Commercial Airliner Boneyards and Desert Aircraft Storage
Commercial airliners have limited lifespans. Ultimately, they must be retired from service, stored in "airplane boneyards" or graveyards, and finally dismantled and scrapped.
Active Airliner Boneyards and Storage Facilities
Jetliners in storage at the Phoenix Goodyear Airport in the Arizona desert (Staff photo)
Jetliners eventually reach end-of-life due to airframe wear and/or obsolescence. Some jetliners are temporarily taken off flying status, and must be stored in a environment that is conducive to preservation. Others are kept for spare parts for flying aircraft.
To protect airliners during their storage from wind and sun damage, engines and windows are tightly covered with white, reflective materials. A sealed airliner can thus be stored safely, for years, until the time comes to return it to active duty, or salvage. Eventually, all airliners are removed permanently from service and must be "disposed" of.
Airliner "boneyards" in the deserts of the western United States serve several functions: temporary storage, maintenance, parts reclamation, and scrapping. Similar facilities exist around the world, in countries like the U.K., Spain, France, Australia and other locales.
Mojave Airport (MHV) in California
The Mojave Air and Space Port serves a variety of aviation and space industries. It is also a storage facility for commercial airliners, due to its vast area and dry desert conditions.
Large Boeing, Airbus, Lockheed, and McDonnell-Douglas aircraft of major airlines are stored at Mojave. Some aircraft reach the end of their useful lifetime and are scrapped at the Mojave aircraft boneyard, while others are refurbished and returned to active service.
Southern California Logistics Airport (SCLA)
The Southern California Logistics Airport (SCLA) is located in Victorville, California. Also known as Victorville Airport, it is home to many aviation related businesses, including Southern California Aviation, a large transitional facility for commercial aircraft.
The facility is located on the site of the former George Air Force Base, in active service from 1941 to 1992.
Southern California Logistics Airport includes a precision instrument runway of 15,050 feet and a secondary runway length of 9,138 feet to accommodate any aircraft flying today.
Pinal Airpark (MZJ) in Marana, Arizona
The Pinal Airpark is located in Marana, Arizona, just northwest of Tucson. It acts as a "boneyard" for civilian commercial aircraft as well as a site for airliner storage and reconfiguration. Old aircraft are stored there with the hope that the dry desert climate will prevent any form of corrosion in case the aircraft is pressed into service in the future.
Among the current tenants at the airpark is the Evergreen Aircraft Maintenance Facility. Now known as Marana Aerospace Solutions, the company offers more than 600 acres of secured ramp and storage area for all sizes of aircraft.
Litchfield Park / Phoenix Goodyear Airport (GYR)
This facility in Phoenix, Arizona was originally constructed during World War II as a naval air facility known as NAF Litchfield Park, and later renamed Naval Air Station Litchfield Park.
Its primary role following the end of World War II was that of storage and preservation of obsolete or excess U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Coast Guard aircraft.
In 1965, the Defense Department decided to consolidate military aircraft storage at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson.
Following the closure of NAS Litchfield Park in 1967, the city of Phoenix purchased the airport for a general aviation facility. Today, the airport is home to several private companies offering aircraft maintenance, airliner storage, and commercial pilot training, and serves as a reliever airfield for Phoenix Sky Harbor.
Roswell International Air Center (ROW)
Located in Roswell, New Mexico, this facility was originally known as Roswell Army International Airfield during World War II, and Walker Air Force Base in later years.
At the time of its closure in 1967, the facility was the largest air base of the Strategic Air Command (SAC). During its active duty years, Walker supported B-29 Superfortress, B-50, KC-97, B-36 Peacemakers, B-47 Stratojets, KC-135 tankers, and B-52 Stratofortresses.
The Roswell International Air Center was developed after the close of the base. Two runways are provided, one at 13,001 feet, the other extending 9,999 feet.
Today, various industry are located at the Air Center, including aircraft repair and refurbishing companies which store airliners onsite.
Kingman Airport (IGM) in Arizona
The Kingman Airport & Industrial Park is located five miles north of Interstate 40 in Kingman, Arizona. It is home to more than 70 businesses, including the storage of airliners.
When we last visited in May of 2013, dozens of airliners were parked, including those from American Eagle, Continental, DHL, SAS and other airlines.
Abilene Regional Airport (ABI)
Abilene Regional Airport in southeast Abilene, Texas is home to retired Saab 340 aircraft from American Eagle Airlines. The turboprops are parked in a corner of the airport’s property, near the intersection of Loop 322 and State Highway 36.
When American Eagle started looking for a place to store the Saabs, they settled on Abilene because the planes would be close to the airline's maintenance base where they could be kept in a condition in which they can easily be sold.
Boneyards Outside the U.S.
While large numbers of surplus aircraft are stored in airplane boneyards in the U.S., other military and airliner boneyards are located around the world, in the United Kingdom, Spain, Australia, Canada, Russia, and elsewhere.
Storage facilities such as the Asia Pacific Aircraft Storage (APAS) at Alice Springs in Australia and the Tarmac Aerosave operation at the Teruel Airport in Eastern Spain house large numbers of out-of-service airliners.
Are You an Airliner Spotter?
Identification of individual aircraft manufacturers and airliners can be difficult with the wide variety of jet airliners in service around the world.
Our new website features Spotting Guides and photographs of common jet airliners in the fleets of airlines today. We focus on jet airliners from Boeing, Airbus, Embraer and Bombardier, even Antonov.