#FlashbackFriday - Digging in Airplane Boneyards

Digging Up History

Aviation geeks are a different breed. On Easter 2002, instead of being in church, I was hanging out with some fellow #avgeeks at the aircraft boneyard at Goodyear Airport outside of Phoenix. Boneyards are facilities where old aircraft go after they've outlived their useful lives. They tend to be in dry climates in states like Arizona and California so that the aircraft don't rust.

That day, we saw a fleet of Boeing 727 jets operated by the U.S. Postal Service, along with some old US Air/Metrojet Boeing 737s and even a United Airlines Boeing 777. Below are photos of aircraft in boneyards from the collection of AirwaysNews.com, an informative news and aviation history website.

  • 01 of 08
    ••• Photo courtesy of AirwaysNews.com

    This Convair 880 was among a group of 14 airframes that came from the fleets of TWA, Delta Air Lines and Northeast Airlines. In the early 1980s, they ended up in the boneyard in California's Mojave Desert, a popular aircraft final resting place. Their engines were removed and converted to be used on oil platforms. Parts and cannibalized fuselages are sold for between $15,000 and $25,000. 

  • 02 of 08
    ••• Photo courtesy of AirwaysNews.com

    These Boeing 747s are parked in Ardmore, Oklahoma, 75 miles south of Oklahoma City. The one in front is what's left of an ex-United 747SP that once served with Pan Am. In the background is one of the carrier's original 747-100s. On June 28, 2014, Boeing delivered the 1,500th 747 to Germany's Lufthansa.

  • 03 of 08
    ••• Photo courtesy of AirwaysNews.com

    The Davis-Monthan AFB Boneyard is located in Tucson, Arizona. It houses mostly military aircraft. I had the chance to visit the massive boneyard in 2002, and it's pretty amazing. But there are also a few commercial aircraft parked there, including this scrapped El Al Boeing 707. The 707, launched in the 1950s, is considered the aircraft that launched the jet age. Boeing produced 856 of the type between 1957 and 1994.

  • 04 of 08
    ••• Photo courtesy of AirwaysNews.com

    Delta Air Lines split its retired Lockheed L-1011s between the Mojave Desert and Victorville, California in 2001 after 28 years of service. The Atlanta-based carrier's Tri-Star fleet was purchased from Eastern Airlines. These aircraft have all been scrapped as of 2011. Lockheed built 250 of the type before pulling the ply on the program in 1984. An interesting tidbit: the television show "Lost" used parts of an old Delta L-1011 for the crash scene and aftermath of Oceanic Flight 815. 

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08
    ••• Photo courtesy of AirwaysNews.com

    Doug Scroggins Aviation scrapped this American Airlines Boeing 767-200 after one of its engines exploded during a ground run in 2007. The aircraft, built in the mid 19080s, was written off as a total loss and scrapped. The company scraps airliners and restores and salvages cockpits for display and for entertainment sets including the television show "Pan Am." He is also the force behind the Discovery Channel documentary "Scrapping Airplane Giants."

  • 06 of 08
    ••• Photo courtesy of AirwaysNews.com

    Evergreen Aviation, based in Marana, Arizona, is the Mecca of aircraft boneyards, known for its high security and no-visitor policy. This is a photo of a United Airlines Douglas DC-3, called the "Mainline Reno." The DC-3 was created in 1934 to accommodate the wishes of American Airlines President C.R. Smith. He wanted a plane that could carry overnight passengers. The manufacturer built 607 of the type before production ended in 1942.

  • 07 of 08
    ••• Photo courtesy of AirwaysNews.com

    Opa Locka Airport, near Miami, has some aircraft scrapping operations.  Atlanta-based Air Tran retired its fleet of DC-9-30s as their major aircraft maintenance checks became due. The older aircraft were replaced with new Boeing 717s. Most of the carrier'sDC-9s were ex-Eastern and Delta. 

  • 08 of 08
    ••• Photo courtesy of AirwaysNews.com

    Air Canada phased out its fleet of Boeing 737-200 fleet by 2004, while Southwest Airlines retired its last 737-200s in January 2005. The 737 was launched in 1965 and iIn July 2012, it became the first-ever commercial jet airplane to surpass the 10,000 orders. Both aircraft types ended up in the Mojave Desert boneyard, which has representation of almost every modern commercial aircraft. Aircraft are visible from the road, but private photography tours are not allowed. 


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