Since the 1920s, aircraft have been built around the world. Inventory of fighter jets and military cargo planes greatly increased during World War II, as countries rushed to build up their fleet to compete with the enemy. Some of these aircraft crashed in battle, while others were retired to the ocean floor. All around the world, abandoned aircraft are waiting to be discovered — from Antartica to the desert. Many of them were found decades after they were abandoned. These photos and the stories behind them are truly incredible.
Royal British Air Force Kittyhawk P-40 in the Sahara Desert
This Kittyhawk P-40 sits in the Sahara Desert where it crashed during World War II. A Royal British Air Force Fighter named Dennis Copping is believed to be the pilot who was shot down by German General Erwin Rommel in a chase over the Sahara Desert.
The Kittyhawk has been stripped of its guns and ammunition and will most likely remain at its crash site forever. The Air Force Fighter pilot was never heard from or seen again.
A Seaplane-Turned Luxury Yacht In Saudi Arabia
This PBY-5A Catalina seaplane has an incredible story behind it. After completing its service with the U.S. Navy, this aircraft was purchased by a retired businessman by the name of Thomas W. Kendall. He converted the seaplane into a luxury yacht.
During one trip with his family, Kendall anchored the plane in the sea, close to the shore in Saudi Arabia. There, the Kendall family was viciously attacked by a group of men with machine guns. After being held hostage and interrogated, the family was set free after the American Embassy got involved. This seaplane now sits abandoned between the sea and the desert.
World Airways DC-10 Flew Through a Volcano Eruption
The reason why this World Airways DC-10 hasn’t moved since 1991 is pretty incredible. This commercial passenger plane was in service throughout the 1980s but its career came to an end on June 15, 1991. That’s when the Mount Pinatubo volcano in the Philippines erupted.
It was the second-biggest volcanic eruption in recorded history, and this plane was flying over the volcano at the time. The thick volcanic ash and gas destroyed the plane, and it still sits near Mount Pinatubo today.
Helicopters Pushed Into the Sea in Vietnam
This photo taken on April 29, 1975 shows U.S. Navy servicemen desperately trying to clear the flight deck of the U.S.S. Blue Ridge. Helicopters like this one carried evacuees from Saigon to safety.
With more helicopters on the way, the men had no choice but to push the South Vietnamese helicopter into the sea in order to make room for more aircraft coming in. Operation Frequent Wind rescued more than 7,000 people in the final days of the Vietnam War.
Soviet Aircraft Bartini Beriev VVA-14
This futuristic aircraft was designed by Robert Bartini for the Soviet Union in 1972. It’s unique design was for taking off from the water and flying at high speeds over long distances. The VVA-14 was also built to destroy the United States Navy Polaris missile submarines.
Designed with a turbofan engine and a wing-in-ground-effect, its top speed was 472 mph with a cruising speed of 398 mph. This abandoned aircraft sits in a field in Russia.
A Mysterious Scene in the Woods
This eerie photo shows what appears to be a commercial airliner that crashed in the woods. Judging by the year of the ambulance, it seems this happened sometime in the 1950s. There isn’t any information on how this crash happened but people stumbled across the scene while exploring in the woods.
The interior of the plane is gutted and being taken over by nature, while the car’s windows have the glass blown out of them. There’s a lot of mystery behind this abandoned aircraft.
Soviet Ilyushin Il-76 Cargo Plane in the Desert
This Soviet Ilyushin Il-76 Cargo Plane was used by a man named Viktor Bout to smuggle firearms from Eastern Europe to Africa and the Middle East. Bout was a former Soviet military translator who was known as the "Merchant of Death" for his high-risk smuggling operation.
His operation spanned the 1990s and 2000s before he was arrested by the Royal Thai Police in 2008. The Soviet Ilyushin Il-76 Cargo Plane he used to bypass embargoes sits abandoned in Umm Al Quwain.
Abandoned Saab J-35F Fighter Jet Found in Finland
The Saab J-35F Fighter Jet was designed and flown from 1955 until 1974. The supersonic jet was the first of its kind in Western Europe, and was used by the Swedish Army. Most commonly known as The Draken, it was one of the top fighter jets of its time in dogfights.
Although it performed well, designed with a double delta wing that was innovative for its time, it came with a high manufacturing cost and Saab discontinued the model. This Draken was discovered in rural Finland.
B-17G Flying Fortress Sunk Off the Coast of Vis, Croatia
On November 6, 1944, a US Army Air Force pilot never returned after a flight mission. They didn’t know for sure what happened to Second Lieutenant Ernest Vienneau until 2018, when a British scuba diver and photographer stumbled upon the aircraft.
Steve Jones located the B-17G Flying Fortress 230 feet below, on the sea floor off the coast of Vis, in Croatia. The pilot’s family could finally know the truth- that Vienneau was a hero who sacrificed himself so the other pilots could escape death.
Douglas SBD Dauntless Dive Bomber
Although it appears that this Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber crashed to the sea floor, that’s not in fact what happened. This plane was flown by the US Navy and the US Marines, built during World War II.
After the war was over, the military saved money by disposing of the planes in the ocean rather than pay to bring them back to the states. That’s what happened to this aircraft that was discovered by diver and photographer Brandi Mueller.
Elvis Presley’s 1962 Lockheed Jetstar Jet
Pictured here is Elvis Presley’s private 1962 Lockheed Jetstar Jet at the Roswell International Air Center in New Mexico. Elvis acquired many eclectic things in his lifetime and owned multiple jets. This one sat on the runway in New Mexico for 30 years.
Then in 2017, it went up for auction with a starting bid of $100,000, with an estimated value of between $2 and $3.5 million. After sitting on the runway for so long, the jet needs some repair and restoration.
Oregon Man Lives in a Boeing 727
Located in Hillsboro, Oregon, just outside of Portland, Bruce Campbell lives in a decommissioned Boeing 727. After hearing of someone else who was living in a converted Boeing, he just had to do it himself.
Campbell purchased the plane for $100,000 and had it transported to some land he had purchased in a wooded area. Inside, he has a full-stocked kitchen, office, laundry, and bedroom. He also kept some of the spaces original for nostalgia.
A Columbian Narcoplane Shot Down in Mexico
This plane sunken into the sand on the shore of Mazunte, Mexico is rumored to have been a plane carrying narcotics, coming from Columbia. The aircraft was shot down by the Mexican Army nearly 20 years ago, and is slowly sinking into the sand.
There’s no reports of who was flying the plane, or a confirmed account of its purpose, but it’s very common for drug runners to use aircraft to bypass authorities and smuggle illegal drugs internationally.
The 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group is nicknamed “The Boneyard.” It’s a large storage facility for the United States Air Force, located in Tucson, Arizona at an air force base.
The facility spans 2,600 acres and stores WWII B-29 bombers and C-47 cargo planes. There’s approximately $35 billion worth of aircraft at this location. There are a reported 4,000 aircraft and 70 different weapons systems at The Boneyard. They first started storing aircraft here in 1946.
Bell P39Q Airacobra Found in a Russian Lake
This P-39Q belonged to the Soviet Air Force from World War II. The pilot who was flying this aircraft was forced to land the plane in the lake, where it sunk. In 2004, it was discovered at the bottom of Lake Mart-Yavr in the Arctic Circle in Russia.
This plane was designed to match the aircraft of the United States, and it was one of the main aircraft used by the Soviets during the war, proving a high kill rate.
Curtiss C-46 Commando in Chonburi, Thailand
This United States aircraft was used for military transport during World War II. It was used by the U.S. Army Air Force, U.S. Navy, and the U.S. Marine Corps. After the war ended, some were converted to be used as passenger airliners.
This C-46 was first stored in Bangkok before being transported to Chonburi. It’s one of two that are located in Thailand. There are several others in Japan, China, Brazil, and other countries across the world. The military is holding on to many of them in case they need to be used for service again.
B25 Bomber in South Carolina
This B25 bomber had crashed into Lake Murray in South Carolina but was retrieved. There are many other planes like this one found around the area, as the Air Force used the grounds for exercises like bombing runs.
The Lake Murray region has been nicknamed “Bomb Island” with debris found all around the area from the military exercises. One man paid to have this plane retrieved from the lake with plans of preserving it and displaying it at a state university. There are plenty more where that came from!
C-121 Lockheed Constellation in South Antartica
This is one of the most remote abandoned aircraft by far. This C-121 Lockheed Constellation sits on an airstrip at McMurdo Sound in South Antartica. This plane had to make an emergency landing after hitting bad weather. Although it touched down on rough terrain, no one on board was injured when it landed on October 8, 1970.
The airstrip is no longer in service, last operating on December 8, 2016, so this aircraft will remain here indefinitely. The cold air has kept it in good condition.
Hairdresser’s House Burned Down So She Bought A Boeing
Bruce Campbell wasn’t the first person to convert a Boeing 727 into their home. In fact, he got the idea from a woman named Joanne Ussery. After her home burnt down in a fire, she decided to purchase a Boeing 727 for $2,000 and deliver it to her lakeside property in Mississippi.
After paying for the cost of delivery and renovation, Ussery paid a total of $25,000. She couldn’t be happier living in her jet by the lake!
WB-29 Superfortress AKA “Lady of the Lake”
This plane somehow ended up in the lake to was used for open water extraction training. This WB-29 Superfortress has been nicknamed “Lady of the Lake,” sitting in its watery grave on Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska.
It was flown during World War II between Alaska and Japan, locating Soviet nuclear testing. It was taken out of inventory at the Air Force base in 1955 and has been sitting in the water for decades.
Bristol Type 170 Freighter
This British twin-engine aircraft was designed during World War II. The Bristol Type 170 Freighter was mainly used to carry cars and passengers over bodies of water and long distances.
However, design updates that the British Air Ministry requested weren’t completed in time for these planes to be used during the war. This one crashed on May 30, 1956, and sits abandoned on the edge of Beaverlodge Lake in a remote area of Canada. It would be very difficult to remove the large aircraft from its crash site. Over 60 years later, it’s still sitting there.