Friday, April 3, 2015

Pinal Airpark: Once-secretive aircraft boneyard slowly opens its gates

For motorists on the way to Tucson from Phoenix, little interrupts the desert's color scheme.

Then, a flicker of white, red and blue draw eyes to the west, where a cluster of tail fins pokes over the horizon.

As tires chew asphalt with a hypnotic thrum, the sleek metallic bodies connected to those fins emerge.

Passenger jets, too many to count at 75 mph, sit wing to wing. The 747s are easy to pick out, thanks to their immense size and bulbous noses. The other jets are noted only for their sheer number, as dozens comprise a tableau one would expect at an airport, not in a solitary patch of land bounded by desert on one side and cotton fields on the other.

The next exit offers a partial explanation: Pinal Airpark Road.

Adventurous travelers who just a few years ago followed the two-lane road past the sand and gravel pit would have encountered an armed guard at the airpark's gate. The alarmed barks of guard dogs emphasized the point — visitors were not welcome.

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