Plane wrecks and crash-landings are undeniably scary whether one is inside or outside of the flight. But, in their aftermath, the wreckage can teach of complicated history, patiently waiting to be unearthed.
Downed in the Desert - Sinai Desert
The Suez Crisis was an international conflict we may not hear much about today. But, clear evidence of its occurrence comes in the form of an Israeli military plane, shot out of the sky at the height of the 1956 conflict.
The lone wreckage has since been left stranded in the Sinai desert - A stark reminder of the crisis that entangled the British, French, Egyptian, and Israeli militaries. Its lonely figure stands in the vast desert, a poignant symbol of the futility of war.
The Medellín Cartel's Crash - Norman Cay in the Bahamas
Norman Cay is a small but idyllic island in the Bahamas, known for its fantastic food and waterfront views. But in the late 1970s and early 80s, it was known for something very different...the smuggling of substances. To this day, deep in the water that surrounds the area is a memento left behind by its dark past.
That is the remains of the Curtiss C-46 Commando - A drug vessel used in an operation run by the infamous Pablo Escobar and his Medellín Cartel. During this period, Norman Cay was used as a landing strip for the cartel to smuggle their product into the U.S. and surrounding countries.
Downed Boeing 737 - Bali, Indonesia
In the south of Bali, the most popular tourist destination in Indonesia, there is a particularly fascinating tourist site that stands out from the cultural sights around it. Positioned in the middle of Pandawa Beach is the iconic image of a Boeing 373, looking as if it’s always been there. But, why is it there?
As it turns out, the reason for the abandoned plane is still a mystery. Up until this point, the most popular theory is that the plane was purchased with the idea of using it as a restaurant and tourist attraction. But, the buyer’s funds dried up. Well, at least one of their goals came true.
Canadian WWII Bomber - Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Yes, you really can visit this enigmatic WWII plane yourself! But, it will take a bit of time to get there, so make sure you bring your hiking boots! This Canso bomber plane currently resides deep in the swamps of Vancouver Island, in British Columbia.
Of course, it hasn't actively flown since the war itself, back in 1945. It was during this flight, however, that the plane's engine malfunctioned, causing it to crash-land in the Canadian forests. By a stroke of luck, the crash was not fatal - All 12 members of the crew survived the crash.
American Douglas Super DC-3 - Sólheimasandur, Iceland
In the icy north sits Iceland, one of the most remote and beautiful countries in the world. Iceland's unique landscape is filled with magnificent springs and glaciers, but there is another unusual site to be found there. On the black sands of the island of Sólheimasandur, sits an abandoned plane.
The Douglas Super DC-3 was in use up until 1973 when it crash-landed on the Icelandic island by its American Crew. Fortunately, just like the Vancouver Island crash, there were zero fatalities. But what isn’t known is why the plane was left to rot on Sólheimasandur. And, we may never find out.
Soviet MiG 29 - Moscow, Russia
When it comes to war, few aircraft are as recognizable as the Soviet MiG 29. But this battleship of the air doesn’t seem to be combat-ready, as it clearly hasn’t seen action for some time. Instead, it has been all but left to rot in the suburbs of Moscow.
Unfortunately, the wreck is on the property of an old satellite communications facility, a former USSR compound owned by the government. Setting foot near this plane will qualify as trespassing, so one can probably only view it from afar. It’s certainly an enticing site, with abandoned satellite dishes not far away.
Airplane Grave - Papua New Guinea
If venturing through the dense and unwelcoming rainforests of Papua New Guinea, one may not be surprised to know that there are bodies hidden on the forest floor. After all, the island was part of the Pacific theatre that saw conflict throughout WWII. But, what may cause surprise, is what kind of bodies they are.
It wasn’t just human fighters who were left behind in the undergrowth. Through those years of conflict, multiple airplanes crash-landed on the island and were left to disintegrate in the forest. To this day, the skeletons of these planes can still be seen in remote Papua New Guinea, just like the one in the photo above.
British Avro Shackleton - Stratford-upon-Avon, England
Wandering through William Shakespeare’s hometown isn’t the only reason to visit Stratford-upon-Avon. The picturesque small town in the south of England is full of more than one might expect. On the town's outskirts is an enigmatic site called Marston Airfield, an old World War II airfield managed by the Royal Air Force.
Today the airfield is more of a graveyard like the one in Papua New Guinea, with many defunct airplanes being left behind there. The aircraft pictured above is an Avro Shackleton that was built during the Cold War. It was used for enemy surveillance missions by the RAF and Royal Navy.
Douglas C-47 Skytrain - Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina Border
The Željava Air Base was once one of the largest secret military bases in Europe, based in Yugoslavia and built during the Cold War. The enormous airbase contained an entire subterranean airport and was also home to many aircraft like the Douglas C-47 Skytrain, pictured below.
But after the Cold War, Yugoslavia was divided into various smaller countries, and the Željava Air Base was made defunct alongside it. Currently, the base sits between Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina. Now, it makes a breathtaking tourist attraction due to both the strange airbase and its gorgeous surroundings.
Soviet Ilyushin IL 76 - Umm Al Quwain, UAE
Umm Al Quwain, now a city and emirate in the center of the Persian Gulf, was once a confederation before the United Arab Emirates was formed. Per historical records, Umm Al Quwain has always been isolated, due to its small population and lack of oil and gas compared to nearby regions.
Standing in the deserts of Umm Al Quwain is the enigmatic Ilyushin IL 76, a Soviet aircraft whose background remains a mystery to this day. It's evident from the craft's state that it didn’t malfunction and crash-land, and it wasn’t shot down. Hmmm, someone out there knows what happened, but they aren’t telling.
Angel’s Ladies Brothel - Beatty, Nevada
If this list hasn’t been weird enough for you, keep reading. Because in the town of Beatty, Nevada, someone with an entrepreneurial spirit took an abandoned airplane and turned it into something rather unusual. Did we mention that adultery is completely legal in Nevada?
And amongst the many abandoned brothels throughout the desert state, lies the Angel’s Ladies Brothel, a business that began in the body of a crashed airplane, had been cheaply bought from a flight school. Sadly the business has seen better days, as Angel’s Ladies plane has long since been abandoned.
Bangkok Airplane Graveyard - Bangkok, Thailand
When thinking of Bangkok, one probably turns to fast-paced nightlife, exotic restaurants, and majestic temples dotted throughout the urban center. What one probably doesn't think of is a solitary airplane graveyard. But, that's exactly what you’ll find in the Thai capital.
The Bangkok Airplane Graveyard houses row after row of abandoned aircraft. What’s maybe more interesting is that most of the planes have been completely stripped - Including some of the metal used to build them. It's been reported that today, several families now live in the remaining shells, to avoid rising rent prices.
Remains of the Cold War - Grenada in the Caribbean
The Caribbean is another expanse containing the wrecks of long-forgotten aircraft. There are many metal hulks both in the water and on land, but possibly one of the most striking wrecks is this former Soviet craft. It's strange history and can be visited easily if passing through the island of Grenada.
This preserved wreck is the result of an invasion of Grenada by the U.S. Back in the 1980s, the U.S. military was highly active in Cuba and surrounding areas in an attempt to quell a communist uprising. This plane is one of many similar models that were left damaged beyond repair on the island.
Cessna 414 Crash - Blue Ridge Mountains, Tennessee
Many people see the Blue Ridge Mountains as one of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful sights in America. This dynamic mountain range spans much of the eastern U.S. and is a popular hiking destination for many travelers. But, some may get a shock when they come across this sight on the Waterrock Knob trail.
If one were to venture far enough down the track, this Cessna 414 will come across your path. The now-wrecked airplane crashed on its flight over the mountain ranges in November of 1984, and unfortunately, none of its passengers survived. This strangely magnetic sight still stands as a testament to that tragic day.
Memorial Airport - Gila County, Arizona
Despite little military action occurring in the U.S. during WWII (excluding Hawaii of course), there are still a number of military relics dotted around the country from that period. One of which is the Gila River Memorial Airport, located in Arizona.
The airport was returned to the Native American tribe of the area, along with the land beneath it. In addition, all of the crafts that had been left behind, some of them being almost 80 years old, were included as well. Sadly it was simply too expensive to turn the site into a museum or to move the planes to a new location.
Iraq War Relic - Al-Qaim, Iraq
The airplane in the photo below is another abandoned war machine. But, it is much closer to our time than the many World War II crafts on this list. The plane below is a forgotten antique of the Iraq War, one that was shot from the air by U.S. troops during the conflict.
Today, it still lies where it fell in the Al-Anbar desert in Al-Qaim, an Iraqi border town that sits between Iraq and Syria. Considering the years of warfare in this region, the image of this deteriorating machinery is rather fitting. Although we must admit the Texas flag that adorns the plane is an interesting contrast.
967 Hawker Siddeley - Belfast, Northern Ireland
If one only saw this photo of a large defunct plane without context for it, they might think it was part of an abandoned commercial airport. But oddly enough, this 1967 Hawker Siddeley passenger plane is sitting on the tarmac of the Belfast International airport, an airport that is very much active today.
It isn’t known why the Hawker Siddeley has simply been left to rust away on airport property, but it certainly is a sight to see! The lonely machine was once used regularly by British Airways. But today it is slowly being taken over by moss, an unavoidable effect of the damp Emerald Isle climate.
Hotel Costa Verde - Costa Rica
Ever wanted to spend a holiday on an airplane in the middle of a tropical jungle? Well here's the chance! Taking a more…conventional approach to the Angel’s Ladies Brothel business model, this stunning old Boeing 727 is now the site of the Hotel Costa Verde, a rather striking structure nestled in greenery.
Many believe the owners of the Costa Verde did a great renovation job - As the red and orange hotel is surprisingly sophisticated considering its humble origins as a commercial carrier. During its heyday, this aircraft was flown back and forth between South Africa and Europe.
Percival Prince - Long Marston Airfield, England
The Long Marston Airfield is a long-defunct airfield in Warwickshire, England. Once used by the Royal Air Force in the 1940s and 50s, this airfield is no more of an air graveyard, with many abandoned aircraft within it. But it’s the Percival Prince that seems to catch most eyes.
This fierce machine sits at the entrance to the airfield, likely an intimidating sight for any travelers or locals who choose to visit. But the Percival Prince’s story is much less intimidating: It was used as a cargo plane during WWII. Clearly, someone thought the Prince needed an upgrade, hence the painted shark features.
Vought F4U Corsair - Oahu, Hawaii
If visiting this site, one may have a little bit of difficulty getting there. This enigmatic plane wreck can only be found if going on a deep-sea scuba diving expedition is in the plans, as it’s resting at the bottom of the ocean just off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii.
This Vought F4U Corsair hasn’t seen sunlight or fresh air since 1948, back when it was used on routine missions to and from Pearl Harbor. During its final ride, the plane malfunctioned and crashed into the ocean. Thankfully, the pilot was able to escape the sinking aircraft before it was too late.
Japanese Aichi E13A-1 - Palau, Pacific Ocean
On the topic of underwater wrecks…here we have the Japanese Aichi E13A-1. It's one of many abandoned and largely forgotten wrecked aircraft scattered throughout the Pacific Ocean. Many of these have been left behind from various WWII conflicts between the Japanese and Allied militaries.
Off the coast of the South Pacific island, Palau, lies the Aichi E13A-1, 45 feet below the water's surface. Though it's far from the Philippines, many adventurous photographers have made the trek to this site to capture its surreal views. Being this close to sunlight, it's one of the world's most photogenic underwater wreckages.
‘Miss Piggy’ - Manitoba, Canada
In Churchill, Manitoba, residents might have a serious need for functioning airplanes, considering that the town has been called the "Polar Bear Capital of the World." Naturally, they have a small airport for important flights, but we can't imagine anyone flying out on this aircraft.
This Curtiss C-46, affectionately called "Miss Piggy," saw its last voyage back in 1979 after a mechanical failure occurred preceding take-off. The small plane crash-landed near the tarmac, and luckily the three crew members on board were able to escape with minor injuries.
Soviet Antonov An-2 - West Cork, Ireland
It’s almost difficult to make out this plane hulking in the grass in the countryside of southern Ireland. This dark green Soviet biplane does a great job of blending into the grass and moss on the hills of West Cork, where it's been left to sit and rot for the last several years.
This Antonov An-2 was originally manufactured and used in the former Soviet Union. But was moved all the way from Eastern Europe to the other side of the continent. Since it arrived in Ireland, the Antonov has been used as a statement piece in various festivals throughout the country.
Downed Dornier 328 - Southern New Jersey
If interested in the strange history of cryptids throughout North America, then you may have heard about the Jersey Devil. This folkloric creature is said to haunt the Pine Barrens of South Jersey. Due to that, many are drawn to this area, but these days, there's another fascinating reason to visit.
Here we have a dilapidated commuter airplane that can be found in the forests. This Dornier 328 would not be an unusual site in Europe, but in New Jersey, it really stands out. Though no one knows for sure why the plane is stranded there, it’s believed to have been a prop for a paintball range that never came to fruition.
U.S. McDonnell-Douglas DC-10 - Bataan, Philippines
Mount Pinatubo is a famous volcano that can be found on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. But in June 1991, disaster struck when Mount Pinatubo erupted and sent smoke ash, and lava spilling from its core. Unfortunately, hundreds of locals lost their lives in the process.
Disaster relief was dispatched immediately, both locally and internationally. But many people, buildings, and machinery could not escape the devastation. This includes the McDonnell-Douglas DC-10 pictured above, which was part of the U.S. Naval Air Station when the disaster occurred.
Beriev VVA-14 - Monino, Russia
The Beriev VVA-14 is one of the strangest aircraft to be discussed so far, and one only needs to look to see why. This unique machine looks like an exotic creature almost as much as it looks like an aircraft. Today, it can be found at the Central Air Force Museum in Monino, Russia.
Planes like the Beriev were built during the Cold War and were intended to take out U.S. submarines. They could be launched from the water, which might explain the odd appearances. Unsurprisingly, the Beriev VVA-14 is an exceptionally rare model. In fact, it's said that the model pictured above is the very last of its kind.
Trident Sun Jet - Nicosia Airport, Cyprus
The island of Cyprus has a fascinating modern history. In 1974, it was invaded by the Turkish, who established an independent republic in the north. And, ever since, there's been considerable controversy around the island. This brings us to Nicosia, the capital city of Cyprus.
Prior to and during the Turkish-Greek conflict on Cyprus, all international flights went through the island’s main airport in Nicosia. But, after things subsided and administrative centers were rerouted, Nicosia airport was abandoned, leaving many aircraft behind.
Sukhoi Su-7 - Shindand, Afghanistan
Curb your traveler instincts, because this incredible sight is one no one will be getting access to anytime soon. This is another abandoned airport, now converted into an airplane graveyard of sorts. But, there are many impressive aircraft lined up within its gates, some used by the Afghan Airforce.
Located in Shindand, Afghanistan, these jet planes were initially built to defend the country during the 1980s Soviet invasion. Considering what an important job they must've had, it's baffling to see them left in the Shindand Airfield. But, they aren't all going to waste, as some are still used by the Afghan Army today.
Cessna - Tempelhof Airport, Berlin, Germany
Previously one of the busiest airports in Europe, Germany's Tempelhof Airport in Berlin, is now one of Europe’s most interesting pre-WWII spaces to be reimagined as a cultural icon. That’s because it's since been converted into a public park for citizens of the capital.
After WWII, Tempelhof Airport became a political outlet due to how it was used in the Cold War. During the blockade of West Berlin by Soviet forces, Tempelhof was used to transport food and supplies to the blockaded Berliners on the other side. The airport was officially closed in 2008.
B-24D Liberator - Atka Island, Alaska
Alaska is the coldest and most remote state in the U.S. (except for Hawaii), and Atka Island even more so. Atka is part of the Aleutian Islands, which are a smattering of small pieces of land between Alaska and Russia. It's on this island that one would find the derelict bomber plane pictured below.
Back in 1942, the B-24D Liberator crash-landed on a part of the Japanese military base stationed on the island throughout WWII. It is a piece of oft-forgotten history, and a reminder of the Japanese attempt to invade the Aleutian Islands and wrest them from U.S. hands.