RAAF F-111s go six feet under

F111s buried.jpg

Old aircraft tend to have ignominious ends.  Numerous F-4 Phantoms, F-102s, and even earlymake F-16s have received the fatal ‘QF’ target drone designation, which generally portends swift destruction by missiles. With the end of the Cold War, the wingsand fuselages of dozens of old B-52s were guillotined by a steal beam droppedby a crane, making it easier for Russian satellites to verify these aircraftwere seriously out of commission. Many old aircraft end up in permanent storagein the American desert and a lucky few end up in museums.  


I’m no aircraft disposal expert, but few, it seems to me, receivethe dismal fate shared by 23 former RAAF F-111s. The fuselages of the iconicaircraft were last week buried in an Australian landfill, outraging thesensibilities of the nation’s aviation geeks.

To be fair, Australia is offering seven F-111s to museumsand other historical organizations, but the terms are onerous:

  • Housing the aircraft in a completely enclosed facility;
  • Ensuring members of the public are prevented from climbinginto engine intakes and exhaust ducts;
  • Limiting, controlling and supervising public access to thecockpit;
  • Preventing the public from opening aircraft panels;
  • Supervising public access to the wheel well and weaponsbays;
  • Completing specified preservation maintenance; and
  • Meeting Commonwealth auditing and reporting requirements.

All this serves to completely rule out the conversion of theaircraft into playground equipment for schools. How cool would it be to have onethese things in the school yard, the cockpit and engine housings open forchildren to play around in. It would mean stripping out most of the aircraft’shardware (engines, avionics, etc.) but it is better than burying the aircraft. Theaircraft 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 airframeswill be available for future archaeologists to pore over. Perhaps, thousands ofyears from now, one or two of these old birds will find itself in a museumafter all. 

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