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

Airplane Graveyard at Khodynka Aerodrome, Moscow, Russia

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plane-graveyards-khodynka-moscow-10 (Images: Alan Wilson; abandoned aircraft boneyard at Khodynka Aerodrome)

For several years, in the middle of Moscow, there lay a peculiar sight. Amid the brand new skyscrapers and signs of a bustling modern metropolis was a remnant of an earlier age that looks somewhat out of place. Once home to  Khodynka Aerodrome, the site has now been redeveloped, but its hard to forget the desolate airplane graveyard that was completely at odds with the redeveloped world around it.

As late as the turn of the decade, between 30 and 40 rusting Russian hulks still lay on the site, seemingly defying the encroaching progress of modern Moscow. This led to speculation that they may actually be a kind of under-advertised open-air museum… until they finally disappeared for good. In late 2014 the desolate site vanished beneath a wave of concrete and new tower blocks that took over the area. With them came the end of one of Moscow’s last, truly-idiosyncratic sights. It’s understood the inmates of this aircraft graveyard were relocated to Lukhovitsy.

The Boneyard: Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona (USA)

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plane-graveyards-boneyards-davis-monthan-5 (Images: Bing Maps; ‘the Boneyard’ at Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona)

One of the most famous modern man-made sites on Earth, the Davis-Monthan AFB airplane graveyard in Arizona is the stuff of legend. Filled with miles upon miles of mothballed craft collectively worth something in the region of £22bn, it has been storing decommissioned planes for over 60 years. Seen on Google Earth, ‘The Boneyard’ showcases a vast collection of neatly-arranged craft. Seen in real life, it can take the breath away.

Among The Boneyard’s better-known inhabitants are B-52 flying fortresses, F-4 Phantoms, F-15s, F-16s, F-18s and A-10 Thunderbolt “tank busters”. More-controversially, there are also the last 72 British Harrier Jump Jets, collectively sold to the US for a mere £116m to serve as a spare parts supply for the US Marine Corps’ AV-8Bs. This caused a certain amount of anger in the UK at the time, not least because the price for which the entire collection of UK Harriers was sold will cover just one copy of its replacement, the F-35 Lightning II. Not that this makes the world’s largest airplane graveyard at Davis-Monthan AFB any less impressive, or diminish its justifiable right to call itself The Boneyard.

Military Aircraft Graveyard in Ukraine

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airplane-graveyard-ukraine-storage-5 (Images: Russos.Livejournal.com; aircraft graveyard in Ukraine)

Somewhere in the central part of Ukraine lies this mysterious abandoned aerodrome. Seemingly a Cold War relic, it features row upon row upon row of helicopters, jets and other craft all silently awaiting pilots who will likely never come.

Little is known about this airplane graveyard, except that it’s been empty for a very long time. The craft are rusted and battered, presumably suffering the lingering effects of the tough Ukrainian winters. Rotor blades have been removed from the helicopters and the planes’ interiors gutted. Alongside them sit rows of similarly-forgotten jeeps, like an abandoned army keeping watch on their prisoners.

Perhaps the most-impressive thing about this aircraft graveyard is its size. If it existed in the UK or US or EU, it would likely be famous by now. Instead, it sits forgotten amid rural Ukraine.

Aviation Warehouse, El Mirage Dry Lake, USA

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airplane-graveyard-el-mirage-6 (Images: Telstar Logistics – website; the incredible aircraft graveyard at El Mirage, CA)

A scrap collector’s dream but an aviation enthusiast’s nightmare. That’s the tagline you could apply to the Aviation Warehouse in El Mirage Dry Lake, California. Essentially a giant desert scrapyard, the place features more aircraft than you could comfortably count. Unfortunately, just about all of them have been have been broken up for scrap, leaving only their dismembered shells.

The airplane graveyard is a surreal sight, and its inmates come from far and wide, spanning the different eras of aviation history. Abandoned USAF jets lie mixed in with commercial carriers and plenty more besides. The overall impression of the airplane graveyard is like stepping into a boneyard from a Star Wars film, the bodies of the planes so utterly destroyed that they almost look like parts of some intergalactic space vessel.

Abandoned (& Buried) Planes at Al-Taqqadum & Al Asad, Iraq

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When coalition troops arrived at Iraq’s Al-Asad airbase during the 2003 invasion, they stumbled across something wholly unexpected: a genuine airplane graveyard. At some point before the war began, the Iraqi air force had quietly concealed or even buried more than 50 Soviet-era planes, including high-performance MiG-25 Foxbats. Many were found to be in reasonable condition, with some even thought capable of flying. A pile of high-explosives lying nearby at Al-Asad indicated that Saddam intended to press them back into action again one day.

Elsewhere, the MiG-25 Foxbat pictured below was dragged from the sand of the vast airfield at Al-Taqqadum. Coalition troops dug this and other abandoned aircraft out of the burning sand after gaining control of the airfield, exposing their faded hulks for the world to see.

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buried-mig-25-al-taqqadum-3 (Images: USAF (1, 2, 3); a buried MiG-25 Foxbat is dragged from the sand of Al-Taqqadum)

However, most of the abandoned aircraft didn’t last. In the years following 2003, Al-Taqqadum became a major Coalition hub. Its old aircraft were reduced to battered wrecks, mostly destroyed during the long period of insurgency that followed the invasion. The MiG-25 pictured was sent to the US for preservation.

Abandoned MiG-25 Foxbats at Tiyas Airbase, Syria

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tiyas-t4-abandoned-mig-25-foxbat-6 (Images: Google Earth; Bing Maps; abandoned MiG-25s and MiG-23s at Tiyas, Syria)

In the years before the Civil War sent the country spiralling towards destruction, the Syrian Air Force was the proud owner of 38 MiG-25 Foxbats. Once the pride of the regime in Damascus, many were phased out sometime in the last decade, before being abandoned altogether as the nation dramatically imploded. Their final destination appears to be Tiyas airbase in the heart of the country.

A vast base surrounded on all sides by miles and miles of burning sand, Tiyas is one of the most important bases in Syria. Nonetheless, its single runway leaves it vulnerable to attack, as demonstrated when the anti-Assad Free Syria Army bombed it in 2011. Fast forward to today, though, and the base still seems operational. Satellite images shows multiple Foxbats dragged off to one side, an airplane graveyard populated by these once-mighty machines. In the current quagmire that is Syria, it’s hard to say how long they might remain there – or whether the regime will ever press them back into service.

Related – 10 Tank Graveyards & Abandoned Battle Vehicles of the World

 
 


 
 
 

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