The World Of Aircraft Graveyards

Most people only see an aircraft in service. They don’t see the aircraft being built, or what happens to the aircraft once it is retired. However, as Halloween draws to a close, Simple Flying takes a look at aircraft graveyards, where planes go to die.

Aircraft Graveyard, Boneyard, Halloween
At the end of their lives, aircraft can end up in graveyards. Photo: Phillip Capper via Flickr | Felix Mittermeier from Pixabay

When you love aircraft as much as we do at Simple Flying, it’s always sad to see an aircraft entering retirement, especially if it is the last of the fleet such as British Airways’ last Boeing 767 around a year ago. However, retirement is a necessity as, unfortunately, nothing can fly forever. A large number of aircraft will, when retired from service, be sent to an aircraft graveyard.

What is an aircraft graveyard?

An aircraft graveyard is also sometimes known as an aircraft boneyard. It is a place where aircraft are sent to spend the rest of their days once their use has passed.

Aircraft graveyards are typically located in an arid climate such as the deserts of Arizona and California. With a low moisture content in the air, these locations are great as they don’t allow rust to form due to the lack of moisture.

Aircraft Graveyard, Boneyard, Halloween
The dry climate of the desert is perfect for preserving aircraft. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

Once at an aircraft graveyard, aircraft could be assigned several different fates. Firstly, they could have all of their holes covered, and be stored for use in the future. Some of Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft are being stored in this manner.

Alternatively, aircraft could be slowly dismantled for spare parts. While the airframe itself won’t fly again, it can act as an organ donor for other aircraft in need. Finally, however, aircraft can be scrapped. Lufthansa is currently selling furniture made from a scrapped aircraft.

What else can happen to aircraft?

Some aircraft are luckier than those at a graveyard and will be upcycled with a new lease of life. Indeed, we’ve covered some interesting examples recently. Most of the Concorde Aircraft operated by British Airways and Air France have become museum centerpieces.

Some Boeing 747s have also received some interesting fates. In Stockholm, there is an ex-Boeing 747 that has been turned into a hotel. Rooms vary from a stay inside an engine to a night in the cockpit under the stars. Remaining on the hotel theme, another Boeing 747, this time from KLM, was recently turned into a centerpiece for the Corendon Hotel At Amsterdam Airport.

Rolls Royce, Qantas, AeroTEC, Boeing 747
Rolls Royce recently acquired an ex-Qantas Boeing 747 to turn into an engine testbed. Photo: AeroTEC

The sea and skies also contain recycled Boeing 747s though. Earlier this summer, an underwater Boeing 747 opened as a diving hot spot in Bahrain. The aircraft was deliberately sunk for this purpose. Meanwhile, Rolls Royce is repurposing an ex-Qantas Boeing 747 as a new flying testbed.

Have you ever visited an aircraft graveyard? What did you think? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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Fitz

I would love to visit the USAF aircraft graveyard in Arizona. It doubles as a aircraft museum.

Parker West

If you take a hop, skip and a jump over Davis-Monthan AFB (from the Pima Air Museum) at the cross streets of South Wilmont and East Irvington you can check out the Air Force’s boneyard with seemingly dozens of examples of a hundred different bombers, transports, and fighters from previous days. Mile after mile is nothing but aircraft, you can take all the photos you want from the road. Piñal Air Park, 5 to 10 miles north of Marana, AZ off I-10 houses a boneyard of commercial aircraft including, last time I was near, all the Delta and United 747s… Read more »

Stephen Edwards

During the 1970s and 1980s I paid several visits to DM boneyard. The USAF would put on bus ktours around the lines of parked aircraft. If it was over 100 deg there would be a water drinks barrel on the bus. Tours were mainly for USAF personnel but normally full of plane spotters. It was a good way of photographing the many different types. It was also the start of Celebrity Row where one of each type was saved.

Charles

I have visited Kingman in Arizona, Evergreen north of Tucson, and Pima. It is an unearthly experience seeing these incredible aircraft is various stages of disrepair.

Victorville and Roswell are both on my list for future outings.

Reed

second photo shows what looks like a B787 belonging to ANA, I wonder what it’s doing at an aircraft graveyard?

Herb Jackson Jr

Back in 2017 I flew N602SW to its final resting place in VCV.

https://flightaware.com/live/flight/N602SW

Thomas G Bell

I live in Arizona, and have visited both the Davis Monthan AFB and the Marana storage facility. I’ve been able also to go to California and visit their graveyard in the desert. Many aircraft are stored at Kingman, while some of the 737 MAX aircraft have been flown to Goodyear, near Phoenix. When they’re put back into service, being close to Phoenix could mean that the aircraft could be retrieved from storage and entered into service at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. I’m always impressed with the size of the aircraft, and how these boneyards are kept neat and tidy.… Read more »

Smokerr

Just because an aircraft retires from one fleet (BA 767) does not mean they are gone to the boneyard. 767s will be used a pax for obscure operations or be converted to Freighters. Highly desired as an F due to fleet commonality and a easier conversions process on a single build. And its not rust in dry climates that is avoided, its Corrosion. It would be great to have a site that follows these, what is stored and will be brought back out and what is on its way to recycle. Only sad if its the last or one of… Read more »

Peter

Not all written-off aircraft end up in boneyards: some are actively scrapped and recycled, with any usable parts being sold on.
This organization in the Netherlands regularly receives widebodies and reduces them to sorted piles of parts and scrap.

https://aels.nl/

Brendan White

Hi I think with all of the plastic in the sea and rivers etc and the new action that is be done to halt all the plastic.
My point being can we come up with new ideas to use the plane for. House a hall or community class or a health center in developed country..
Brendan