Wrecked B-52 Bombers South of Edwards AFB

b 52s edwards  Wrecked B-52 Bombers South of Edwards AFB(Images via Google Earth)

Aircraft enthusiasts who frequent Edwards Air Force Base in California will likely be familiar with a Boeing NB-52B nicknamed Balls 8, either for its history as NASA’s longstanding “mothership” or for its more recent position on display by the airfield’s north gate.  Less well known are two derelict B-52 bombers located south of the dry lake bed – one relatively complete minus its tail fin, the other chopped into several large pieces.

b 52s edwards 21  Wrecked B-52 Bombers South of Edwards AFB(Images: JACoulter, cc-nd-2.0; Google Earth)

The wrecked B-52s are among several retired airframes dotted across the Edwards radar range.  With security so high at the base, it’s surprising that photographers have managed to get close enough to take these photos.  Is the range still active or is it abandoned?

Abandoned Aircraft and Plane Graveyards Part Two

plane graveyard 1  Abandoned Aircraft and Plane Graveyards Part Two(Image: Daniel Berek, reproduced with permission)

In Part Two of our abandoned aircraft and plane graveyards of the world series, we explore a number of diverse sites from official aircraft boneyards to desert and jungle wrecks.  While hardcore aviation enthusiasts might prefer to see such aircraft restored, many of these wrecks present undeniably fascinating scenes on the landscape, and often tell us something about the rich – sometimes bloody – history of a certain place.

Plane Graveyard near Edwards AFB, Mojave Desert

edwards afb radar range  Abandoned Aircraft and Plane Graveyards Part Two(Images: Jim Gordon (top left, top right, middle), cc-3.0; Jim Coulter (left), cc-nd-3.0; Alan Radecki, cc-sa-3.0)

This plane graveyard in the desolate Mojave Desert, in the immediate vicinity of Edwards Air Force Base, is likely one of the more inaccessible aircraft boneyards of America’s west.  Home to a variety of airframes, including two battered B-52 bombers, a B-47 and a B-58 Hustler known as “Snoopy”, the site is actually a radar range used for reconnaissance testing.  More photographs accompany this full feature article by Urban Ghosts.

Plane Graveyard at Băneasa Airport, Bucharest, Romania

plane graveyard1  Abandoned Aircraft and Plane Graveyards Part Two(Image: Post-Industrial, cc-nc-sa-3.0)

French aviation pioneer Louis Blériot made the first flights around Băneasa in 1909.  Then, in 1912, Romania’s first flight school was opened at Băneasa Airfield, making it the oldest continually operating airport in Eastern Europe and among the five oldest airports in the world.  Băneasa Airport remains operational today although the small fleet of abandoned airliners above, tucked behind a hangar, have clearly been grounded for good.

Abandoned Aircraft Series by Daniel Berek

plane graveyard 3  Abandoned Aircraft and Plane Graveyards Part Two(Images: Daniel Berek, reproduced with permission)

Daniel Berek has catalogued a wide range of abandoned aircraft in this impressive Flickr set.  The battered hulks above have certainly seen better days.  But since several of them reside in the plane boneyard of the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum, perhaps they will one day be restored to their former glory, or simply provide spare parts to their more complete brethren. 

Abandoned Aircraft at Madang Airfield, Papua New Guinea

abandoned aircraft  Abandoned Aircraft and Plane Graveyards Part Two(Image: Matthew Laird Acred, cc-sa-3.0)

This Nakajima Ki-49 Hellen aircraft was abandoned following a U.S. raid on Madang Airport in Papua New Guinea.  The airfield was heavily damaged and several aircraft were simply left to rust.  According to photographer Matthew Laird Acred, the original base was far larger than Madang’s current airport, but would have cost too much to restore.  Acred photographed this historic plane wreck in 2002.

Abandoned Aircraft, Egypt

abandoned aircraft egypt  Abandoned Aircraft and Plane Graveyards Part Two(Lars Plougmann, cc-sa-3.0)

Deep in Egypt’s Sinai Desert, this isolated hangar might look as though it stands in the corner of a dusty provincial airfield, but this is actually the boneyard at Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport.  The condition of the hangared jet is unclear, but the battered wreck outside is obviously abandoned.  Likely used in some training capacity, the cabin top has been cut away and the plane now looks fit only for scrapping.

Miscellaneous Abandoned Aircraft

abandoned aircraft 1  Abandoned Aircraft and Plane Graveyards Part Two(Images: Taro Taylor, cc-3.0; ch images, cc-3.0; Yuriy Lapitskiy, cc-sa-3.0; Gazjo, public domain)

This miscellaneous collection of abandoned aircraft includes the remains of a wrecked World War Two bomber lying in a river in Papua New Guinea, several old airliners rotting away in Russia and a light aircraft deserted in the outback.  Abandoned aircraft and plane graveyards are intriguing sites on the landscape and are found across the world, from massive military aircraft boneyards to isolated island wrecks.

Abandoned Aircraft and Plane Graveyards Part One

Abandoned Aircraft: 8 Plane Graveyards From Around the World

abandoned f 4 phantom  Abandoned Aircraft: 8 Plane Graveyards From Around the World(Image: cgull123, all rights reserved)

While they’re a sad sight to the aviation enthusiast, there’s something eerily fascinating about abandoned aircraft and plane graveyards. Whether it’s the sight of yesterday’s cutting edge technology rusting away in the boneyards of the present, or the rich history surrounding military forces and hardware in general, plane graveyards make for great exploring – in this case from the safety of your PC. In this article we examine eight boneyards that highlight present conflicts and past epochs.

MiG-23 Graveyard, Balad, Iraq

MiG 23 graveyard  Abandoned Aircraft: 8 Plane Graveyards From Around the World(Images: dokmarius (left), cc-nc-sa-3.0; nathanm, cc-nc-sa-3.0)

This ruinous plane graveyard reflects the fate of Iraq’s air force following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Dragged from various hiding places around the former Balad Air Base (now Joint Base Balad), these dilapidated MiG-23s represent an air force that barely got off the ground in the wake of invasion. Lying amid other junk in a neglected airplane boneyard, the abandoned MiGs have been looted by coalition forces and look more like pieces of urban art than once operational aircraft. Explore more of the Balad plane graveyard.

The Famous “A1 Lightning”, Balderton, UK

lightning xn728 balderton  Abandoned Aircraft: 8 Plane Graveyards From Around the World(Image: Gary Parsons, Air-Scene UK, all rights reserved)

Speaking of urban art, this English Electric Lightning F.2A is easily Britain’s most famous derelict fighter plane. The Cold War warrior appeared in a haulage yard near Balderton, Nottinghamshire in 1983, after battle damage repair duties at RAF Coningsby. Bought to attract customers to the yard almost 30 years ago, the Lightning has somehow survived despite changes of ownership and periods of dereliction.

derelict lightning f2a balderton  Abandoned Aircraft: 8 Plane Graveyards From Around the World(Images: Simon Thomas; Gary Parsons, Air-Scene UK, all rights reserved; David Cowling, cc-sa-3.0)

Despite it’s terrible condition, the abandoned aircraft has become a landmark to drivers on the A1 road and was even the subject of a Paul Smith clothing line. With restoration looking increasingly unlikely, some have called for the jet to be turned into a piece of urban art – if it isn’t already. All in all, the Lightning remains something of an enigma. Personal enquiries to owners past and present yielded few details other than an dogged refusal to give it up. RAF Binbrook, the Lightning’s spiritual home, is also abandoned today.

Russian Aircraft Wrecks

abandoned russian aircraft  Abandoned Aircraft: 8 Plane Graveyards From Around the World(Images: Igor W. Minaichenkov and Vladimir Nazarov, via English Russia)

In the world of plane graveyards and abandoned aircraft, the wilds of Russia and vast expanses of Siberia hold a treasure trove of forgotten Soviet hardware. While the workhorse TU-95 Bear and TU-22M Backfire bombers have seen a resurgence in recent years, it’s unlikely the rusting hulks above ever saw regeneration. While many have doubtless been scrapped since these photographs were taken, some likely remain on their weed-infested dispersals due to the sheer remoteness of the region.

Moscow Aircraft Museum – Plane Graveyard, Russia

plane graveyard moscow  Abandoned Aircraft: 8 Plane Graveyards From Around the World(Images: Eldan Goldenberg (website), NC-SA-2.0)

Siberia isn’t the only place to take in Russian aircraft wrecks. Silently guarding the last overgrown dispersals of a Moscow airfield, this collection of corroding jets and helicopters looks more like a plane graveyard than a functioning museum. It’s a curious site amid a rapidly redeveloping area of Moscow, as decaying Soviet hardware meets modern Russia.

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, United States

davis monthan aircraft boneyard  Abandoned Aircraft: 8 Plane Graveyards From Around the World(Images: Roger Smith, cc-nc-nd-3.0)

The most famous aircraft boneyard in the world is a mind-blowing facility at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, where over 4,400 silent fighters, bombers, transports, helicoptors and attack jets make up the world’s second largest air force. From F-4s and F-14s to chopped B-52s and B-1Bs, this is where America’s retired military airborne hardware comes to wait – for recycling, reactivation or spares use.

davis monthan airplane graveyard  Abandoned Aircraft: 8 Plane Graveyards From Around the World(Images: Roger Smith, cc-nc-nd-3.0)

While the B-52s and F-14s are being destroyed to honour treaty agreements, many F-4s will fly again, only to be shot down as target drones over the western bombing ranges. That said, here’s one F-4 Phantom that escaped both the scrapman and the missiles. For more desert plane graveyards of the western United States, check out this article by Ransom Riggs writing on Mental Floss.

Rinkaby Shooting Range, Sweden

rinkaby saab draken  Abandoned Aircraft: 8 Plane Graveyards From Around the World(Images: Andreas Mathiasson, all rights reserved)

In a plane graveyard located in a distant corner of the former Rinkaby military airfield in Sweden, a group of seemingly abandoned Saab 35 Draken fighter planes stand amid other decaying hardware. Ranging from fully intact to twisted metal fuselage remains, the aircraft do not currently appear to be used in live fire exercises but their future is far from certain. Find out more about Rinkaby and its abandoned Saab Drakens.

Abandoned Aircraft and Plane Graveyards of the Middle East

plane graveyard middle east  Abandoned Aircraft: 8 Plane Graveyards From Around the World(Images: Jim Garamone; Bahamut0013, cc-sa-3.0; U.S. Marine Corps; jamesdale10, cc-3.0; U.S. Army)

Due to ongoing instability and conflict, parts of the Middle East are littered with abandoned aircraft and plane graveyards. The top two images depict an airplane boneyard known as “the petting zoo” at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Like Balad’s MiG-23 graveyard, the battered jets have been rounded up from hiding places across the base. Many were probably unservicable before the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions. The wrecked MiG-29 (bottom) was destroyed during Operation Desert Storm and has lain in the desert ever since.

Predannack Plane Graveyard, UK

abandoned harrier predannack  Abandoned Aircraft: 8 Plane Graveyards From Around the World(Images: cgull123, all rights reserved; Dave Bellamy, all rights reserved)

In an extensive tribute to the Harrier jump jet on our companion site Urban Ghosts, we explored this plane graveyard at Predannack Airfield on Cornwall’s Lizard Peninsula. Operated by the Royal Navy, the derelict airframes, including several Harriers, appear reasonably intact despite ominously belonging to the Royal Naval School of Fire Fighting. Only time will tell how long they survive…