Mojave Airplane Graveyard

Guides · 5 min read · Mar 09, 2022
Mojave Airplane Graveyard

Seeing aircraft flying across the skies is a common sight nowadays, especially for the residents of cities with major airports with high levels of air traffic, but what happens when these enormous machines are retired and laid to rest?

Well, many of us usually take this aspect for granted, but the truth is that there are some notable aircraft boneyards, and the Mojave airplane graveyard is one of them.

If you want to learn more about the Mojave airplane graveyard and how many airplanes are laid to rest in that place, we invite you to keep reading. Here we will tell you all you need to know about it.

But before we get into the details, let us share a bit of context regarding Mojave City and its relationship with aviation.

History of the City of Mojave, California

The Mojave City sits in the desert of California, approximately 95 miles northwest of Los Angeles near Edwards Airfield, specifically on Highway 58 between Barstow and Bakersfield.

Mojave California was established in 1876 when the Southern Pacific Railroad began to build a city on its route from LA to SF over the Tehachapi Pass.

Mines and transport have been important aspects of Mojave history, and gold can be found on Soledad Mountain and nearby places. Borax also had an important influence on the history and culture of Mojave. However, the area is usually associated with aviation in different ways.

An airplane stationed and fenced in on a green field in an airplane graveyard.

Mojave Airport and World War II

The Mojave Airfield was initially established in 1935 as a small, rural airfield serving the local gold mining business.

During the Second World War, the Marine Corps began to take control over these areas and expanded them to a training facility – the Marine Corps Auxiliary Air Stations.

Thousands of naval officers trained in combat using F4U and SBD bombers. Originally slated to be decommissioned, in 1947 it became a Naval airfield.

Mojave Airport (MHV) Today

Currently, the Mojave Air and Space Port and industrial park serve over 60 companies working in flight research, flight testing, aircraft engineering, aircraft manufacturing, air transportation, aviation, and aircraft transportation industries.

National Test Pilot School – Airbus, Virgin Galactic, and many others – are among its clients. Besides Stuart Witt’s Events Center, Monster Fitness, and Voyager Restaurant, the Mojave Air and Space Port and industrial park also host other venues.

Mojave aircraft boneyard

Now that you know a little more about the city of Mojave, and the Mojave Air and Space Port, it is time to go into the details of the famous Mojave airplane graveyard.

The Mojave desert is a big isolated area of the California desert that serves as the Mojave airplane graveyard, a place for aircraft to retire when they get too old.

While there is army aircraft present, passenger-jet aircraft dominate this boneyard. The number of inoperative commercial airliners that can be seen in the area is incredible.

However, the truth is that apart from being a famous airplane graveyard the California desert and the Mojave airport or Mojave Air and Space Port also serve as aircraft storage.

Storage of commercial airliners

Usually, after landing at the Mojave airport, airliners do not stay near the airport terminal building. Instead, they are taken to the desert which serves as a great outdoor storage facility.

Being a large area isolated from major cities with a dry climate makes Mojave an ideal place to store airliners and commercial aircraft.

Aircraft belonging to several organizations such as Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, and Lockheed Martin, and airlines like United Airlines are sometimes parked on Mojave. Most aircraft reach their last flight and are scrapped at Mojave aircraft boneyard. However, some old planes are rebuilt and restored to be exhibited in aviation museums and others are mothballed.

Mothballing

In general, mothballing refers to the deactivation and preservation of equipment or a production facility for possible future use or sale. For the aviation industry, mothballing applies to aircraft.

Mothballed planes undergo strict preparations to withstand exposure to the desert environment, even if only temporarily.

When the planes arrive, they go through an inspection process. Different things are checked during the inspection. For example, the inspectors will make sure that the fuel tank contains heavy oil to provide a protective cover for engine components.

Also, canopies, engines, and different openings are sealed by a layer of “Spraylat”, a latex-based permanently flexible material, which is easily removed and cleaned. This white patterned layer absorbs enough solar heat for the interior of the planes to remain at an adequate temperature which is much lower than the one outside. Otherwise, the interior could reach up to 50 degrees Celsius in the very hot desert summer.

A scrapped and abandoned airplane covered in graffiti at an airplane graveyard.

Southern California logistics airport

Of course, the areas surrounding the Mojave airport are not the only ones where you can see a great number of planes stored. There are other airplane graveyards, and this logistics airport is one of them.

The Southern California logistics airport has its headquarters in Victorville, California. Victorville Airport also houses several aviation businesses including Southern California Aviation, an important transition site devoted to commercial aviation.

Victorville lies along Interstate Highway 15 between San Bernardino and Barstow. SCLA is located a little north of downtown. This facility is located at George Airforce Base which was in active service from 1941 to 1992.

SCLA has served as one of the major storage facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic since more aircraft needed to be grounded with some airlines grounding their entire fleet.

Other prominent places serving as storage and boneyard for the planes of different airlines include Roswell International Air Center in New Mexico, Goodyear Airport in Arizona, and the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson, which is the largest aircraft boneyard in the world.

Of course, for some people, these places have become interesting touristic attractions because of the unusual view they offer. But do they offer tours? Is it possible to fly there? Here are the answers to some of the most common questions regarding the boneyard in the desert where planes are stored.

Can you visit the Mojave airplane graveyard?

The answer to this question is yes. Mojave Air & Space Port has limited tours, and some tours are sponsored by the Pima Air and Space Museum. They also announce an annual “Plane Crazy Saturdays” in which people can visit the airport, see some exhibits, and possibly see planes flying. To get the information regarding airport entrance, and other relevant details for your visit, it is recommended that you contact the Mojave Chamber of Commerce.

Can you go to the airplanes in the graveyard?

Some airplanes in the airplane graveyard are still in good condition, only missing some components that have been taken to be used as spare parts for active airplanes. So yes, some tours will take you close to those airplanes, and although very rarely, some people are even allowed into those airplanes to see the inside.

Can you visit any other airplane graveyard in California?

Many people have already visited Mojave because it is the one that is really open to the public. For example, Davis-Monthan is not open to the public since it is an air force base, and most of the others are also closed, but you can see the many airplanes from the distance, and perhaps you can spot an airplane scraper tearing down one of them.

Can you buy planes from the airplane graveyard?

While it may be difficult for a regular person to buy an airplane found in a graveyard, the truth is that it is possible to buy them. For example, in 2017 a report stated that the US Air Force bought two Boeing 747s that were abandoned in Mojave by a Russian airline that had disappeared. Also, at SCLA in Victorville, a Mexican Government B787 VIP is up for sale.

In general, while airlines use most planes in these places to get spare parts for any active plane, they sometimes use it as storage where they can find functional aircraft instead of buying a new Airbus or Boeing.

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Carlos Collantes
Carlos Collantes
A mechanical engineer and aviation enthusiast dedicated to share some knowledge by creating top-notch content, especially in engineering and aviation topics.

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