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.

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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.
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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.
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Three widebodies in one shot: a pair of DC-10s and a 767.
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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.
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The missing radome and doors of this 777-200 are just depressing.
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Signs of life at the old airplane graveyard.
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A tangle of winglets, tails and stabilizers.
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This cannibalized 757 is a bleak husk – a mangled corpse denuded of dignity.
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I can imagine having this A340 delivered to some cool piece of property and turning it into the ultimate Wandering Justin house.
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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!

Grounded Airliners at Pinal Air Park – Random Photos

A Delta 747's huge tail finds a spectacular backdrop in Picacho Peak.

For a flying and travel enthusiast, it’s surreal to see hundreds of acres of grounded airliners. It’s a sad sight for many reasons.

Before I get into that, why are these airliners baking under the Arizona desert sun? Well, they’re parked at Pinal Air Park because they’re surplus to their owners’ needs. Some are just too old to be useful – it’s a 747-400 world, and most of these are 1- and 200-models. So they wind up here until they get pressed back into service … or until they get recycled.

Two more 747s languish at Pinal Air Park.

I see these old airliners and think of where they have gone. They’ve probably taken people all over the world … and back in a time where the world may have seemed bigger and more mysterious. You couldn’t take a peak at Reykjavik on Google Earth, or find a new friend in Busan through Facebook.

And I also see waste. Many of these will never go back into service. And we know there are many clever ways to recycle airliners. Turn ’em into hostels, use them for home construction, turn them into bars … whatever. A lot of effort when in to them. Surely they can do more than just get turns into a new generation of receptacles for processed food.

A 747-200 and a DC-10 at Pinal Air Park

My Switch Vision sunglasses giveaway is still going on! Competition is heating up, with hikers and mountain bikers pitching in some great stories about the best thing they’ve ever found on a trail. Best story wins! Check this blog post  for the rules. Deadline is March 30, 2012.

The Humpiest Hotel Ever?

Ahhhhh! There are some things in this world that are simply dripping in cool factor. No, this is marinated in cool, so much that the awesomeness infuses every morsel.

I’m talking about the 747 that’s been turned into a hotel! I know some people might think “hey, why would I want to spend more time on an airplane?” Well, I just happen to love airplanes and flying, so half the fun is getting there. And I can think of little that’s cooler than smartly reusing something.

My buddies over at dug this one up, and what a stellar find it is.

As I mentioned in a response to their blog entry, I live in Arizona. We have two massive airplane graveyards (The AMARC in Tucson and Pinal Air Park) and a third smaller one in Goodyear. Each has its share of civilian heavies, C141s and even B-52s. Can you imagine the possibilities if we stopped cutting them up and started doing something really cool with them? In many cases, they’re only getting cut up enough to be rendered unflyable. Here’s a way better way to do that!

Several people have also turned retired 727s into homes. How cool!