March 11, 2013

Put out to pasture

On the west side of Tucson is Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. Home to the 355th Wing,  this air base continues as an active training and support facility. It is also a storage facility for literally hundreds and hundreds of planes that have been pulled from service. Every type of military aircraft sits in neat rows, stretching for miles. To get a sense for how big this is, you have to drive by it. But, since that is impractical for most, watch this short video. Be sure to stick around for the last 30 seconds and try to count the planes:




Why are they here? My information is that parts are used to keep other planes flying. Some are sold to other countries that want the type of aircraft offered or need the parts for their own planes. And, of course, while 20, 30, even 50 years old, these aircraft could be made air worthy and fly again for the Air Force. What struck me as I drove down Kolb Road in Tucson and saw all these "retired" planes were the parallels to our own retirement.

For some of us, feeling "mothballed" after an active life becomes a problem. Just as these aircraft served their country for many years, we worked hard at whatever we did to be able to invest and save enough to be able to stop working. But, what happens next is really key. Without work do we feel sort of like an out of service airplane, put away with no real function? Do we sit in the Arizona (or Florida) sunshine waiting for.......?

Or, are we allowing our "parts" to keep functioning. As noted, these stored aircraft often have a second life. Their parts are used to keep other planes flying or they may be sold. They can be used for training purposes. The fact that they aren't being flown every day the way they used to be doesn't make them worthless. It just makes how they are used different.

A satisfying retirement is very similar. This phase of life has the same highs and lows, pros and cons, disappointments and joys as any other time of life. It offers the same opportunities to learn, grow, contribute, and make a difference. Attitude has a tremendous effect on the level of success at this time of life. If you view your productive life as over, in effect, put out to pasture, then that is probably how it will be.

I suggest we take a lesson from the planes sitting on those acres of tarmac in Tucson. If they were worthless it is likely they would have been turned into scrap a long time ago. But, as the video mentions, this part of the Air Force actually makes money for the government. These aging, pulled from service, past their prime machines have enough value for the Air Force to spend many millions of dollars to protect and guard them.

No matter our age or our current station in life we have value. Our job is to scrape off any dust, reinflate our tires, and figure out what we have to offer.

Heavens knows the world needs our wisdom and help.

24 comments:

  1. Thanks Bob, I have been by those planes when I am in Tucson to visit my daughter so the analogy hits home. I saw a great TShirt saying on Facebook, it said "Listen to old people, they know great stuff" and a teenager was wearing it. Have a great and wonderful Monday. Cindy

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    1. Good Monday to you too, Cindy. In many cultures senior citizens are revered for their wisdom. I'm afraid it is going to take more than a few T-shirts for that to happen here.

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  2. Bob,

    Interesting analogy and I think you are correct.

    I follow Mr Money Mustache, Early Retirement Extreme, and other young retirees who are redefining the word "retire". I think you can make retirement mean anything that you want. For me, it means a sense of freedom that I haven't had since I was a child.

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    1. Retirement is no longer accurate...re-starting or re-charging your life is closer to the reality. None of us wants to be in a "bone yard" like these planes.

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  3. We loved visiting the planes. Well written blog too!

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    1. The planes are an amazing sight. I was glad to learn they are used and aren't just in expensive storage, waiting to fall apart.

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  4. Great post! I like to use the example of being a classic 19-- Chevy......I keep polishing it up, overhauling it and keep turning over the motor daily, and putting in good fuel...in hopes of being a servicable 19-- Me for as long as possible.
    Have you ever visited Dayton OH? Great air museum there...also the Naval Air Museum in Pensacola FL....awesome...just got me thinking of our wonderful places that display these wonderful machines that have served our country so well. If you haven't, you might enjoy them as they are awesome!

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    1. I have not been to the museums you mention, but in our RV travels, who knows? There is a great air museum in Mesa, a suburb of Phoenix that I have been to. The old planes there are works of art. They range from WWI through Viet Nam.

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    2. Don't forget to come to Air Zoo in Kalamazoo, Michigan, if you're interested in great air museums.

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    3. Haven't visited the Air Zoo but have only heard wonderful things about it. Some of the planes at Pensacola were retrieved from near there. The guides at the Naval Air Museum reference it also.

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  5. Thanks for the post Bob, a rather apt analogy.

    (rest of comment removed..link to commercial site that didn't relate to post)

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  6. Nice thought. I estimate 960 planes. Is there a prize for guessing the correct number?!? In any case, something for my list of things to visit next time I'm in Tucson.

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    1. According to a web site I found, over 4,000 aircraft are stored here. They are divided into four categories:

      Long Term – Aircraft are kept intact for future use
      Parts Reclamation – Aircraft are kept, picked apart and used for spare parts
      Flying Hold – Aircraft are kept intact for shorter stays than Long Term
      Excess of DoD needs – Aircraft are sold off whole or in parts

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  7. Very good analogy Bob. We do manifest what we think, so if you think you're washed up and your life is over...congratulations! it is.
    b

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    1. Jimmy Buffett's line about "he'd rather die while living than be living while dead" is the same thing. Life is to live as fully as possible for as long as possible.

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  8. I guess I have to be the contrarian here. I don't want to be thought of as an old think kept in storage so that they can sell off my parts. That sounds like Soylent Green to me. :)

    Maybe if we actually cut some of the militaries bloated budgets they would keep them flying longer instead of putting them in storage by the thousands. The current fighter jet costs us between $100 million and $2.4billion each. I wonder how much was spent for those 4,000 aircraft sitting in the Arizona desert? I bet we could provide a lot of healthcare for all us seniors with the costs.

    Nice thought provoking post Bob.

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    1. Soylent Green...interesting movie about turning old people into food. I hadn't thought of that one for years.

      It does seem like a lot of planes. I think the video refers to it as the 3rd largest air force in the world.

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  9. Lovely and insightful post.

    I wish more could see past the gray hair and not think "out-of-touch, behind-the-times old geezer" or something like that. Too often the older person is immediately dismissed without anyone ever checking on their background, current interests and what they have and can offer.

    I may be older and know what I know and like, but I'm also not afraid to try or learn something new!

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    1. The image is perpetuated by TV shows and movies, though occasionally there is one that breaks the mold, like the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

      I know very few older folks who fit Hollywood's image, but that is the one most people have to go on. It is up to each of us to live in such a way that we "break" that stereotype. Maybe over time it will change.

      Your retirement home of Hawaii is one of the few places I know of where the strength of Ohana (family) ignores the "old is bad" way of thinking.

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  10. I doubt that many planes or naval ships have come out of mothballing except in time of war.

    I have been reading your blog for several months now and have formulated an idea to avoid mothballing as I approach my 70s. I have not met my financial goals to allow for a comfortable retirement; but I have developed a plan.

    Next year I will be taking one week off every other month. A day a week seems like a drop in the bucket for personal time, but a week at a time is a nice chunk and still have plenty of work for financial security.

    I'll classify myself as semi-mothballed then.

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    1. I agree with you. With a constant flow of new and better I'm hard-pressed to think the military brass would accept any of those old planes. It sounds good on paper, but except for an occasional tanker pulled back into service help fight forest fires, I bet they just sit.

      Speaking on sitting, I like the plan of a week off every other month. That is long enough to make it special. Good idea, Warren.

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  11. Great analogy! I was reminded of Jimmy Carter's mother, who joined the Peace Corps when she was...how old? I forgot. In her 80s?? No scrap heap for her!

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    1. Jimmy Carter himself is a great example of someone who really found his "proper place" after leaving the presidency. He is still going strong.

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