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Aviation History And Aircraft Photography

Airliner Boneyard At Mojave

Airplane Photo

  • Type:   Commercial Aircraft (F-100, B-737, B-727, DC-9, DC-10)
  • Venue:   Mojave Regional Airport
  • Location:   Mojave, California
  • Date:  
  • Camera:   Minolta 7000i w/150-300mm Zoom
  • Film:   Fuji ASA 100 Color Print Film
  • Full Size Photo (~250kb)

The Mojave Regional Airport, located at the north end of the Antelope valley just north of Los Angeles, is the primary storage parking lot for unused and old commercial airliners. The reason is that the air is dry and the land is cheap. This one spot in California is the best way there is to evaluate the health of the US airline industry. This photo, taken shortly after the Gulf War in 1992, shows the parking area is nearly full. The airlines were having a hard time and people were concerned about flying. The parking area was nearly empty by the late 1990's. Those planes that would fly again were leased out to airlines or put into cargo service, while those whose days had passed were scrapped or parted-out. As the world economy turned down after Y2K, the boneyard started to accumulate airplanes again. And in the weeks and months following the 9/11 disaster, airliners were arriving by the tens to be put back into storage. In fact, some Boeing airliners were flown from the factories in the Seattle area directly to Mojave to start their careers sitting in the boneyard.

In this photo, the yellowish gold tails are Continental airliners, as Continental had gone Chapter 11 during the Gulf War. The white planes with blue stripes and large red lettering are Braniff, whose entire fleet went to Mojave when they shut down. Other airlines represented en masse are Midway, Comair, and a few Alaska Airlines (the latter having just done a merger and had extra planes).

If you look to the very right edge of the photo, there looks to be a DC-10 tail sticking up in the air (dark blue tail with a high-mounted rear engine). This is the prototype McDonnell Douglas MD-11, the follow-on to the DC-10. The major distinguishing feature of the MD-11 is the small winglet on the end of the main wing. The MD-11 was at Mojave for flight testing as part of its certification process. The MD-11 suffered from bad timing, being released during the major recession following the Gulf War. Only a few went into passenger service, and most of them have since been pulled back and converted into cargo aircraft, most of which are now flying for FedEx. A last ditch effort was made to sell the MD-11 to the USAF as an airtanker, but when that failed, McDonnell Douglas fell short of cash and ended up folding itself into Boeing.

If you would like to learn more about the various airplane boneyards located in the desert southwest, visit John Weeks' Field Guide To Aircraft Boneyards.

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Authored by John A. Weeks III, Copyright © 1996—2016, all rights reserved.
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