Davis Monthan Boneyard Tour
By Jordan Ross
As of 5-1-17 significant changes in procedure for taking the "boneyard" tour at Davis Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona, have been implemented. The tours are run by the Pima Air and Space Museum (PASM) which is located next to Davis Monthan AFB. In the past you could simply buy a ticket for the tour at the admissions desk, get on the bus, and be taken around the acres and acres of stored aircraft. You could not get off the bus, but it was and is a most interesting tour.
Anyone contemplating taking the tour needs to first read the information on the PASM website.
Now, when you go buy your tour ticket, the clerk will ask you to read a printout they have of the information which is on the website. It contains information about what you need to do in order to be allowed to take the tour. You must acknowledge you have read it and understand what it says.
Note that tickets for the tour are sold on a first come, first served basis. They do not sell them in advance or take reservations so the earlier you get there, the better the chances tickets will be available. The museum opens at 9:00AM. Check ahead to make sure they are open on the day you plan to go. Tours are not conducted on Saturday or Sunday.
Once you have paid for your ticket, you go to another counter where a clerk will ask you for identification and your Social Security number which is recorded on a form you have to sign which includes a liability waiver. You are then issued a boarding pass for the tour bus and assigned a number.
You then go outside to the area where the line forms to get on the bus. Boarding begins after the clerk who took your ID and SS number brings the driver and docent what they call "the paperwork" which they have to show to the USAF military police once you get to the base. Side note: it would be wise to use the restroom before getting on the bus.
To get on the bus you need to again show your ID (drivers license in my case) and give the docent the boarding pass you were issued. The bus is a very nice one. Big, air conditioned, comfortable seats, and with huge windows making viewing and photography easy. The docents who narrate the tour are knowledgeable and friendly and most willing to answer questions from the guests, and so was the bus driver.
The bus takes the group to the main base entrance, about a 10 minute drive from the museum. Upon arrival the bus goes to what is called the "holding area" manned by armed military police. Everyone has to get off the bus and take their possessions with them. Passengers are directed into a building used to inspect vehicles. Once everyone is in the building the doors are closed until the military police have concluded whatever passenger checking and bus inspecting they need to do. Assuming no problems, in about 15 minutes everyone is allowed to re-board the bus and the tour begins.
The main gate is on the far side of the base from the boneyard which requires the bus drive through the main part of the base to get to it. No photography is allowed until the bus arrives at the start of the boneyard tour.
The tour itself is very well conducted. The bus slowly creeps along the roads between rows and rows of stored aircraft and the docent explains what kind of aircraft they are, what role they served, and a little history about the more interesting ones. It takes around an hour and a half to complete the tour circuit.
Assuming you have no problem with the security driven requirements to take the tour, I highly recommend it. Just be prepared. Whether you take the tour or not, a visit to this great museum is always a wonderful experience.