The Mojave airport plane graveyard

Photo by Zach Reeder, used with permission

Photo by Zach Reeder, used with permission

The coolest things I see while traveling are the deserted, ruinous old buildings and the weird desert art projects or memorabilia of things that used to be there, like Tinkertown or Pioneertown or the Desert Christ Park.

One of the coolest among the cool is the currently fully functioning but oddly deserted Mojave airport (technically the Mojave Air and Space Port).  Mojave is a small desert town about two hours north of Los Angeles, and, aside from a few railroad ties emblazoned with messages from the Lord, there’s not much to it besides some donut shops and an Army-Navy store.  The main focus for the town is the airport, a combination plane boneyard and state-of-the-art construction facility.

Although the airport serves as a location for top secret government and private projects to get underway in all of its various hangars, as well as a place for rich folks to store tiny airplanes, the most interesting part about it are the numerous planes of all shapes and sizes, left to rot in the desert air.  Mechanics and employees strip them for pieces regularly, but they squat out on an abandoned section of the grounds looking pretty much intact and AWESOME.  There are also weird bits of space shuttles and sculptures and…well…AWESOME sitting around for you to gawk at.

They’ll take you out on airport tours if you like; just show up and ask someone about a tour, and an old guy in a van will drive you around. There’s also a small restaurant with pretty tasty sandwiches. You could also just make friends with someone who lives there and see if they’ll take you for a backseat tour…or an airplane ride.  But if you’re in the area, or going to Death Valley, or looking for an amazing, little-known area to explore…the Mojave airport is it.  Just don’t gawk at the people who work there.

Posted by | Comments (4)  | January 19, 2010
Category: Notes from the collective travel mind

4 Responses to “The Mojave airport plane graveyard”

  1. Says:

    This is a great example of getting off of the beaten path when you travel. It’s like going back in time without getting into a time machine!

  2. David Says:

    Mojave National Park or Death Valley? Which one is more worthwhile to visit on a short day trip? We will be driving from northern Arizona to Vegas in early March and don’t have a lot of time but would like to visit either of the parks. Which one is more worthwhile to visit? And how long is the drive to either one from Kingman?

  3. Robert West Says:

    There was a day when a person could wander all over the flight line and see all kinds of fascinating planes. I guess those days are gone forever forever It was fun to see and photograph those planes. I don’t know why no one ever wrote a book on MHV

  4. Claire Litton Says:

    @David: Well, it depends on what your travel goals are; Death Valley and the Mojave Airport are two entirely different things to do. Both are worthwhile, but I think Death Valley is closer to your planned route — not having Google Mapped it, I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head, but have a look and see. The Mojave Airport isn’t a park…it’s a desert oddity. Death Valley has lots of hiking and trails; the Mojave Airport has a tour of deserted airplanes. Which are you in the mood for? Don’t forget about Joshua Tree while you’re in the area, too…or drive down to the Salton Sea and see the weird deserted art projects and towns near Niland, CA.