California Airplane Boneyards and Desert Aircraft Storage
Commercial airliners have limited lifespans. Ultimately, they must be retired from service, stored in "airplane boneyards" or graveyards, and finally dismantled and scrapped. Some of these boneyards are located in the dry deserts of California.
California has historically been a perfect locale for the storage of surplus aircraft. After World War II, the Ontario aircraft boneyard at Cal-Aero Airfield east of Los Angeles was established. The Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) established a sales depot at the inactive Cal-Aero Field, although it was referred to by the RFC as "Ontario". Nearly 1,900 military aircraft would be transferred to Cal-Aero, of which about 500 were sold and the rest dismantled. Read more about the Ontario boneyard.
Another storage facility and boneyard was located at China Lake, California. Many of the B-29s in storage there were destined for target practice. Several well-known Superfortresses were saved from China Lake, including FiFi, Peachy, Doc and others. Today, no more aircraft exist at the former China Lake airplane boneyard.
Active Airliner Boneyards and Aircraft Storage Facilities in California
Southern California Logistics Airport, Victorville, California
Photo by the AirplaneBoneyards Staff
Jetliners eventually reach end-of-life due to airframe wear and/or obsolescence. Some jetliners are temporarily taken off flying status, and must be stored in a environment that is conducive to preservation. Others are kept for spare parts for flying aircraft.
To protect airliners during their storage from wind and sun damage, engines and windows are tightly covered with white, reflective materials. A sealed airliner can thus be stored safely, for years, until the time comes to return it to active duty, or salvage. Eventually, all airliners are removed permanently from service and must be "disposed" of.
Airliner "boneyards" in the deserts of the western United States serve several functions: temporary storage, maintenance, parts reclamation, and scrapping.
Two large airplane boneyards exist in California today, the Southern California Logistics Airport (SCLA) and the Mojave Air & Space Port (see map below).
The two facilities are located only about 70 miles apart, within a driving time of about 1:25.
Map of major aircraft boneyards in California relative to Los Angeles
Southern California Logistics Airport (SCLA) in Victorville
The Southern California Logistics Airport (SCLA) is located in Victorville, California. Also known as Victorville Airport, it is home to many aviation related businesses, including Southern California Aviation, a large transitional facility for commercial aircraft.
The City of Victorville is located on Interstate Highway 15 between the San Bernardino area and Barstow. SCLA is about 7 miles northwest of the city.
The facility is located on the site of the former George Air Force Base, in active service from 1941 to 1992.
The airport features a precision instrument runway of 15,050 feet and a secondary runway length of 9,138 feet to accommodate any aircraft flying today.
The boneyard and airliner storage areas can be found just north of Air Base Road (Air Expressway). While you can drive through some of the the streets and roads at SCLA, most business and industry areas are restricted. No organized tours are available.
As always, we recommend obeying all warning signs and avoiding restricted areas.
Sign at the entrance to the Southern California Logistics Airport (Photo by the AirplaneBoneyards Staff)
Directions to SCLA from Los Angeles
The airport is located about 90 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles; driving time is about 1:30, depending of course on traffic.
The most direct route from downtown LA is via I-10 East and then I-15 North. Take Exit 151B (Mojave Drive) and proceed north on Village Drive to Air Base Road (Air Expressway). Drive west and the airport entrance will be on the right.
Directions to SCLA from Las Vegas, Nevada
SCLA is about 195 miles southwest of Las Vegas, Nevada. Driving time is about 3 hours. Drive west on Interstate 15 and take Exit 153A (Mojave Drive) at Victorville.
Proceed north on Village Drive to Air Base Road (Air Expressway). Proceed west, and SCLA entrance will be on the right.
Mojave Airport (MHV) in California
The Mojave Air and Space Port serves a variety of aviation and space industries. It is also a storage facility for commercial airliners, due to its vast area and dry desert conditions.
Large Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, Lockheed, and Airbus aircraft owned by major airlines are stored at Mojave. Some aircraft reach the end of their useful lifetime and are scrapped at the Mojave aircraft boneyard, while others are refurbished and returned to active service.
The Mojave Air & Space Port is located on California Highway 58 between Edwards Air Force Base and Tehachapi.
The official address is 1434 Flightline, Building 58, Mojave, CA 93501.
Directions to the Mojave Airport from Los Angeles
The airport is located about 95 miles north of downtown Los Angeles; driving time is about 1:45, depending on traffic.
One route is to follow Interstate Highway 5 north, and take Exit 162 onto California Highway 14. Drive north through Palmdale and Lancaster. As you approach the City of Mojave, turn right onto the Mojave-Barstow Highway, and turn left onto Airport Boulevard at the airport entrance.
Directions to the Mojave Airport from Las Vegas, Nevada
The Mojave Airport is about 225 miles west of Las Vegas, Nevada. Driving time is about 3:30 hours. Drive west on Interstate 15 and take Exit 179 onto California Highway 58 at Barstow.
Continue west on Highway 58, take Exit 172, and turn left onto the Mojave-Barstow Highway (Hwy 58 Business). Turn right onto Airport Boulevard at the airport entrance.
Airplane Boneyard Tours
Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, starting point for tours of the Davis-Monthan AFB AMARG Facility
Virtually all airplane boneyards and storage facilities are limited access sites and do not allow visitors. We encourage potential visitors to check with individual sites to learn about access policies and tours. As always, we recommend obeying all warning signs and avoiding restricted areas.
The largest boneyard in the world, at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, does allow tours of its Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) facility.
Advance reservations for the tours are required, and must be made through the nearby Pima Air & Space Museum, across East Valencia Road from the base. Bus tours also originate at the museum.
Looking for a place to see vintage aircraft in California?
For those interested in aviation, there are numerous opportunities and venues to see and explore vintage aircraft of World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, and modern-day aircraft. California offers a wide variety of aviation museums, including those described below.
Castle Air Museum in Atwater, California
Castle Air Museum in California
A group of dedicated enthusiasts in the Atwater-Merced area formed the Castle Air Museum Foundation, Inc. which is now a non-profit organization. Its purpose is to build a facility in which faithfully restored historic airplanes could be exhibited for public enjoyment.
It opened in 1981, on a site adjacent to the former Castle Air Force Base. Most of the workers there are volunteers, and the small admission charge helps defray restoration and maintenance projects on the vintage airplanes. The U.S. Air Force does not provide any funds for maintenance and repair. Today, the facility displays 54 restored World War II, Korean War, and Cold War era planes.
March Field Air Museum in Riverside, California
B-17 Flying Fortress "Starduster" on display at the March Field Air Museum
(original photo by AirplaneBoneyards.com)
The March Field Air Museum is located near Riverside, California, at the site of the former March Air Force Base (now the March Air Reserve Base).
The museum includes an impressive collection of over 70 historic aircraft, displayed both inside hangars and outside galleries. In addition, the museum features numerous exhibits, over 30,000 aviation artifacts, photographs, poster collections, and a Library Education Center.
A gift shop is also located on site. Parking is free, and small admission cost is charged.
We have personally toured this fine facility, and enjoyed meeting the friendly, knowledgable staff and volunteers. We highly recommend a visit to the March Field Air Museum.
List of Air and Aviation Museums in California
|Castle Air Museum||Atwater||
|Vernon P. Saxon Aerospace Museum||Boron||
|Planes of Fame Museum||Chino||
|Yanks Air Museum||Chino||
|Aerospace Museum of California||McClellan (Sacramento)||
|Palm Springs Air Museum||Palm Springs||
|Joe Davies Heritage Air Park at AF Plant 42||Palmdale||
|March Field Air Museum||Riverside||
|Edwards Air Force Base Airparks - USAF Flight Test Museum||Rosamond||
|San Diego Air & Space Museum||San Diego||
|Pacific Coast Air Museum||Santa Rosa||
Map of locations of active and post-WWII airplane boneyards and plane storage facilities in the United States
Need Help Spotting Airliners?
With the wide variety of jet airliners serving the worldwide travel market today, identification of individual manufacturers and aircraft can be a bit tricky. Airliners of various companies are stored at California desert boneyards at Victorville and Mojave.
On our new website we provide quick and easy Spotter Guides to spotting the common jet airliners of the day. We include airliners from Airbus, Boeing, Embraer, Bombardier and other manufacturers.