat so it better preserves the assets all on the inside of the aircraft.

Narrator: Like the inside of this C5-A Galaxy.

Barnard: The inside of the C5 is the largest cargo aircraft in the Air Force inventory. I have deployed on these.

Narrator: One of six deployments Col. Barnard’s had to Afghanistan, New Zealand, and Antarctica.

Barnard: And we can fit three HH-60 helicopters, and a lot of our equipment that we need, as well as all our maintainers. We have just over 60 of them here. And every one of them needs 72 tie-downs. Airplanes are designed to fly, and when it gets a little breezy out here we want to make sure they stay parked.

Narrator: But not every plane just sits around collecting dust. US military units around the world can request specific parts off these planes.

Barnard: An aircraft has so many thousands of parts. Just like a reservoir keeps things in case you need them. And then we release what’s out of the reservoir as needed.

Narrator: And some of the parts the military can only find here at AMARG.

Barnard: We are that assurance that there’s a part available when the supply system main sources don’t get it. We send anywhere from 4,000 to 7,000 parts out every year to the tune of a few million dollars each week worth of supply parts.

Scott and James here are removing the engines from the back of this T-38 as a reclamation effort because these have been requested to go back into service. So once the crews reclaim the parts out in the desert and bring them into the end of this building, they get washed, they get non-destructive inspection, and they’re going to pack and ship these right out the door as fast as we can.

Narrator: But sometimes, instead of being used for parts, an entire plane will be regenerated, meaning they’ll pull it out of the desert and wash it down.

Mike Serrano: We have to remove all the coatings that are used to preserve the aircraft out in the desert.

Narrator: After getting a nice shower, it’s fixed up.

Barnard: What our team is working on here is a C-130 that’s being regenerated for foreign military sales. In this hangar, the current project that we’re working on is F-16s in post-block repair. It’s a package of structural improvements on the aircraft to extend their flyable life.

Narrator: The unit also handles aircraft modifications.

Barnard: These aircraft come from US units that are active right now. And then they get some work done on them, and they go back out to that same unit. So we’re able to upgrade those and modify them to keep them up with the current standards in the active fleet.

Narrator: Complicated individual pieces are sent to separate back shops for repair and overhaul.

Barnard: Here in the wing shop … We have all the center portions of the A-10 wings being rebuilt here. And the outer portions being rebuilt there. There’s actually hundreds of pieces inside of an aircraft wing. The complexity and the level of structure, it’s really eye-opening for many folks. Each set of wings can take up to 20,000 man hours to overhaul.

Narrator: Once parts are fixed, they go through a thorough inspection. We’re here in the non-destructive inspection area. Pete’s working on a fluorescent dye penetrant.

Pete Boveington: It’s basically a liquid that absorbs into cracks, and we can apply a black light to it. And you can see there’s a crack right here that shows up. This crack right here on this part in the landing gear could cause catastrophic failure on the landing gear.

Narrator: Not a single crack on an entire plane can get past this team.

Barnard: We have to make sure that these aircraft are safe to fly so that we protect that asset, and we protect the air crew that’s inside of that asset. So the stakes are pretty high.

Narrator: Once fixed, the planes go through a rigorous final flight test. Pilot Scott Thompson is testing these regenerated F-16s.

Lt. Col. Scott Thompson: I will take them out to the airspace just south of here. Close enough to where if I do have a problem I can get back onto the ground immediately and pretty much put them through the wringer. We test flight controls, and the handling, and the engine performance, and all the systems on the plane pretty extensively, at all altitudes.

Barnard: They go out to become full-scale aerial targets.

Narrator: That’s a happy ending for a plane pulled from the desert here at AMARG. But for other aircraft, this is the end of the line. The planes marked with a big D are destroyed by a third-party contractor.

Barnard: So these are our guys that work the demil, and they prepare aircraft for disposal. Well, and I will get out of the way of the crowbar.

Worker: I’m pretty good with this crowbar.

Barnard: I’m pretty good at destruction too, but you guys are being super careful about it, which you should be.

Narrator: The planes are demolished for good reason.

Barnard: We’ll make sure everything’s accounted for and that the materials and the technology don’t fall into the wrong hands.

Narrator: While some Americans may not have heard of AMARG, it actually saves taxpayers a lot of money.

Barnard: The assets stored here are worth somewhere between $34 billion and $35 billion. And so to make a new one may not be possible, versus to rejuvenate an old one might be the best-case scenario.

Narrator: But for the workers, it’s not just about saving the military some money. It’s also about giving these planes another life.

Thompson: A lot of these airplanes haven’t flown for a very long time. I flew a lot of them operationally back in the day. It’s great to get back in them and bring them back to life.

Barnard: These airplanes have a lot of stories to tell, and it’s wonderful to spend time with them and think about that. There are very few of us military that are lucky enough to be assigned here. It’s just a joy to be able to work with these people every day and be around these airplanes.

Read the original article on Business Insider

An expert explains what would’ve happened if United flight 328 experienced its scary engine failure over the ocean

United Airlines Boeing 777
A United Airlines Boeing 777.

  • United Airlines flight 328 landed safely after experiencing an engine failure over Denver over the weekend.
  • Even if the engine failure had occurred over water while en route to Hawaii, the aircraft likely could have landed safely. 
  • Wide-body aircraft like the Boeing 777 are rated to fly for more than five hours on a single engine.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

A United Airlines flight from Denver to Honolulu successfully executed a safe emergency landing on Saturday after suffering an fiery engine failure shortly after takeoff.

Though debris spewed across Denver suburbs, the aircraft was able to quickly turn around and land back at Denver International Airport with no injuries or lives lost.

The entire ordeal lasted less than 30 minutes since the failure occurred just miles from a major international airport. But as this aircraft was heading to Hawaii, there was a possibility that the aircraft could have lost its engine while flying high over the Pacific Ocean – with the nearest airport potentially hundreds of miles away. 

It’s a scenario that regulators have feared since the beginning of the jet age. The guiding theory was that having more engines on a plane would help airliners make it to the nearest airport in the event of a failure. Three and four-engine planes like the Boeing 747, Douglas DC-8, and Lockheed L-1011, among numerous others, ruled oceanic skies for exactly that reason.

Regulators eventually created Extended-range Twin-engine Operations Performance Standards, or ETOPS, where twin-engine aircraft could cross oceans. Aircraft only had to stay within a certain flight time from the nearest suitable airport in case an emergency landing was required. 

The Boeing 777-200, the plane in question in the incident over the weekend, can fly over five hours with just one engine thanks to its 330-minute ETOPS certification. That’s around the flight time from Los Angeles to Honolulu.

When flying over the Atlantic between North America and Europe, diversion airports along the way typically include Keflavik Airport in Iceland, Gander International Airport in Canada, and Narsarsuaq Airport in Greenland. But flights to Hawaii from the mainland US often have no intermediate airports along the route, leaving pilots with two options: return to the mainland or continue to Hawaii. 

“The decisions that the crew would have to make would be based on the location of the aircraft,” Henry Harteveldt, founder of travel research company Atmosphere Research Group, told Insider. “Has it reached the halfway point between the mainland and Hawaii? If it had not, chances are it would return back to the mainland and land at the closest available airport that could accommodate the 777.”

Overwater flights are dispatched with ETOPS requirements in mind to ensure that a diversion airport is always within reach, assuming that the engine failure or shut down doesn’t lead to other problems with the aircraft.

San Francisco International, Los Angeles International, and San Diego International, to name just a few, are possible diversion airports if the aircraft have to return to the mainland. But if past the halfway point, pilots might decide to press forward to Hawaii and may even determine they can land at the intended destination airport.

An aircraft flying from Denver to Honolulu, for example, wouldn’t operate unless that aircraft could fly to a diversion airport with one engine at any stage of the flight, whether over Colorado suburbs or the mid-point between the mainland and Hawaii. 

A new generation of aircraft based on ETOPS

Fears of an overwater engine failure on a twin-engine jet hindered the development of the segment for decades. True innovations with two-engine aircraft only came about once aviation regulators introduced ETOPS in the 1980s and manufacturers started to build larger twin-engine jets like the Boeing 777, Airbus A350 XWB, and Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Those aircraft are now replacing the costlier quad-engine aircraft like the Boeing 747 and Airbus A380, with new types like the Boeing 777X currently in development. Twin-engine aircraft now operate the longest flights in the world, including the latest New York City-Singapore route that’s operated by an Airbus A350-900ULR

And it’s not only twin-engine wide-body aircraft that can use ETOPS as smaller aircraft like the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 families can get the certification. Flights from the mainland US to Hawaii are frequently operated by narrow-body aircraft and some airlines use them to fly between North America and Europe under ETOPS rules

“The certification for these planes to operate over water has been rigorous, and it’s been going on since 1985,” Harteveldt said.

Harteveldt was working for Trans World Airlines, commonly known as TWA, when the Boeing 767 received ETOPS certification that allowed it to fly as far as 60 minutes from the nearest alternate airport. Those limits were gradually increased, allowing airlines to fly more direct routes instead of focusing on staying close to land. 

United’s experience with flying over water with one engine

An overwater engine shut down isn’t within precedent as a United Airlines Boeing 777-200 flying from Auckland, New Zealand to Los Angeles in 2003 was forced to shut down one engine while over the Pacific and divert to land, according to FlightGlobal. The nearest airport in Kona, Hawaii ended up being over three hours away, technically over the 180-minute requirement for the 777 at the time. Still, the aircraft was able to land safely after around 190 minutes from the engine shutdown.

Another United Boeing 777 flight from San Francisco to Honolulu in February 2018 was forced to shut down an engine after an issue with the Pratt & Whitney PW4000-112 engine, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report, and managed to make it to the destination airport on one engine. 

Harteveldt noted, however, that the loss of the engine nacelle, or the covering that houses the engine, on flight 328 may have adversely impacted the aircraft’s range and limited the diversion airports available for landing.  It was also revealed that a piece of the engine did in fact puncture the fuselage and may have contributed to an even greater loss of aerodynamics that may have reduced its range, even more, according to Harteveldt. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Boeing drops after airlines ground 777 planes following engine failure over Denver

Boeing 777
Pieces of an airplane engine from United Airlines Flight 328 sit scattered in a neighborhood on February 20, 2021 in Broomfield, Colorado.

  • Boeing stock fell 3% during Monday’s session in the wake of the engine failure of a 777 plane over Colorado on Saturday. 
  • Boeing recommended airlines suspend the use of planes equipped with Pratt & Whitney PW44000-112 engines. 
  • The National Transportation Safety Board found two fan blades in the United Airlines engine were fractured. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Boeing stock dropped Monday after the aircraft manufacturer recommended that airlines ground certain 777 planes after an engine failure on United Airlines flight rained debris over the Denver area on Saturday.

United Airlines said it will “voluntarily & temporarily” remove 24 Boeing 777 aircraft powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000 series engines from its schedule. The move came after Flight UA328 from Denver to Honolulu experienced an engine failure shortly after departure. The flight landed safely at Denver International Airport.

None of the 229 passengers or 10 crew members were injured, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a statement. Parts from the plane were found scattered around the Broomfield area, which is located about 22 miles east of Denver International Airport. The NTSB said Sunday an initial examination of the Pratt & Whitney PW4077 engine showed, among other findings, that two fan blades were fractured.

Boeing stock fell as much as 3.1% to $210.83 before trimming the loss to 1.8%.  Boeing’s shares over the past 12 months have lost roughly 33%. United shares, meanwhile, rose 3.5%.  

“While the NTSB investigation is ongoing, we recommended suspending operations of the 69 in-service and 59 in-storage 777s powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines until the FAA identifies the appropriate inspection protocol,” said Boeing in a statement Sunday, referring to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Pratt & Whitney is a subsidiary of Raytheon Technologies. Raytheon stock fell 1.5%.  

Boeing said it supported the decision by the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau and the FAA to suspend operations of 777 aircraft equipped with Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines.

“We are working with these regulators as they take actions while these planes are on the ground and further inspections are conducted by Pratt & Whitney,” Boeing said. 

The UK Civil Aviation Authority said Monday it has suspended the use of planes with Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines in UK airspace. The engines are not used by any UK airlines, it said. 

Read the original article on Business Insider