Surrounded by wide open desert, in the middle of nowhere, is a huge collection of planes at a small airport. This airport was originally built in 1935 to support the local gold rush but as the rush died down, the airport needed to adapt or end up closed.
First, the airport was converted at the start of World War Two into a training center for Marine aviators. After the war, the airport was again facing an unknown future. Due to the extremely dry climate of the Mojave Desert, it was determined that this would be a great place to store aircraft. In the past, you could get a tour of the plane boneyard but post 911 this is about as close as you can get now. Here is a great video of the last Qantas 747 on its last flight being flown into this airport:
In 1972 they decided to create an area at this airport specifically for the private space industry, which was very much just starting. The Mojave airport would become the countries first commercial spaceport. There are a number of companies that do R&D here. We saw some unusual looking planes take off that I could not identify. There is a public café at the airport where you can have a coffee and have a reasonable view of the runway. If I remember correctly, they do not let you take pictures while inside the café (which would explain my lack of photos).
You can however walk around and check out some planes on display. This plane is a COVAIR CV-990 which was owned by NASA. It was called the LSRA which stood for Landing Systems Research Aircraft.
From 1993-1994 this plane was used to test the landing gear and braking systems for the space shuttle. The landing gear from the space shuttle enterprise was installed on this plane between the original landing gear for testing.
The results of their testing allowed the crosswind landing rating for the space shuttle be increased from 15-20 Knotts.
The space shuttle landing gear is no longer on this plane. It was placed back on the enterprise shuttle and is now on display at the Intrepid Museum.
They also have a F4 Phantom II on display. This jet was built by McDonald Douglass in St. Louis Missouri in 1964. It was flown by the US air force in the Vietnam war. In 1986 it was converted into a Drone and eventually loaned to the Mojave space port for this display.
The F4 Phantom had a top speed of Mach 2.2. Sonic booms would echo through the desert when they flew this plane. The F4 Phantom was retired in 1996, but the air-force kept over 300 of them and converted them into drones.
You can walk right up to the planes and look around. Don’t worry, I took the safety pins out of the landing gear and put them back in the proper storage bin (just kidding).
SAAB TF-35XD Draken. A super sonic jet used for training new pilots.
From 1994 – 2009 pilots and flight test engineers would come from around the world to train on these jets here at Mojave.
Also on display is the Rotan ATV by the Rotary Rocket Company. In 1999 this became the first rocket powered vehicle to take off from the Mojave space port. Unfortunately, the company ran out of funding before it could fully develop this rocket.
Sadly, the TSA agent at the airport had confiscated all my peroxide so I couldn’t fill her up and take it for a quick spin.
Finally, the last vehicle on display is a 1/5 scale flying model of Spaceship one. Spaceship one was the first private manned space craft that flew to space from Mojave in June of 2004. This accomplishment won them the Ansari X prize. If you ever find yourself in the middle of the Mojave Desert, stop by, check out some cool planes, rockets and have a coffee.


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