10 Amazing Abandoned Airports and Airbases

An external view of the abandoned Ellinikon airport in Athens
An external view of the abandoned Ellinikon airport in Athens
Milos Bicanski/Getty Images

You’d think the sky-high costs of constructing an airport would ensure that some boss, somewhere, would make sure they stayed in operation as long as possible. But times change, technology moves on, and geopolitical strife interferes with even the best-laid plans. As a result, forgotten commercial airports and military airbases lie abandoned around the world, their once state-of-the-art equipment now rusting into ruins fit for cows, car races, and intrepid Instagrammers.

1. ŽELJAVA AIR BASE // CROATIA, BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

Željava Air Base was constructed underneath Plješevica Mountain along the border of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Built in secret between 1957 and 1965 under the codename “Objekat 505,” the base cost a whopping $6 billion or so was meant to provide a strategic command center and long-range early radar warning system for the Yugoslavian armed forces, according to Atlas Obscura. The base was also designed to take a hit from a 20-kiloton nuclear bomb, house 1000 people, and launch a jet from each of its four exits (which kind of makes it sound like an ideal super-villain lair).

The base remained in use until the Yugoslav National Army decided to destroy it in 1991 while withdrawing from the area, and the Military of Serbian Krajina (a short lived quasi-state in the chaos of Yugoslavia’s breakup) exploded 56 tons of explosives there the following year, just to make sure the place was no good to anyone. Well, almost: Today, the Bosnian Federation uses the base to train bomb-sniffing dogs, thanks to the huge amount of unexploded munitions that still litter the site.

2. FLOYD BENNETT FIELD // BROOKLYN, N.Y.

Zachary Korb, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Built on Barren Island, an old New York dumping ground, and the surrounding swamp (filled in withsix million cubic yards of sand), Floyd Bennett Field officially opened as New York City’s first municipal airport in 1931. But the Great Depression had caused commercial air traffic to take a nosedive (figuratively), the airport was never able to lure the airmail contracts away from Newark Airport, and it was too difficult to get to for most New Yorkers. Instead, it became world famous as an airport for aviation pioneers. Amelia Earhart, Howard Hughes, and Wiley Post all used the site as points of departure for record-breaking flights. Then, in 1939, the future LaGuardia Airport opened, and two years later the Floyd Bennett Field was sold to the U.S. Navy. Today, one of the hangers has been converted for use by Historic Aircraft Restoration Project and several have been transformed into a sports complex, but much of the rest of the site has been left in ruins.

3. ELLINIKON INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT // GREECE

Built in 1938 as the first airport to serve Athens, construction wasn’t even complete when the Nazis seized the airfield during their occupation of Greece. (The airfield went on to be attacked at least a dozen times by U.S. and British bombers and fighters during World War II.) After the war, the Greek government allowed the United States Air Force to use the airport for several years, before the Americans returned the field to the Greeks in 1956.

The airport stayed busy for the rest of the 20th century, but closed in 2001 after a glitzier airport was constructed for the 2004 Summer Olympics. The northwest side of the site was redeveloped for the Olympics, but today many of the hangars, as well as much of the rest of the site, are abandoned and littered with trash. Airplanes sit idle on the runways, the gates still showing signs for flights that departed over a decade ago. A €7 billion plan to redevelop the site as a coastal resort has been floated by developers—but with Greece’s economy in a tailspin, the place may stay a picturesque ruin for years to come.

4. GAZA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT // GAZA


Free Gaza movement, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Built for $86 million, the Gaza International Airport opened in 1998 but permanently closed three years later after its control tower and radar station were bombed by Israel Defense Forces. The IDF also bulldozed the runway in 2002, although staff continued to serve some areas of the airport until 2006. Today, Palestinians have taken to digging up parts of the airport (later renamed Yasser Arafat International Airport) for reuse as construction material. The airport is also the site of a happier memory: In 2010, more than 7000 Gazan children set a Guinness World Record by simultaneously dribbling basketballs on an intact portion of a ramp.

5. THE NICOSIA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT // CYPRUS

The Nicosia International Airport, which opened in 1939, has been mostly abandoned for 40 years. Once the main airport for the island of Cyprus, most of the facility has been empty since Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974. Part of the site is now used as the headquarters of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus, but many of the other buildings are in tatters, and the airport is part of a United Nations controlled buffer zone (in other words: don’t try to visit). A damaged 1970s Cyprus Airways plane still lingers on the runway, a remnant of an attempt to evacuate civilians four decades ago.

6. UPPER HEYFORD BASE // OXFORDSHIRE, ENGLAND


Created during World War I and used by the British Royal Air Force mostly as a training base from 1918 until 1950, the Upper Heyford base was transferred to the United States Air Force at the start of the Cold War. The Americans added a few touches to make the place seem more like home, according to USA Today, including a shopping mall, bowling alley, baseball diamond, pizza parlors, donut shops, and American-style fire hydrants and street signs. At its height in the 1970s and 1980s, 13,000 U.S. servicemen were stationed at the base, and three spy planes flew out from the site regularly to patrol the perimeter of the Communist bloc. The U.S. Air Force abandoned the base in 1993, and its future has been controversial ever since—some see it as a blight on the landscape, and others as an important monument to Cold War history. Much of the site lies in ruins, although the interiors of some rooms (including the Mission Control Center) appear to be veritable time capsules. A preservation effort is underway, and while sneaking onto the site is a bad idea (it's heavily controlled by security), tours are available.

7. JOHNSTON ATOLL AIRPORT // U.S. MINOR OUTLYING ISLANDS

Located on one of the most isolated atolls in the world, more than 700 nautical miles southwest of Hawaii, this tiny airport was a U.S. military base for much of the 20th century before closing in 2005. (That could be a good thing—nuclear weapons testing in the 1960s contaminated the island with plutonium.) The site was also home to bioweapons tests on barges full of rhesus monkeys, and served as a chemical weapons storage site. The runway is closed and abandoned, but reportedly sometimes still used in emergencies.

8. BAGEROVO AIRFIELD // CRIMEAN PENINSULA

The Bagerovo airfield on the Crimean Peninsula, about 700 kilometers southeast of Kiev, has mysterious origins—perhaps due to its top-secret classification for many years. It was already in use by the early 1940s, and after the war it was rebuilt to test cruise missiles and perform aerial nuclear explosions, among other dangerous tasks. The place was so secret, personnel were known as "deaf-and-dumb," meaning they wouldn't even acknowledge inquiries about their job, let alone answer them. In 1971, the airfield was de-classified, after the media acquired some photos of activities at the site. In the 1980s, the airfield's extra-long runways were home to the Soviet space shuttle Buran, and was also used as a training ground for Soviet pilots. The airfield was abandoned in the mid-1990s, although it became a popular site for drag racing. A developer bought the site in 2012, with plans to dismantle the runways and place wind turbines there instead—perhaps a nice coda to the site’s nuclear past.

9. MARINE AIR CORPS STATION EL TORO // NEAR IRVINE, CALIF.


Patrick Dirden, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Marines based their West Coast aviation efforts out of this 4600-acre airport for several decades during the mid-20th century, but you might know it as the place where Will Smith departs to greet the aliens in Independence Day. The base was commissioned in 1943, and in 1950 became a "permanent Master Jet Station and center of support for the operation and combat readiness of Fleet Forces, Pacific," according to the Navy. The four runways were designed to handle the most gigantic aircraft the U.S. military had to offer, and the base was home to a famous air show for years. Decommissioned in 1999, there are plans to convert it into a massive metropolitan park, but it's currently used as a filming location for the likes of Will Smith and Top Gear.

10. PEARLS AIRPORT // GRENADA

Tony Hisgett, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The charmingly named Pearls Airport in Grenada was the country's first, but it hasn't seen air traffic in years. Abandoned after the U.S. invasion in 1983, it's now home to some wandering goats and cows, as well as two decaying Soviet planes (a reminder of Cuba's presence in Grenada from 1979 to 1983). Locals say the Cold War relics were damaged during the invasion, and have been falling into ruin in a field ever since. Like a few other abandoned airports around the world's, Pearls is now a popular drag-racing locale.

BONUS: CIUDAD REAL CENTRAL AIRPORT // SPAIN

Spain holds the unfortunate distinction of being home to a number of white elephant airports, due to the size of its construction bubble at the start of the 21st century and the force with which it burst during the Great Recession.

The Ciudad Real Central Airport airport, about an hour outside Madrid, was also called the Don Quixote Airport (fitting, given that character’s delusions of grandeur). Built for €1 billion ($1.1 billion), the airport opened in 2008 but went bankrupt and closed in 2012 after failing to attract enough interest from airlines. While lying abandoned for the last few years, it became a symbol of Spain’s economic woes in the wake of the Great Recession. Last month, a group of Chinese investors placed a €10,000 ($11,000) bid at a bankruptcy auction for the site. The auction has attracted no other bidders, but the sale won't close until September—so if owning your own abandoned airport has always been your dream, now’s your chance.

14 Retro Gifts for Millennials

Ravi Palwe, Unsplash
Ravi Palwe, Unsplash

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, which means the pop culture they grew up with is officially retro. No matter what generation you belong to, consider these gifts when shopping for the Millennials in your life this holiday season.

1. Reptar Funko Pop!; $29

Amazon

This vinyl Reptar figurine from Funko is as cool as anything you’d find in the rugrats’ toy box. The monster dinosaur has been redesigned in classic Pop! style, making it a perfect desk or shelf accessory for the grown-up Nickelodeon fan. It also glows in the dark, which should appeal to anyone’s inner child.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Dragon Ball Z Slippers; $20

Hot Topic

You don’t need to change out of your pajamas to feel like a Super Saiyan. These slippers are emblazoned with the same kanji Goku wears on his gi in Dragon Ball Z: one for training under King Kai and one for training with Master Roshi. And with a soft sherpa lining, the footwear feels as good as it looks.

Buy it: Hot Topic

3. The Pokémon Cookbook; $15

Hop Topic

What do you eat after a long day of training and catching Pokémon? Any dish in The Pokémon Cookbook is a great option. This book features more than 35 recipes inspired by creatures from the Pokémon franchise, including Poké Ball sushi rolls and mashed Meowth potatoes.

Buy it: Hot Topic

4. Lisa Frank Activity Book; $5

Urban Outfitters

Millennials will never be too old for Lisa Frank, especially when the artist’s playful designs come in a relaxing activity book. Watercolor brings the rainbow characters in this collection to life. Just gather some painting supplies and put on a podcast for a relaxing, nostalgia-fueled afternoon.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

5. Shoebox Tape Recorder with USB; $28

Amazon

The days of recording mix tapes don’t have to be over. This device looks and functions just like tape recorders from the pre-smartphone era. And with a USB port as well as a line-in jack and built-in mic, users can easily import their digital music collection onto retro cassette tapes.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Days of the Week Scrunchie Set; $12

Urban Outfitters

Millennials can be upset that a trend from their youth is old enough to be cool again, or they can embrace it. This scrunchie set is for anyone happy to see the return of the hair accessory. The soft knit ponytail holders come in a set of five—one for each day of the school (or work) week.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

7. D&D Graphic T-shirt; $38-$48

80s Tees

The perfect gift for the Dungeon Master in your life, this graphic tee is modeled after the cover of the classic Dungeons & Dragons rule book. It’s available in sizes small through 3XL.

Buy it: 80s Tees

8. Chuck E. Cheese T-shirt; $36-$58

80s Tees

Few Millennials survived childhood without experiencing at least one birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. This retro T-shirt sports the brand’s original name: Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre. It may be the next-best gift for a Chuck E. Cheese fan behind a decommissioned animatronic.

Buy it: 80s Tees

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas Picnic Blanket Bag; $40

Shop Disney

Fans of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas will recognize the iconic scene on the front of this messenger bag. Unfold it and the bag becomes a blanket fit for a moonlit picnic among the pumpkins. The bottom side is waterproof and the top layer is made of soft fleece.

Buy it: Shop Disney

10. Toy Story Alien Socks; $15

Shop Disney

You don’t need to be skilled at the claw machine to take home a pair of these socks. Decorated with the aliens from Toy Story, they’re made from soft-knit fabric and are big enough to fit adult feet.

Buy it: Shop Disney

11. Goosebumps Board Game; $24

Amazon

Fans that read every book in R.L. Stine’s series growing up can now play the Goosebumps board game. In this game, based on the Goosebumps movie, players take on the role of their favorite monster from the series and race to the typewriter at the end of the trail of manuscripts.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Tamagotchi Mini; $19

Amazon

If you know someone who killed their Tamagotchi in the '90s, give them another chance to show off their digital pet-care skills. This Tamagotchi is a smaller, simplified version of the original game. It doubles as a keychain, so owners have no excuse to forget to feed their pet.

Buy it: Amazon

13. SNES Classic; $275

Amazon

The SNES Classic is much easier to find now than when it first came out, and it's still just as entertaining for retro video game fans. This mini console comes preloaded with 21 Nintendo games, including Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II.

Buy it: Amazon

14. Planters Cheez Balls; $24

Amazon

Planters revived its Cheez Balls in 2018 after pulling them from shelves nearly a decade earlier. To Millennials unaware of that fact, this gift could be their dream come true. The throwback snack even comes in the classic canister fans remember.

Buy it: Amazon

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The 10 Most Visited National Parks in 2019

Josiah Weiss, Unsplash
Josiah Weiss, Unsplash

The U.S. National Park System comprises more than 400 sites, 62 of which are national parks. Within the parks, visitors can explore forests, deserts, volcanoes, and more. But even with the diversity the National Park System has to offer, many visitors find themselves going to the same iconic parks year after year. To see the most-visited national parks in 2019, check out the list below.

This list comes from recreational visitation data gathered by the National Park Service. It doesn't include national monuments, parkways, or similar units—just the sites with the official "national park" designation.

The Great Smoky Mountains tops the list with roughly 12.5 million visits last year. Stretching across five counties in North Carolina and Tennessee, it's less than a day's drive away for one-third of the U.S. population. The accessibility plus the free admission and gorgeous mountain scenery help make it the country's most popular national park.

It's followed by Arizona's Grand Canyon National Park, which saw 5.97 million visits in 2019 to witness its world-famous views. Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park takes third place with 4.7 million visits, and Utah's Zion National Park takes fourth with 4.5 million. Read on for the full top 10.

The National Park Service was established just over a century ago, and it's amassed a fascinating history. Here are some more facts about the United States's national parks.

  1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  2. Grand Canyon National Park
  3. Rocky Mountain National Park
  4. Zion National Park
  5. Yosemite National Park
  6. Yellowstone National Park
  7. Acadia National Park
  8. Grand Teton National Park
  9. Olympic National Park
  10. Glacier National Park