Located in the northwest corner of Mojave, it’s almost too easy to drive right past where the latest research and biggest innovations in aerospace are happening. But while you probably won’t get to see Scaled Composites’ White Knight Two aircraft, you can get a glimpse of the hundreds of airplanes in the “boneyard.”
What’s a Boneyard?
An airplane boneyard is where planes can be stored for long periods of time—often for years. Some are “inactive” and waiting to be brought back into service, but most will eventually be scrapped and salvaged for parts. While there are some military planes at Mojave Air and Space Port’s boneyard, which is one of the largest in California, the vast majority are from commercial airliners. There are usually lots of 747s, Airbus airliners, and Lockheed aircraft stored here.
The dry, desert conditions make Mojave ideal for storing aircraft. The low humidity/precipitation and high temperatures protect planes from rust, and the windows and engines are tightly sealed protect from wind and sun damage. In many cases, the plane’s frame and engine are actually owned by different companies, so the engines will be removed before the plane is left for storage.
An Airplane’s Fate
Occasionally, an airplane stored at Mojave is just there temporarily before it gets flown again. More often, they’re kept for spare parts and over time, pieces—doors, stabilizers, landing gear, and more—are removed and used in active planes. Film crews may also raid the boneyard when they need parts to build out a set.
Seeing the Boneyard
The Mojave Air and Space Port doesn’t offer tours, but parts are open to the public on the third Saturday of every month for “Plane Crazy Saturdays,” which are free. Typically, you’ll be able to see historic aircraft on display and see a presentation from a guest speaker—past speakers have included retired Air Force officers, pilots, historians, and more. Your best bet for seeing the boneyard is from Highways 14 or 58. For a cool up-close view, check out this drone video.
Photos: boneyard1.jpg by Todd Lappin
Boneyard2.jpg by Ian Abbott