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Scenes from a Desert Airplane Graveyard

I know a lot of people get freaked out in a graveyard – but to me, an airplane graveyard is even more unsettling. Few of the residents seem ready for the scrapheap. It’s like carting a 50-ish person off to a deserted lot, him in a hole and shoveling dirt on him. Too young, too much still to give the world.

Just look at these. Imagine how much money is just sitting here – and most of it was fully functional before being stripped of useful parts and left to the elements.

Even if they can fly anymore, there are still plenty of perfectly good uses. I’ve stayed in two hotel that were once airplanes – one a 747 in Stockholm, the other a Bristol freighter in rural New Zealand. I’ve dined in a great old CIA cargo hauler in Costa Rica. And think of the company that makes homes out of 727s! I would love to live in one of these! And what worth are they as scrap, I wonder. And how long will they sit in the desert before getting turned into a cola can?

Anyway, I shot these photos at Phoenix Goodyear Airport GYRt, where there’s a pretty good-sized airplane graveyard for airliners. What you’ll see in these photos are airlines from all over the world, and not a bunch of old beaters. There’s only one DC-8-ish sort of plane, and a bunch of 757s, A340s and A320 family aircraft. Sure, the DC-10/MD-11 types are past their prime for passengers. But they’re likely the oldest by a long shot.

For some of these shots, I tried going in for close shots of the aircraft to convey the sense of decay.

airplane graveyard

I had to take this photo because it shows the amazing scale of the Boeing 747 – I’m pretty sure it’s a 300 series. But whatever it is, it’s hundreds of yards behind an MD-80 and a 737 … and still manages to make them look like light twins.

airplane graveyard

This Airbus A340 makes a forlorn backdrop as a light GA plane – probably with a student pilot – comes in for a touch and go. On of my favorite things about the older Airbus widebodies is that muscle car, nose-down look.

airplane graveyard

Three widebodies in one shot: a pair of DC-10s and a 767.

airplane graveyard

Here’s a closer look at one of the DC-10s, with its door and a lower panel open. It looks like something out of a post-apocalyptic film.

airplane graveyard

The missing radome and doors of this 777-200 are just depressing.

airplane graveyard

Signs of life at the old airplane graveyard.

airplane graveyard

A tangle of winglets, tails and stabilizers.

airplane graveyard

This cannibalized 757 is a bleak husk – a mangled corpse denuded of dignity.

airplane graveyard

I can imagine having this A340 delivered to some cool piece of property and turning it into the ultimate Wandering Justin house.

airplane graveyard

The mountains make a great backdrop here.

If you think visiting an airplane graveyard sounds like fun, check out my story about running a 10K race through one of the most-famous of them all!

Mentioned in this post
  1. Phoenix Goodyear Airport GYR
    Attraction in Goodyear Arizona

    1658 S Litchfield Rd
    Goodyear Arizona
    (623) 932-4550
    http://goodyearairport.com/

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