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

Châteaudun Aircraft Graveyard/Storage Facility, France






Châteaudun-Air-Base-France-2 (Images: Theo van Vliet; Google Earth; French Air Force airplane graveyard at Châteaudun)

Located 70 miles South of Paris, Châteaudun Air Base saw plenty of action in its lifetime. Still visibly scarred by bombing encountered during World War Two, it’s whole existence is kind of a monument to destruction. Most-notably, this can be seen in the form of the ‘crashed’ Dassault Mirage III fighter.

An upturned fighter lying with its belly exposed to the elements, the crashed Mirage III seems to have been designed for training exercises, helping firefighters and paramedics cope with what a likely crash scenario could have looked like. Although this is arguably the most attention-grabbing resident of Châteaudun today, many other Mirage IIIs wait in ‘storage’, scattered around the runways, sitting alongside Sepecat Jaguars and others. However, with the base apparently closed in 2014, perhaps the aircraft graveyard will linger indefinitely – or at least until French authorities scrap the rusting jets for good.

Abandoned Russian Planes at Ugolny Airport, Siberia





Ilyushin-Il-76TD-wreck-ugolny-airport-2 (Images: Dmitry Avdeev (1, 2, 3, 4, 5); abandoned airplane graveyard at Ugolny Airport, Siberia)

Located seven miles outside the easternmost town in Russia, Ugolny airport today inhabits a desolate no-man’s land on the fringes of the country. The landscape is barren, the winds chilly, the air biting and the skies perpetually grey. While the airport itself has found new life in the post-Soviet world, the same can’t be said of its old hangers. Broken up, exposed to the elements and surrounded by rubble, they mark the final resting place of the USSR’s feared bomber fleet.

During the Cold War, everything from Tupolev Tu-95 Bears to supersonic Tu-22M Backfires were kept here, waiting for the signal to unleash hell on the West. That signal never came. Instead, the military part of the base fell into total disrepair in the mid-1990s, never recovering. As late as the first decade of the 21st century, the ruined remains of Soviet aircraft could still be seen there, looking as if they’d been destroyed during a brutal bombing run.

Airplane Graveyard at Ellinikon International Airport, Greece

Ellinikon-International-Airport-abandoned-747-aircraft (Image: Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)






abandoned-747-SX-OAB-interior-2 (Images: deconcrete.org; NickChino; an airplane graveyard in Greece)

In the heady days of 2004, it must have seemed like the party would never end. Athens had just brought the Olympics back to their ancient home, and the effort spent to make the occasion worthwhile was mind-boggling. Ellinikon International Airport was closed specially to create a bigger airport for the games, its grounds donated out to host multiple events.

Fast forward 12 years and how much things have changed. Greece’s well-publicized financial woes have seen it lose an entire generation as buildings are abandoned, shops shut up and homes foreclosed. The former Ellinikon Airport has fared no better. In a dilapidated corner overgrown with weeds sit the forlorn carcasses of a handful of Olympic Airways passenger jets, including a Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet that’s been well-and-truly decommissioned. Nearby sits an old Hellenic BAC-111 . Their fate, like that of Greece, now stands as a sad reminder to the turbulent years since 2008.

Fighter Plane Graveyard at Kuçovë Airbase, Albania





plane-graveyards-kucove-albania-5 (Images: Rob Schleiffert (1, 2, 3, 4, 5); Albanian airplane graveyard at Kuçovë)

Once ruled over by an paranoid megalomaniac, Albania for a long time was the pariah of Eastern Europe. When Communism finally collapsed and the world got a good look into this secretive state, what we saw was a strange, ageing world that seemingly hadn’t moved on from the ’50s. You can still see traces of that in its old fighter plane graveyard at Kuçovë air base.

At a time when Russian and American aircraft were scaling new technological heights, Albania was still flying craft that wouldn’t look out of place at a vintage rally. Nor did this end with the arrival of capitalism. As late as 2005, the fleet at Kuçovë was technically still-active. Today, nothing remains but 70 rusted aircraft quietly accumulating years in this intriguing plane graveyard.

Entombed Aircraft at Gjadër Air Base, Albania


plane-graveyards-albania-2 (Images: Chris Lofting; Rob Schleiffert; entombed jets at Gjadër air base, Albania)

Back in the day, an aircraft launch at Gjadër Air Base in Albania would have been a strange sight to behold. Appearing like an ordinary airfield from above, Gjadër in fact extended deep inside a nearby mountain where hidden aircraft awaited the expected Yugoslav military strikes. To launch, they would taxi from the mountain to the runway before blasting off into the sky.

Of course, the day of the great Yugoslavian invasion never came (there had been one prior to the Communist era, but that’s another story). After the fall of Communism, Gjadër wound up in the hands of the CIA, who briefly used it for monitoring the Bosnian War. The Albanian aircraft inside were simply abandoned. In long tunnels hewn from rock about 50 of them remained, hidden under sheets or layers of dust and awaiting the base’s future reopening. They may have a long time to wait. The gates of Gjadër closed way back in 1997. With the military threat now over (along with Yugoslavia itself), it seems unlikely operations will ever resume. Today, the mountain hangar is reported sealed, and it’s unclear whether its subterranean aircraft graveyard remains within.


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About the author: Morris M




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