The U.S. Federal Government has scores of old aircraft waiting for dismantling. Why doesn't it auction some of them? Some people might be very much interested in planes such as the B-52, and would be happy if they get it at some considerable price (though, I have no idea what it may be!) to keep them as a memorabilia. Also, this and this suggest that civilians can purchase and fly military aircraft. So why doesn't the federal government give this a shot?


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    $\begingroup$ It would be a challenge to find adequate storage space for your private B-52. Right after WW II, many airplanes were auctioned off at these locations, and some people made a small fortune just from the leftover fuel in them. $\endgroup$ – Peter Kämpf Jun 9 '15 at 18:47

There are a few reasons for this.

First off they may not want the public, or more importantly potentially enemy nations obtaining a large quantity (or any quantity for that matter) of military planes. Even old war birds can still do a lot of damage if equipped by a person with intent on doing damage.

Secondly, the boneyard you have pictured serves a few purposes. For one it houses aircraft that have reached their life time limit. To keep an airplane flying it takes not only money but a supply of parts (or the resources to make your own under certain FAA rules). Out of service planes may be tough if not impossible to keep flying for no other reason than you cant get airworthy parts for them.

Thirdly, some of the planes in these bone yards are scrapped (or kept there) for reserve parts for the planes still in service. Again airworthy parts are not as simple to get as going to your local car parts store. There are many more regulations around them. In this case you can pull parts from an airworthy plane (if you know the cycles its been through) and use them to fix another plane.

Lastly, and this is mainly speculation, maybe the government is hidings its back up planes in plane sight...

On the note about buying old war birds, rules have changed over time and its not as easy to get ahold of government property as in days past. Some military equipment that sees its way to the public hands actually left the US as a sale to another country then that country sold it into public trade as well. For what its worth Trade-a-Plane has a whole section just for war birds.


In the Eighties and Nineties there was a concerted effort to reduce the nuclear arsenal on both sides of the Cold War. This resulted in a load of B-52s being dumped in the desert and being partly dismantled - wings cut off, etc. These aircraft had to remain there so that the Russians could verify by satellite that the US was adhering to its side of the relevant treaty.

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"B-52s chopped" by federal photographer - AMARC. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikipedia

Wikipedia covers the START treaty and includes images of these bombers. I imagine the Russians had similar arrangements.

The USAF could still cannibalise these machines to keep other B-52s airworthy, but attempting to buy one is likely to be, shall we say, suspicious.


To put stuff into context, It was rumored (so I cannot guarantee the authenticity of this claim) that my university declined an engine to go with their old donated F16 out of security concerns, i.e. that some people and organizations would have become a little too 'interested'.

The fact remains that many countries have any old American aircraft, yet are not (or no longer) 'allies' of the United States. They have a correspondingly difficult time to get hold of parts.

For instance:

  • Iran has F4, F5, F14s and C130s.
  • Venezuela has F16s
  • Pakistan has F16s.

Needless to say, none of these could really be considered 'allies'.

Even a seemingly irrelevant piece of metal (that you say would like to use for furniture or what not else) could have value to somebody who has difficulties or limitations in acquiring spare parts for their jets.

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    $\begingroup$ I think Pakistan would be quite upset to hear itself not considered an "ally" of the United States :p The US is the second-largest foreign supplier of military equipment to Pakistan after China. $\endgroup$ – Calchas Jun 10 '15 at 14:40

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