Krulwich On Science

What Is That?

So you look down from space (if you happen to be a Google Earth satellite) and you think, "What IS that?"

Google Earth images of the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tuscon, Ariz.

Google Earth images of the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tuscon, Ariz. hide caption

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It's a parking lot. Or maybe a supply depot. What we're looking at here is 2,600-acres in Tucson, Ariz., filled with retired helicopters, airplanes, cargo planes and old World War II bombers. Some are intact, some are broken into spare parts, but whoever* runs this place on the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base has the soul of an artist.

The pieces are laid out in elegantly repeating patterns outlined by dirt roads that make diamonds or interlacing semi-circles. The view from the ground, if you happen by East Irvington Road (see Google's "Street View") is ho hum. From up above, though, for the first time we can see what you can do with more than 4,000 big steel toys that carry a price-tag of about $35 billion.

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I particularly like how even the disassembled planes are organized into patterns: wings left, wings right, fuselage center, tail to the left, cockpit to the right. Apparently these planes are used for spare parts by the U.S. military, so having everything just so makes sense. I could never manage this. One look at my sock drawer and the guy who runs this lot would just sigh.

Thanks to Steve Silberman, and the UK's Daily Telegraph.

*That "whoever" would be the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG).

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