These Are Some Of The World’s Most Interesting Plane Wrecks, Most Can Still Be Visited
There’s something absolutely irresistible about abandoned places, none so much as plane wrecks. Across the world, many former planes of times now long passed lie around collecting rust, waiting to be discovered. From unexpected accidents to engine failures to the casualties of war, take a look at some of the world’s most fascinating abandoned plane sites.
1. Downed Desert Phantom – Sinai Desert
It’s known as one of the forgotten wars of the Middle East. Shot down by the Egyptians during the Suez Crisis, this Israeli military plane has been left to rot in the wastelands of the Sinai Desert, a haunting memorial to victories and failures of generations past.
The 1956 conflict ended embarrassingly for Britain, France, and Israel. While many plane wrecks are otherworldly, there’s something particularly intriguing about the way in which this badly charred plane contrasts with its surroundings. Nothing can be seen but the baked yellow of desert, the blue of sky and distant sea, and the slowly creeping decay of time.
2. The Medellín Cartel’s Plane Crash – Norman Cay in the Bahamas
The crystal-clear waters of this island in the Bahamas are so turquoise that they’re practically psychedelic. They conjure up feelings of peace and tranquility. But the skeleton of this Curtiss C-46 Commando plane, just barely submerged beneath the gentle waves, has a far more sinister story to tell.
The name Pablo Escobar is now synonymous with crime and notoriety. A co-founder of his infamous Medellín Cartel took over the area of Norman Cay in the 1980s, using the strip of paradise as a base for smuggling illegal substances to the United States. This plane was ferrying their cargo when it crashed.
3. Downed Boeing 737 – Bali, Indonesia
Somewhere along the Bulkit Peninsula at the southern tip of the Indonesian island of Bali, not far from popular Pandawa Beach, a bizarre mystery lingers. This rusting Boeing 737 has become a tourist attraction in its own right. As far as plane wrecks go, this one is in relatively good condition, but people know close to nothing about it.
No one is sure how the plane arrived at its resting place, or why it’s there. The most common theories state that once upon a time, it was intended to be turned into a restaurant — until its owner ran out of funds. The strangest part? There’s yet another abandoned plane just a few miles away, next to a Dunkin’ Donuts!
4. Crashed Canadian WWII Bomber – Vancouver Island, British Columbia
If you hike through the thick forests and swampy bogs in a remote corner of British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, you’ll be rewarded with the site of this Canso bomber plane, whose story goes back all the way to World War II. In February 1945, the Canadian plane headed out on its final mission.
After suffering a sudden engine malfunction, the plane plummeted and crashed in the thick of the forest. Miraculously, its crew of 12 all survived, and were rescued the next day. The plane had been carrying depth charges, and they set them off, leaving behind a 20-foot crater.
5. American Douglas Super DC-3 – Sólheimasandur, Iceland
Far away to the north, the remote island nation of Iceland is known for its volcanoes, glaciers, and geothermal springs. But on a black sand beach near Sólheimasandur on the south coast is a tourist attraction of another sort entirely. Sitting lonely upon the epic backdrop is this abandoned plane.
This piece of hull is all that remains of one of the world’s best-known plane wrecks. The plane itself was not Icelandic but American, a Douglas Super DC-3 that crashed in 1973. Thankfully, the crew survived the impact, but nobody thought to clean up the aftermath! As far as desolate surroundings go, it would be hard to find something more bleakly beautiful than this.
6. Soviet MiG 29 – Moscow, Russia
This plane is easily one of the most famous types in the history of combat aircraft. Wrecked and filled to the brim with dead leaves, it languishes in a Moscow suburb. However, in times long since disappeared, the MiG was one of the strongest symbols of Soviet might the world over.
Accessing the skeleton of this MiG 29 still technically requires trespassing, as it is on the grounds of what was once a satellite communications facility under the USSR, about an hour outside of the Russian capital. On the facility’s grounds, an entire series of satellite dishes and fighter jets long for redemption.
7. Airplane Graveyard – Papua New Guinea
Before the apocalypse of jungle warfare in the Vietnam War, there was another rainforest notorious for swallowing lives: the thick, unspoiled vegetation of today’s Papua New Guinea. The giant island just north of Australia saw some of the longest and most difficult fighting of World War II, claiming the lives of scores of American, British, Dutch, Australian, and Japanese soldiers.
Scattered among the palm fronds and remarkable animal species of trails yet unspoiled lie the skeletons of many plane wrecks, some of which resulted in multiple casualties. This is one of a multitude of ghostly aircraft skeletons, scattered throughout the otherwise pristine tropics.
8. British Avro Shackleton – Stratford-upon-Avon, England
Just outside of William Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon in central England, is Long Marston Airfield, formerly used by the British Royal Air Force in the World War II era and just afterwards. Closed for more than half a century, its long obsolete planes have been left to rust.
This plane is an Avro Shackleton, developed to be used by the RAF in partnership with the Royal Navy, in response to the Soviet Navy’s buildup as the Cold War began. The plane would have been used for surveillance missions over the ocean. Today, it just looks happy to receive any guests in this plane graveyard.
9. American Douglas C-47 Skytrain – The Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina Border
Once upon a time, Cold War Yugoslavia held one of the most massive underground secret bases in all of Europe. Željava Air Base actually contained a subterranean airport, and this American-manufactured Douglas C-47 Skytrain was used to transport Yugoslav troops. All that came to an abrupt end with the fall of Communism.
Today, Željava Air Base sits on the border between Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina, and its plane wrecks are slowly swallowed by bushes and shrubs. As Yugoslavia fell apart in the early 1990s, the base was bombed into oblivion. As Serb rebels in Croatia retreated, they blew up 56 tons worth of explosives, leaving the ruins of the base smoking for months.
10. Soviet Ilyushin IL 76 – Umm Al Quwain, UAE
Umm Al Quwain is one of the different confederations of the Persian Gulf that came together to form what we now know as the United Arab Emirates. A lonely state, it was at a disadvantage: it had no oil or gas resources to speak of. Into this desolate landscape entered a Soviet plane.
The story of this Ilyushin IL 76 remains murky. A plane known for being able to land successfully even where there is no paved runway, it was ideal for remote parts of Umm Al Quwain. Sometime around 1999, the now formerly Soviet plane was abandoned to the mercy of the shifting sands, and nobody is quite sure why.
11. Angel’s Ladies Brothel – Beatty, Nevada
The world’s oldest profession is legal in Nevada, and it’s been enforced in the Western state for so long that some of its houses of practice are now abandoned. Just outside the sleepy desert town of Beatty, the downed aircraft known as Angel’s Ladies Brothel once operated. The area is now the definition of a ghost town.
With a story quite unusual as compared to most other well-known plane wrecks, this airplane was brought into town in the late 1970s as an attraction, but now that business is closed, it has been left behind. Poorly-trained pilots crashed the plane, and the business gimmick quickly lost its charm.
12. Bangkok Airplane Graveyard – Bangkok, Thailand
East and out of earshot of the roaring hustle and bustle of the giant Thai capital of Bangkok lies a spooky and fascinating tourist attraction, the Bangkok Airplane Graveyard. Here in the suburbs, since 2010 a variety of aircraft have been left to fall apart.
As can be imagined, the planes have been gutted by people hoping to use any of the valuable materials and sell them as scrap metal. As if the site alone wasn’t interesting enough, it is also home to several families who have taken advantage of these rent-free open spaces — and moved into them as apartments!
13. Cold War Relics – Grenada in the Caribbean
There’s many curious plane wrecks in the Caribbean. But if you’re looking for a Soviet one, even though the first place that might come to mind would probably be Cuba, this abandoned plane is far away from the homeland of conga. It’s on the island of Grenada, and it has a wacky history.
In an often forgotten operation, the United States invaded Grenada in 1983 to topple its Communist regime. Here are some of the planes that were damaged by the US during the invasion, serving as reminders of the island’s history and struggle for freedom. If visiting, don’t be surprised by the cows and goats that now call the surrounding fields home.
14. Cessna 414 Crash – Blue Ridge Mountains, Tennessee
The picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains between North Carolina and Tennessee are known for their pristine views, and are often a favorite filming location. Hikers in Blue Ridge Parkway who enter the trail at Waterrock Knob and hike through the woods for a few miles are in for a grim surprise in the midst of the pine tree-lined wilderness.
One night in November 1983, a small passenger plane was flying over the area, and crashed into the forest. Unfortunately, both souls on board the Cessna 414 did not survive. The wreckage of the plane makes for a sobering, but oddly beautiful, destination.
15. Airplane Boneyard – Gila County, Arizona
The Gila River Memorial Airport in central Arizona was left in a state of complete disarray. It had been in use since the World War II-era. But by the time the area passed to the ownership of the local Native American nation, it had already been a graveyard for aircraft for decades.
It’s not just this plane that has been left to crumble, but an entire series of planes, some of whose models date back nearly 80 years. The terminals and hangars now collect dust, as the masters of the sky slowly deteriorate and fall apart, baking in the scorching Arizona sun.
16. Iraq War Relic – Al-Qaim, Iraq
While many of the world’s more famous plane wrecks date back to the Second World War or many moons ago, this jet plane is far more recent. It dates back to the Iraq War, downed by American forces near the town of Al-Qaim on the border between Iraq and Syria.
The area was a hotbed of insurgency, and saw much fighting in the early days of the war. This plane crashed in the middle of the inhospitable Al-Anbar Desert, and the local American soldiers were clearly proud of their work. They’ve decorated it with a few reminders of Texan pride.
17. Abandoned 967 Hawker Siddeley – Belfast, Northern Ireland
Just out of sight of the planes still using the busy tarmacs of Belfast International Airport in Northern Ireland lies one of the most forlorn plane wrecks in the United Kingdom. This 1967 Hawker Siddeley passenger plane has been abandoned on the airport’s fringes, and left to the ravages of time.
This cylinder of sadness once serviced British Airways, and its royal blue coating still remains relatively bright, despite decades upon decades of neglect. Thanks to the famously rainy climate of the Emerald Isle, plenty of moss is thriving all across the shell of the plane, thoroughly frosting it in eerie stains of green.
18. Hotel Costa Verde – Costa Rica
Surely there are few things people long for most in life than getting off the plane when it’s landed and everyone is taking their sweet time to disembark. But if staying onboard is your kind of thing, look no further than the Hotel Costa Verde in the verdant tropics of Costa Rica.
Less a plane wreck and more a glamorous retirement spot for a grounded plane with a career behind it, this retired Boeing 727 is nestled inside Manuel Antonio National Park. Brought back from a plane graveyard, this shiny red monster once flew from Europe to South Africa with Avianca Airlines and South Africa Air.
19. Percival Prince Relic – Long Marston Airfield, England
Amidst the forgotten relics on Long Marston Airfield in central England, at the entrance to the aircraft graveyard, sits a particularly ferocious Percival Prince. Yet somehow, despite its sorry state, in death this plane has managed to look far more flashy than in life.
With its twin engines, this plane was used to transport light cargo in the years following the Second World War. Today, thanks to a particularly crafty paint job, you might think it was once a fighter plane. With its ominous toothy grin, this Percival Prince guards the lost souls of many other long-forgotten remains of planes.
20. Crashed Vought F4U Corsair – Oahu, Hawaii
There is a mixed blessing that occurs when the remnants of plane wrecks linger on the seafloor: more so than on land, they quickly become colonized by corals, sponges, and other marine life, creating an entire ecosystem. If you find yourself on the Hawaiian island of Oahu and are a scuba diving enthusiast, this one’s for you.
In 1948, this Vought F4U Corsair was leaving its base at nearby Pearl Harbor on a routine mission, when it suffered a fuel malfunction. Thankfully, its pilot was able to safely crash-land it and remain unscathed. As it is 150 miles beneath the surface of the Pacific, it’s considered a site for more advanced divers.
21. Japanese Aichi E13A-1 Underwater Wreck Site – Palau, Pacific Ocean
World War II brought Allied forces in combat with the Japanese on even the tiniest and most remote islands. As a result, plane wrecks from this era can be found all across the South Pacific, from all sides of the war. At this diving site in Palau is a nearly intact Japanese seaplane.
Resting barely 45 feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, this site is a dream for photographers, as natural sunlight is still able to reach it, and the wreck site is not quite shrouded in darkness. This Aichi E13A-1, belonging to the Japanese Navy, rests atop a bed of different species of coral.
22. ‘Miss Piggy’ – Manitoba, Canada
Far away on the frigid shores of Hudson Bay in Canada’s northern Manitoba province lies the town of Churchill, renowned as the “Polar Bear Capital of the World.” And it is here, just outside the bounds of the local airport in this incredibly remote corner of North America, that this Curtiss C-46 aircraft came to rest one morning in November 1979.
As the plane took off, one of its two engines had a mechanical failure, causing the plane to crash-land, adding its wreck to the tundra’s landscape. Thankfully, though three of the crew members were injured in the incident, everyone managed to walk away. Since then, the plane has become an attraction of its own, lovingly dubbed “Miss Piggy.”
23. Soviet Antonov An-2 – West Cork, Ireland
With its dark green hue, accented by decades of moss that coats it like a shawl, this abandoned biplane in the craggy rolling planes of the West Cork region in southern Ireland has a peculiar story as to how it arrived at its final resting place. It has gone through several lifetimes.
Oddly enough, this Antonov An-2 plane was originally from the Soviet Union, and somehow made its way cross Europe to rural Ireland. It was stolen from its original owners, paraded around as a float in various festivals across the county, and finally came to rest in the seaside village of Courtmacsherry.
24. Downed Dornier 328 – Southern New Jersey
If you’re wandering about the Pine Barrens of South Jersey, they say you might haplessly run into an evil mystery that has been lurking there for centuries, known as the Jersey Devil. And while his presence dominates local folklore, there’s another mystery in these woods.
This is a Dornier 328, a commuter airline that once flew through the skies over Europe, and it still bears the German flag on its sides. And while there’s plenty of abandoned Dornier plane wrecks across Europe, it’s still unclear how this one went to its grave in New Jersey, though some say it was intended to be part of a paintball range.
25. U.S. McDonnell-Douglas DC-10 – Bataan, Philippines
It was the planet’s second largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century. In June 1991, the Philippines‘ Mount Pinatubo exploded, spewing out about 2.4 cubic miles of material. As hundreds lost their lives, the United States Air Force and Filipino disaster relief authorities scrambled to help in the evacuation.
This McDonnell-Douglas DC-10 was not able to get out in time. Grounded at the United States Naval Air Station at Cubi Point, its tail filled up with hot, wet ash, as the surroundings were blanketed in the gray cloud. While the US Navy was able to clean up the base, the damage was done, and it was closed the next year.
26. Beriev VVA-14 – Monino, Russia
And to think we’d been told this whole time that sea turtles couldn’t exist this far north! This plane wreck at the Central Air Force Museum in Monino, Russia, is fantastically bizarre looking. From its hunched over form, it looks like some sort of reptilian spaceship.
This type of plane was developed in the 1970s during the Cold War, designed to take out submarines of the US Navy. It could take off from water, and could travel great distances. Very few were ever made, however, and after the designer passed away, production ceased. This model is in fact the only surviving one out there.
27. Trident Sun Jet – Nicosia Airport, Cyprus
The Turkish military invaded the island of Cyprus in 1974, declaring an independent Turkish-majority republic in roughly the northern third of the island. The controversial situation continues to this day, and Cyprus’ capital Nicosia lies smack dab in the middle.
Today, all flights to the Greek part of the island go through Paphos in the west or Larnaca in the east. But once upon a time, Nicosia’s airport was the main hub. Since the invasion, it’s been totally abandoned, except for the UN peacekeepers headquarters. That means planes like this former Cyprus Airways commercial jet have been left to gather dust.
28. Sukhoi Su-7 – Shindand, Afghanistan
This next site boasts its own collection of plane wrecks, but chances are, you won’t be heading there any time soon. These abandoned planes once belonged to the Afghan Air Force, and now, form a fascinating reminder of the country’s tragic past, which set it on course to its chaotic present.
Crumpled and scorched, these fighter jets were once used by the Afghan military against the invading Soviet forces in the 1980s. Today, their ghostly shells sit mournfully in the Shindand Airfield, which today is used by both the Afghan Army and the United States Special Forces. The Su-7 model has been retired by the Afghan Air Force.
29. Cessna – Tempelhof Airport, Berlin, Germany
What was once one of the grandest airports in pre-World War II Europe has now become the German capital’s largest park. Since it was finally laid to rest in 2008 and air traffic diverted to Tegel and Schönefeld, Tempelhof Airport is a public space.
Once upon a time, when the Soviet Union blockaded Berlin from the West, Tempelhof Airport came to prominence as the base of the famous airlift operation bringing food and supplies to the besieged Berliners. Today, some of the planes that once used the airport are right there in the grassy fields for you to explore at your leisure.
30. B-24D Liberator – Atka Island, Alaska
In tundra fields frequented by reindeer, far and away at the very tip of United States territory, sits Alaska’s Atka Island. Located in the middle of the volcanic Aleutian Islands chain that stretch out from Alaska toward Russia, Atka plays home to a World War II ghost.
In one of the forgotten chapters of World War II, the Japanese managed to conquer American territory by snagging several of the Aleutian Islands. As such, every island became an important air base. This plane, unfortunately, had to be deliberately crashed in December 1942. Poor weather meant it couldn’t find a place to land.
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