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!