The 1966 Air Force-produced color Film “Desert Bonanza” explains the activities of the 3040th Aircraft Storage Depot. The depot was renamed the Military Aircraft Storage and Disposition Center (MASDC) in 1965. Today you know it by its current moniker- the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG). It may come as a surprise that up until 1965, the United States Navy maintained its own “boneyard” at Naval Air Station (NAS) Litchfield Park (now Phoenix-Goodyear Airport). Before the transfer of NAS Litchfield Park to civil operation in 1968, more than 500 Navy, Marine, and Coast Guard aircraft were ferried to Davis-Monthan for storage as MASDC. Phoenix-Goodyear is still a boneyard, but they park mostly airliners there now.
If you’re an Avgeek you’re probably familiar with what AMARG looks like today. But in the mid-1960s, the place was populated by Douglas A-26 Invaders, A-4 Skyhawks, A-1 Skyraiders, B-66 Destroyers, C-54 and R5D Skymasters, C-47 Skytrains, Boeing C-97 Stratofreighters and KC-97 Stratotankers, B-29 and B-50 Superfortresses, B-47 Stratojets, and B-52 Stratofortresses, Lockheed P-2 Neptunes and EC-121 Warning Stars, Grumman HU-16 Albatrosses, S-2 Trackers, and F9F-8 Cougars, North American T-28 Trojans, F-86 Sabres, and FJ Furies, Convair F-89 Scorpions, Sikorsky H-19 Chickasaws and H-37 Mojaves, McDonnell F-101 Voodoos, Pregnant Guppies…and that’s just what they showed us in the film! The place was, and in many ways still is, an Avgeek’s paradise. Well, except that so many of them never left MASDC or leave AMARG except as parts for other aircraft…or as ingots.
At the time the film was shot there really was quite a bit of ‘regeneration” going on. C-47s were being reborn as AC-47D Spooky gunships. Retired Navy Skyraiders were being fixed up and used by Air Force Special Operations Groups as combat search and rescue (CSAR) escort and close air support (CAS) Spads. Korean War-vintage B-26 Invaders were being rebuilt by On Mark Engineering as A-26A Counter Invader counter insurgency (COIN) attack bombers as well as civilian transports like the Marksman. Navy A-4As and A-4Bs were being rebuilt to later model configurations or utilized as training aircraft. In fact, the two A-4A Skyhawks in the film (BuNos 139939 and 142145) were both used by Naval Air Reserve Training Units (NARTUs) after they were reclaimed from the boneyard.
Here’s a more modern look at AMARG with which to contrast “Desert Bonanza.” There are some very interesting stories in this one!