21 Abandoned Airplane Graveyards (Where Aviation History Goes to Die)

Abandoned Soviet Airplane Graveyard in Far East Russia

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plane-graveyard-vozdvizhenka-russia-8 (Images: Maks Maydachenko; Soviet supersonic bomber graveyard)

The collapse of the Iron Curtain saw the Soviet sphere of influence melt away in mere months. Like many great Empires before it, the frontiers of the USSR became hastily abandoned, leaving spooky remnants in faraway places for future explorers to ponder over. One of the spookiest of all might be this this abandoned air base in Far East Russia, which is home to a rusting boneyard of defunct Soviet-era bombers.

Only 40 miles from the Chinese border, Vozdvizhenka air base feels like the end of the Earth. The surrounding landscape is flat and desolate, and seemingly crushed beneath permanent grey skies. But what really arrests the eye are the abandoned aircraft carcasses strewn across the facility. Over 20 Backfire bombers still litter the site, deserted when the crumbling base was finally shut down for good in 2007, following years of chronic under-use.

When urban explorers infiltrated the ruins in 2011, they met no resistance. It seems Russian command has effectively forgotten about Vozdvizhenka. Thanks to its isolated nature, this airplane graveyard may endure for a long time to come.

Abandoned Aircraft on the Edwards AFB Photo Test Range, USA

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plane-graveyard-edwards-afb-5 (Images: Stephen Freskoswebsite; unofficial airplane graveyard near Edwards AFB)

The airplane graveyard on the old photo range outside Edwards AFB is justifiably famous. Located in the barren wilderness of the Mojave Desert only a short hop from the mysterious Area 51, the unofficial boneyard features a handful spectacular wrecks with intriguing histories of their own.

Among them are the devastated hulks of two B-52 bombers. The end of the Cold War saw a massive push for disarmament, including the destruction of bombers and other aircraft. These two planes were scrapped and ditched in the desert, their insides gutted and their outsides riddled with holes. Unfortunately, to satisfy Russian spy satellites passing overhead, the US military was compelled to destroy one of them. Obligingly, the Americans stuffed one airframe full of explosives and blew it completely in half.

They left the wreckage outside for 90 days, so those same satellites could confirm its destruction. Fast forward a quarter of a century, though, and the B-52s are still there – a relic of the Cold War, abandoned on the mysterious ranges of the High Desert.

Aircraft Graveyard at Moscow Power Engineering Institute, Russia

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abandoned-russian-military-jet (Images: Theo van Vliet; Soviet airplane graveyard at Moscow Power Engineering Institute)

The Cold War saw an explosion in the number of fighters, bombers and attack jets under Soviet command. Rugged and robust, they were intended to encounter an inevitable NATO assault, providing cover for the USSR’s major cities and military installations as well as penetrating western defences.

That ‘inevitable’ attack never happened. As a result, post-Cold War Russia found itself littered with tired aircraft, many of which were formidable machines. While some were scrapped, many were simply left to rust across the vast Eurasian steppe. Yet others wound up in the unlikeliest of places, such as this airplane graveyard right in the heart of Moscow.

Maintained by the Moscow Engineering Institute, the abandoned Soviet aircraft existed for a long time as a practice facility for students to try their new skills out on. Though we understand the airplane graveyard has now finally been cleared for scrap, it doesn’t make these pictures any less haunting.

Buried F-111 Cemetery in Queensland, Australia

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raaf-f-111-buried-swanbank-landfill-queensland-5 (Images: Thiess via YouTube; buried F-111s – an airplane graveyard in the true sense)

When we talk about aircraft graveyards, we generally mean that only figuratively. In the case of the F-111 cemetery in Queensland, Australia, though, it’s strangely literal. Rather than being a scattering of abandoned planes turning to rust beneath the sun, the 23 strike jets here are buried far beneath the Earth, their final resting place marked by a digital headstone in the form of GPS coordinates.

Forty-three General Dynamics F-111C and G variants were delivered to Australia by the United States over the years. At one point they were an iconic feature of Oz’s skies, whistling overhead at impossible speeds. They even racked up their own nickname: the ‘Pigs’. During their decades of service, eight Pigs crashed while another 12 wound up being decommissioned and preserved. The remaining 23, sadly, were destined for the landfill. Buried in November 2011, they will eventually vanish deep beneath the landscape – the location of the aircraft graveyard recorded so that its contents may never fall into the wrong hands.

Abandoned Airplane Boneyard at Mojave Airport, California, USA

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airplane-boneyards-mojave-airport-ca-6 (Images: Savvas Garozis; Mojave Airport’s vast airplane boneyard)

Back in the USA’s Western Deserts sits yet another abandoned aircraft boneyard. Only this one has a slight difference. Situated near the city of Mojave in California, this old cemetery comes attached to the Mojave Air and Spaceport – a test range crucial to the future of space travel.

Used by companies as diverse as Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, Lockheed, and Airbus, the Mojave boneyard has scrapped some of the world’s biggest commercial airliners. That doesn’t include those that are simply ‘in storage’ and neither yet due for scrapping nor to return to service. Thanks to the dry desert conditions, defunct planes and craft from multiple companies sit outside in the sun, slowly gathering dust as the powers that be decide their eventual fates. For those who are lucky enough to witness this strange airplane graveyard, it’s unlikely to be a site they’ll ever forget.

 

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About the author: Morris M

 

 
 
 


 
 

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