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Landing Strip

Planes that are no longer serviceable are stored at a desert site. Some are converted, others are turned into scrap.

September 29, 1998

MOJAVE — Old jetliners never die, they just fade into the sunset.

At least that's what seems to happen at Mojave Airport, a graveyard of sorts for aircraft waiting to be retooled, sold for parts or scrapped.

Airline companies bring used planes to the small airport northwest of Edwards Air Force Base to sell them to other airlines looking to expand their fleets or convert old passenger jets into cargo planes, Airport Manager Dan Sabovich said.

"Airlines bring them here because it is a good place to store aircraft," he said. "In the desert, there is no dew or salty air that can cause corrosion."

Although the airport is also home base for private aircraft, repair shops, a test pilot school and an assembly site for a prototype of an airplane designed to relay satellite signals to earth, it is mostly an aircraft boneyard.

"[Buyers] come in here and pull all the parts off the planes," he said. "When they're finished, the plane looks like an empty beer can."

Some airplanes, however, meet a different end. "A big machine cuts them up," he said, "and they get sent to a smelter."

The jetliner graveyard has become an offbeat tourist attraction, Sabovich said.

In the early '90s, airport workers escorted foreign television crews through the graveyard so they could take footage of the hulking planes to show to the folks back home.

At times there would be as many as 200 jets lined up on a dusty patch of land, Sabovich said. About a dozen Delta L-1011 jets are there now, waiting to be sold or scrapped.

"It's surprising how many people want to go out to a boneyard to see junk airplanes," he said.

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