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Come Fly Away

January 30th, 2013

Come Fly Away

 Katie Parrish

            Something that is very important to me and my background is the military.  I was raised as a military brat and have moved all over the world at times.  So naturally, I would want to do a blog post that would reflect that kind of life style that I have come to call normal.  One topic that I have come to know since being a military brat is that of airplanes. My dad was in the Air Force for 24 years and could tell you pretty much whatever you wanted to know about any kind of military plane out there.  The topic of my post today is what happens to the planes since the time that they had been used in our military when they become too old for actual military combat.  Where do these retired planes go when they are no longer being flown?  Are these planes being taken care of when they are not being used?  Is the military trying to preserve their military culture by keeping these planes preserved?

            From the conversations that I had with my dad, not many planes that have retired,  make it past retirement (Parrish, 2013, private conversation/interview).  Typically when a military grade plane is no longer active in service, it would be placed in an air plane graveyard.  Some of the planes could be stripped down for parts for other planes, or they could even be placed into museums like the Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.  There are also other cases when the military will take away all the militaristic components to the planes and then sell them for the public and sometimes overseas (Treadway, 2013, private conversation).  Other planes that have since been retired, they can be maintained to go to different air shows around the country; those that are used in these kinds of air shows would have to be maintained to the same standards as planes that are still in service only if they are planned to be flown, otherwise, they are mostly used for show purposes for the public to come in and see the planes.  Some of the more interesting planes that have been retired in the most recent years are:

  • P-51 Mustang: World War II
  • B-52: Mostly flown in Vietnam, a revised form of this plane can be seen being flown for the military today, but it is not the same.
  • SR-71: A Cold War era spy plane.
  • F-117: one of the military’s first stealth spy planes.

Conservators at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum have recently tried to conserve a H Ix V3, known as the batwing, which proved to be difficult.  It had been degraded over time and had a very delicate body which made it time sensitive to try and keep it safe( Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, 2011, Preserving and Displaying the ‘Bat-Wing Ship’).  This example is just something of what a conservator would have to go through to conserve a beaten up military plane.

            If you were to drive onto an Air Force base today you are more than likely to see  models of planes, new or retired, displayed all around the base. I suppose that this would be a form of preserving a great deal of the military’s material culture.  The preservation of many of these retired planes can be very interesting, and they are a great teaching tool for the future to see how technology has changed and affected different kinds of warfare. 


  Image 1: B-52


  Image 2: F-117


  Image 3: P-51 Mustang


  Image 4: SR- 71


General Conservation

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