How it Started

When I was 12, I found a blank ledger book. It was a treasure beyond treasure to me. I debated and debated about what to do with it - it had to be something special. Finally I decided to make a list of things I wanted to do and places I wanted to see in my life and then cross them off when I had accomplished them. At first they were simple things, but soon I was adding dramatic things, impossible things, but things still worth dreaming about. Oddly enough, putting them on the list somehow made them attainable. I have kept the book and updated the list my entire life. Here is the story behind some of the entries - successes and failures, embarrassing and proud moments, laughter and tears - the ridiculous to the sublime!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Explore the Airplane Boneyard - DID IT

In the middle of the Arizona desert far from the public eye is a graveyard of sorts.  It's where unwanted airplanes go to die quietly. I visited with a camera guy to make an airline training video, the gist of which was "Look what happens if you don't take care of business." Airlines don't want the public to see their logos and brand names on the bodies of partially dismantled and rusting planes, so access to the boneyard is strictly monitored - no lookey-lou's, no cub scout field trips.  The identifying marks of active airlines were painted over in a mostly-failed attempt to hide their ownership, but planes belonging to bankrupt companies are left exposed without a decent burial.

As graveyards should be, it was silent except for the wind whistling through the empty doors and windows. Dust swirled around piles of passengers seats, wing skeletons and flat tires. Like a human graveyard, there was an attempt at order, noses faced into the wind, tails toward the sunset, one in front of the other, staggered side by side to maximize the use of space.  The desert seemed capable of swallowing them all and many more. It is a shrine to wasted resources in a disposable society.

Claims are that some of them are just there temporarily. They will be coming home when things improve.  That felt a bit like telling an elderly relative that their stay in the nursing home is just temporary, they will be coming home - if things improve.  You say the words, but no one really believes it.

The supposed temporary residents of the boneyard are tarped, heated and dehumidified by a crew of graveyard attendants. Like newly dug graves in a cemetery, they are bright and well maintained, no grass grows under their wheels.  But little by little the sun and the wind, the cold and the heat take their toll and these temporary guests fade into permanent residency.  Then the buzzards start removing their organs for transplant. First it's the engines, then any resellable parts, then the recyclable metals until all that remains are the scraps - the bones.

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