Stange: airplane graveyard in the Mojave desert


This is where planes go when they die. Vast hulks of metal that cost millions to build, now grounded in obsolescence, taken out to the boneyard to be shot in the head like Old Yeller. Their long neat lines look a lot like the white tombs of fallen soldiers at Arlington cemetery, seemingly endless in number, waiting for the day they will be hacked open like sheet-metal pinatas to get at the valuable guts within.


The boneyard is just one part of the Mojave Air and Space Port, the same facility from which Richard Branson’s Space Ship One was launched into space. The boneyard is simply rental space provided for airlines that no longer have an immediate need for their planes. It’s a giant storage bay, though one not all planes return from- some sit there for years in the baking heat, slowly roasting like foil-wrapped potatoes.

Some planes are used as fodder and a source of spare parts, engineers dipping in and out of their empty hulls to prize free delicate avionics equipment, engine parts, even whole rotundas of fuselage. Some meet their fate at the hands of giant machines which tear them to bits to expose their cabling, ducting, and inner wall electronics for cannibalization.