While that old shit box you’ve been driving around in for years can easily be scrapped and the parts sold to some junkyard dog for a few dollars, it’s not as easy to dispose of a Boeing 747 commercial airliner once it’s had its time in the sky or is underutilized.
Many fuel-guzzling commercial jets past their prime are sold to third-tier airlines, the type of cowboy operators that often pay scant attention to safety and are thus banned from flying in US or European airspace (think many African carriers, and other ‘top shelf’ airlines like Syrian Air and North Korea’s state-owned Air Koryo).
Many disused, aging or obsolete airliners, however, end up in the Californian desert, 90 miles outside Los Angeles, at the Mojave Air and Space Port. In addition to being the “world’s premier civilian aerospace test center”, the Mojave Port is also one of America’s most well-known ‘aircraft boneyards’, the dry conditions being ideal for minimizing corrosion on pre-loved jets looking for new owner-operators.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of junked or stored airliners form a surreal view amid the harsh landscape in Mojave, and all the major commercial airliner manufacturers – Boeing, Airbus, McDonnell Douglas and Lockheed Martin – are well represented.
For plane buffs, Mojave and facilities like it dotted across the US provide both a history of commercial aviation as well as a damning judgement on modern day consumerism.
In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorists attacks, for example, the demand for air travel hit massive turbulence, and many major airlines were forced to mothball some of their fleet due to lack of demand. Many of them ended up at Mojave, and many remain there today, waiting to spread their wings once more.
Some planes never leave, however, and are scrapped for whatever parts can be salvaged and sold to airlines still operating such models. Other similar facilities like the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base outside Tuscon, Arizona, specialise in storing military aircraft. Over 4000 such models are parked at that particular facility (including massive B-52 bombers), making for quite the sight on Google Earth.
But in addition to being an aircraft boneyard, the Mojave Port forms a set for movies and TV shows. Scenes for action movies including Die Hard 2 (Yippee ki-yay motherfucker!) have been filmed there, while fans/junkies of TV series Lost will lose their shit by learning the plane used in the pilot episode was picked from the Mojave facility.
Before he started sprucing mediocre headphones, Dr Dre shot the video to his single, ‘Keep Their Heads Ringin’’ at the Mojave Port.