The U.S. air base shares the same runway as Bishkek's commercial airport, which is littered with decaying aircraft from Kyrgyzstan's recent Soviet past. Many of the Soviet-era buildings around the airport, some still in use, show severe deterioration as well.
Dozens of dilapidated aircraft -- ranging from modern-style passenger jets to World War II era CCCP biplanes -- are packed into a makeshift boneyard on several acres at the east end of the airfield. Frighteningly, some of the jets apparently are still considered airworthy.
Fairchild mechanics on deployment at Manas say that every once in a while they'll see Kyrgyz crews tow planes out of the boneyard and to the commercial side of the airfield, where they're apparently put to use. "It's like if they can get the engines to start, that's all that matters," said a bewildered KC-135 mechanic.