/ Published March 28, 2018
AMARG: America’s Military Aircraft Boneyard—A Photo Scrapbook by Nicholas A. Veronico and Ron Strong. Specialty Press, 144 pp.
Nicholas A. Veronico and Ron Strong’s narrative is a pictorial documentary of America’s foremost aircraft “boneyard” or outdoor storage facility, located in the Arizona desert near Tucson. The 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) is a subset of the 309th Maintenance Wing assigned to the Ogden Air Logistics Complex in Ogden, Utah. The group has the distinct mission of storing, salvaging, or scrapping our country’s excess aircraft. What began as one of several outdoor facilities to store excess aircraft after World War II has turned into America’s preeminent aerospace regeneration facility storing or processing almost 4,000 aircraft at any given time.
The coauthors are self-described aerospace enthusiasts employed with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy at NASA Ames. Veronico is also a science and technology writer authoring more than two dozen books on military and aviation subjects, as well as the lead scriptwriter for a Discovery Channel’s documentary entitled “Scrapping Aircraft Giants.” Strong harnesses his 40-year aviation photography experience to bring eye-catching detail to the aircraft at AMARG. He is a former Air Force member who served in weather reconnaissance and special operations aircraft units before he moved on to NASA. The authors’ eye for detail is evident throughout the book.
The format for their story is unlike many. The authors present their narrative in only four chapters, each with brief introductions describing salient details. Each section is filled with pictures of varying aircraft, each captioned with explicit detail on the aircraft’s last unit, tail number, AMARG inventory number, other interesting details, and known disposition at the time of the book’s writing. It is a unique method to tell AMARG’s story. The book itself is laid out with captioned photographs comprising almost 98 percent of the pages; the rest being worded details providing underlying context.
The book is organized chronologically, beginning with the origins of excess aircraft storage facilities following WWII and their subsequent consolidation into the AMARG facility of today. The narrative then discusses the four types of aircraft storage. It describes in detail how the facility stores aircraft in a state ready for return to active duty if called, down to aircraft that have given up every useful part and are ready to be recycled. As one quickly comes to expect, each storage category is explained in detail with excellent captioned pictures. The remaining two chapters provide an historical overview in pictures of the nation’s aircraft fleets during their drawdowns, eliminations, or long-term storage.
The authors take the reader down a photographic path of fleet drawdowns from WWII’s B-17s, B-24s, and B-29s, on though the eras of F-105s and -106s, B-58s, B-52s, C-130s, A-10s C-5s and everything imaginable in between. The anthology covers aircraft from all services, NASA, commercial airlines and the like. With each aircraft drawdown, the authors offer context as to why the fleet was removed from service. Reasons range from obsolete aircraft, obsolete technology, and Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) requirements in terms of our strategic bombers, such as the B-52.
Throughout the narrative, the authors ensure readers understand the AMARG processes. These describe items such as aircraft cocooning, spare part reclamation, full-up return to service restoration and depot-level maintenance activities. It offers unique insights into a behind-the-scenes program supporting our nation’s aerospace mission and pays homage to the men and women performing the work.
In whole, the book is a good addition to anyone’s aerospace reference collection and as an historical record of our country’s aircraft reclamation efforts. It reads easily and is sure to keep one’s attention with its numerous pictorial guides.
Lt Col Kevin R. Nalette, USAF
Santa Monica, California
"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."