I'm no aircraft disposal expert, but few, it seems to me, receive the dismal fate shared by 23 former RAAF F-111s. The fuselages of the iconic aircraft were last week buried in an Australian landfill, outraging the sensibilities of the nation's aviation geeks.
To be fair, Australia is offering seven F-111s to museums and other historical organizations, but the terms are onerous:
- Housing the aircraft in a completely enclosed facility;
- Ensuring members of the public are prevented from climbing into engine intakes and exhaust ducts;
- Limiting, controlling and supervising public access to the cockpit;
- Preventing the public from opening aircraft panels;
- Supervising public access to the wheel well and weapons bays;
- Completing specified preservation maintenance; and
- Meeting Commonwealth auditing and reporting requirements.
All this serves to completely rule out the conversion of the aircraft into playground equipment for schools. How cool would it be to have one these things in the school yard, the cockpit and engine housings open for children to play around in. It would mean stripping out most of the aircraft's hardware (engines, avionics, etc.) but it is better than burying the aircraft. The aircraft would have also made fine dive sites if sunk on the barrier reef. Hell, any of this is better than burying them.
On the other hand, burying them does ensure the airframes will be available for future archaeologists to pore over. Perhaps, thousands of years from now, one or two of these old birds will find itself in a museum after all.