Air Transportation: No Reasonable Offer Refused


June 18, 2016: Chile recently received the second of two C-130H aircraft from the United States. Each of these transports cost Chile $7 million, which included refurbishment. A new C-130H costs nearly five times that. Refurbished military aircraft are often cheaper (per flight hour) to operate because you have a record of years of operations which reduces the risk of buying an aircraft that turns out to be a lemon.

The C-130H Chile received recently entered service in 1977 with the U.S. Navy as a transport that could also handle inflight refueling. It was retired in 2008 and put into storage at the AMARC (Aerospace Maintenance and Recovery Center) “bone yard”. Three years later this C-130H was called back into service. That lasted two years and it was to be returned to AMARC when Chile came looking for a C-130H. So this ex-navy transport was refurbished again and flew to Chile in May 2016 where it will serve for another ten or twenty years (depending on how often it is flown each year).

Over 2,400 C-130s have been built since 1954. The most common version is the C-130H. It has a range of 8,368 kilometers, a top speed of 601 kilometers per hour, and can carry up to 18 tons of cargo, 92 troops, or 64 paratroopers. The latest version, the C-130J, has a top speed of 644 kilometers, 40 percent more range than the C-130H, and can carry 20 tons of cargo. The C-130 is used by over 50 countries.

In the United States retired aircraft are usually sent to AMARC, an air force storage site out in the desert. Since World War II most military aircraft ended up being retired intact (and eventually scrapped), not shot down or otherwise destroyed in combat. Some nations, particularly the United States, have an intermediate status - storage. The main such site in the United States is AMARC. This is the “bone yard." Aircraft stored at AMARC would, if armed and operational, be the third largest air force in the world. This facility, at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base out in the Arizona desert, stores nearly 5,000 military aircraft no longer needed for active service. Every year some are recalled, refurbished and sent back to work. But most get "harvested" for spare parts, until what's left is chopped up and sold for scrap.

A growing number of aircraft are becoming too old (or missing too many parts) to be revived and are eligible for scrapping. Thus In 2012 the United States auctioned off 12,000 tons of retired F-111, C-5, F-15, C-130, S-3, and A-4 aircraft for scrap. After ten or twenty years in AMARC aircraft are likely to be scrapped. But before that happens a growing number of frugal nations come looking for bargains.




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