“Understanding the past embraces all modes of exploration.”
- David Lowenthal

Military security

Graveyards come in many forms. When I was an archaeologist, I used to dig them up all the time. I remember once, when I lived in Hawai’i, I was digging up this skeleton that was embedded in beach sand. I had my trowel under his ribs chipping away at the sand particles embedded in the ribcage and then the whole body came tumbling down on me. This guy Kulani that I worked with said, “cool bro, now you’re cursed like the rest of us”. I put the skull in a brown paper bag and marked it XJ-107 or something. It was clearly a traumatic experience. In Paris, we party in mass human graves. And of course, the whole dereliction fetish component of urban exploration is really just an obsession with decay, death, waste and transition. We explore architectural and memorial graveyards all the time. I don’t think it’s strange though. As Geoff Manaugh muses,

…the quasi-archaeological eyes of those poets and artists [from the past] would still be enraptured today. Wordsworth could very well have gone out at 2am on a weeknight to see the cracked windshields of car wrecks on the sides of desert roads, new ruins from a different and arguable more interesting phase of Western civilisation. 

Beauty in death, filled with life

So when I was in Las Vegas this summer and heard there was a massive desert graveyard filled with hundreds of “retired” planes, beautifully preserved in the dry Mojave air, I knew we needed to get in there and play around. The problem was that it was on an active military base. So I called up the crew and they flew into McCarran from Ottawa, Paris and London. We rolled out the satellite images over a few cans of Tecate on the kitchen countertop. With Witek, Marc and Otter on this mission, success was the only option.

The Job

After driving for ages from Vegas to the high desert outside Victorville, stopping to build massive bonfires in the Mojave and climb around in some old mines at Calico, we rolled up the the perimeter fence around George Air Force Base (The Southern California Logistics Airport). I won’t lie, the security was intimidating. But, as always, there was a weak point and we found it. Luckily, the military security patrol didn’t see us before we cracked their security routines.

In our sights

Shots in the dark

Fast forward to 2am. The problem with exploring in the desert is, firstly, that you have to drive there and, secondly, that you have to park your empty automobile in a blatantly obvious place, given there’s no cover. Given the only thing within 10 miles is the military base and we really didn’t like the idea of having our truck found while we were in there, we parked it in a ruined meth den roughly two miles from the access point; rammed it in-between the buildings and prayed for the best as we set off across the desert with our camera gear. As we neared the gate, security was doing their patrol. We saw the headlights and dove behind some knee-high sage bushes, turning around the bush as they went past like a Scooby-Doo cartoon. When they had passed, we ran like hell and threw my Mom’s clearly expensive bathroom towel borrowed from the Vegas pad over the barbed wire. Once over, we booked it for the first plane we could see, a massive United Airlines 747.

Behemoth

This first fat boy was a cargo freighter (maybe converted?) and the ladder was down. It was pretty stripped out inside and not very interesting. We exited and saw the next plane in the row – a British Airways 747! Someone asked for my truck keys and popped the hatch behind the landing gear – up we went. Inside, it was sticky and hot and awesomely intact.

Saw it

Did it

Loved it

There were endless planes of all sorts, learjets, FedEx planes, little short-flight hoppers and massive military cargo aircraft. It was a wicked playground.

On time for

This encounter

It was a long night. We must’ve gone in six or seven planes. We photographed dozens. We saw hundreds. At some point we realised there was a security guard inside the fence as well and had to hide in landing gear a few times. It was the most fun I have ever had in the United States.

Hiding from security

The tail end of an

Endless array

The Boneyard was like nothing I have ever experienced – it was massive, pristine and surreal. We had a great time there and I would love a revisit, especially given we only went in something like 2% of the planes there. Then again, I hear there’s a much bigger one in Arizona that has a space shuttle in it…

 

London Consolidation Crew. 2011. All up in your military base.

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8 Responses to “US Military Infiltration: The Boneyard”

  1. Outposts | Says:

    [...] Place Hacking: US Military Infiltration, The Boneyard In Las Vegas there’s a massive desert graveyard filled with hundreds of “retired” planes. [...]

  2. /-/ooligan Says:

    Hey you guys did a great job, & I'm jealous, but you're totally embellishing the reality — George AFB closed down about TWO DECADES AGO & has since become a commercial airport & commercial aircraft storage & scrapping facility. While there frequently is a small military presence there for training, they have nothing to do with the commercial aircraft storage area you guys infiltrated, and that aircraft storage/salvage area has minimal security.

  3. Goblinmerchant Says:

    Minimal security? Send me a photo from inside the fence then! It is patrolled by the military as well as private security but yeah, the base is closed down and mostly derelict. In fact, I have photos of all the abandoned housing and a hospital on base too that were less interesting. Thanks for reading the post!

  4. relux Says:

    Great photos. Although, this all annoys me so much. I was just out in LA a few weeks ago and made the trek up to the George AFB. I had no idea these planes were nearby. Ugh!

    You're right though, the photos of the hospital and the housing are much less interesting when compared to these plane photos.

    My photos are at http://www.flickr.com/photos/chadwho1ders/sets/72

  5. Crack the Surface: pedazos de utopía y exploración urbana | Jobbr es Says:

    [...] más reciente exploración que se documenta en el sitio de Place Hacking, es la infiltración a “The Boneyard” una base militar en California, o más bien, un cementerio de aviones [...]

  6. Home Turf: Carving Places in Space | Place Hacking Says:

    [...] Otter, Witek and I had now emerged from the desert, stopping for our successful infiltration of The Boneyard on our way to the City of Angels. There was only one road back to L.A. – U.S. Interstate 15. [...]

  7. Sin City Supernova | Place Hacking Says:

    [...] desire that we are, we had oscillated between one extreme and another, passing through my beloved quiet desert from LA to Sin City, through blistering days and freezing nights under the stars, from my [...]

  8. John Says:

    This is awesome.

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