Some people think that modern airports fall under the label of “too big to fail”. Many cities have more than one as the ceaseless air travel means planes have to be ready to land anywhere they can and airports are meant to last a while.
The problem is that technology marches on and many airports just can’t adapt with the times. No matter how many improvements they make, it’s not enough to remain a top-flight center and so they end up being closed down. There are also cases of airports that suffer similar fates.
Many are military airports that were abandoned when conflicts ended. A few cases are civilian airports that suffered from everything from a military conflict to a massive act of nature. Other spots fell apart due to financial issues.
For a time, India’s Jaisalmer Airport counted as abandoned but is finally doing regular services to get it off the “ghost airports” lists. Still, it’s amazing to see the number of airports around the world that were big deals but left behind. A few are in ruins while others look like they were just being used. Here are 20 photos of abandoned airports around the world to show how haunting ghosts airfield can look.
20 Messed-up Meigs
While O’Hare and Midway got the press, Meigs Field was also a major Chicago airport. It was mostly used for commuter travel but more importantly for shipping cargo freight and some VIP arrivals.
In the 1990s, there were conflicts with Meigs and the city, which wanted to turn the area into a park. In 2003, Mayor Richard Daley shocked everyone by having Meigs' runways bulldozed without FAA authorization. The terminals still stand for use by city universities while many remember the airport that was gone literally overnight.
19 Not Very A-List
It’s downright bizarre to have a modern-day airport with an entire abandoned section to it. That happened to Kansas City International. As one might guess from its title, Terminal A had been the busiest part of the airport for decades.
A major blow came with TWA leaving Kansas City and other airlines likewise consolidating. In 2014, the final flight left Terminal A and the entire area was filled with empty shops and check-in sites. It was finally demolished in 2019 yet amazing how KCI had an entire “ghost branch” to it.
18 Bungled Brandenburg
It’s been called one of the biggest laughingstocks in Germany’s history...and that should say something. Brandenburg Airport was announced in 2006 with a planned opening date of 2011. Then the problems began: The first construction company went bankrupt; the check-in desks don't work; smoke flooded the building; Air Berlin went out of business; the airport board became a game of musical chairs; and those are the lowlights.
It’s supposed to finally open in late 2020 but right now, it’s the nicest-looking ghost airport in the world.
17 Raged Rangsdorf
Originally built for the 1936 Olympic Games, Rangsdorf became one of the key airports for Germany. It was used for military operations during the war but also the home to a famed stunt pilot school. After the war, the Soviets took Rangsdorf over to use as a military base until they withdrew from Germany in 1994.
Its buildings still stand, many of them showing their age and wear of the elements, as a reminder of this harsh time.
16 Conflict Victim
The fall of the Soviet Union kick-started some major civil conflicts in the 1990s. This included neighboring states Georgia and Abkhazia falling into a long civil war. Among its victims was the Sukhumi Babushara Airport in Abkhazia.
Built in the 1960s, the airport sustained so much damage that it had to be abandoned. The airport buildings still show signs of attacks while scores of planes from passenger to military jets litter the runways. 25 years later and this airport still appears frozen in a harsh time.
15 Not So Shiny Pearl
Grenada is a lovely small island nation that has recovered well from various economic problems. The Pearls Airport was the island’s only main airport, which opened in 1943 but wasn’t in daily operation because of the low tourism of the time.
In 1983, U.S. forces staged an “invasion” of the island which seized Pearls. The next year, a new airport was opened and Pearls was abandoned. Several Soviet-made planes are still resting on its runways to spoil this island paradise.
14 Grassy Galeville
Today, visitors in upstate New York can view the Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge. Every now and then, they’ll come across a huge paved area that’s the only proof this was once the Galeville military airport.
It was built in the 1940s as a training school for pilots and remained in use until the 1970s. There had been talk of developing it further but the marshy area cut that off. Nature has been allowed to overtake the area and nearly erase the signs of the airbase that once existed.
13 Costly Castellon
Technically, this is in operation but it might as well be abandoned. Castellon-Costa boasts a wild statue at the front in honor of its founder Carlos Fabra who went to jail for tax fraud.
The entire airport is seen as a symbol of the wasteful spending of the 2000s that sent Spain into a recession. It cost over $160 million and while it “opened” in 2011, it didn’t see a real flight for four years. It still has a few flights daily but the airport is more famous for its legal and financial nightmares than as a commuter center.
12 Fallen Floyd
To clear up any confusion, Floyd Bennett Airport is still in operation but Floyd Bennett Field is among the more unique abandoned airports in the U.S. It was New York's first major airfield and home to such legends as Charles Lindburgh, Amelia Earhart and others.
It was the most advanced airfield of its time but soon became overshadowed by other major hubs like LaGuardia and JFK. The art deco terminal is still in good shape while many hangers are decrepit to show a forgotten piece of aviation history.
11 Ugly Ugolny
When the Soviet Union collapsed, it caught everyone off guard, including their own military. Virtually overnight, hundreds of bases across Russia were decommissioned and left to rot in plain sight. Located in the already desolate area of Siberia, the Ugolny Airport was originally an airbase recommissioned to civilian use.
The airport is in an odd spot today as it is still used for some minor civilian travel while most of it has Russian military panes in various states of disrepair. It shows the relics of the once-great military force that ruled the area.
10 Kept Kai
Kai Tak was not simply an airport but also a key part of Hong Kong’s rise to a major city. It was known as one of the most harrowing airports to land at as between the huge mountains to one side and the sole runway jutting out into Victoria Harbour, even experienced pilots had to be careful. The city’s growth was Kai Tak’s downfall as it couldn’t handle the massive amount of passengers per day. It still stands as a landmark for the city with much of it intact 30 years after closing.
9 Volcano Victim
Building an airport in the shadow of a volcano seems like a crazy idea. W.H. Bramble Airport opened on the small Caribbean island of Montserrat and while not large, did a good job with air traffic. In 1997, the Soufriere Hills volcano erupted with Bramble caught right in its path. The airport was buried under tons of lava, rock, and ash. Even today, much of it is still covered and shows how helpless man’s work is against the fury of nature.
8 Haunting Helikonen
Known as both Helikonen and Ellinikoen, this Athens airport had been an airbase during World War II. It was converted to a civilian airport and was one of the busiest for the nation for several decades. In 2001, Greece opened a new airport in anticipation of the 2004 Olympics.
Helikonen was abandoned with some facilities since used for sports and films. Many planes are still there from when it was shut down and with Greece’s economy so shaky, it stands as a creepy place to visit.
7 Magic Mueller
Not to be confused with the former FBI director, Robert Mueller Municipal Airport was named after a former Austin, Texas city commissioner. While it did well serving the city, the airport was held back by its lack of nonstop flights. By the 1990s, Austin had the more advanced Bergstrom International and the small size of RMMA led to it being discontinued.
Its main control tower is still standing while the airport buildings are now soundstages for TV shows and movies.
6 Sedate Stapleton
Stapleton International was the only major airport for Denver when it opened in 1929. For the next 65 years, it was the key travel spot for the city to handle hundreds of flights per day. With Stapleton finally showing its age, the high-tech Denver International replaced it in 1995. Stapleton was closed down and demolished for development.
The old control tower still stands with a restaurant now located in its lower level as a tribute to Denver's aviation history.
5 Gripping Gaza
The Gaza Strip is infamous for being one of the most volatile regions in the world. Gaza International (also known as Yassir Arafat International) opened in 1988 when tensions of the various countries were already high.
In 2001, it was attacked by Israeli Forces. For the next five years, the airport was fully staffed despite how no aircraft flew in or out in that period. It was finally abandoned and much of its bombed-out remains stand in the desert as a symbol of the region’s brutal history.
4 Spooky Bingbrook
It’s common to see a lot of “haunted tours” in England. RAF Binbrook is one of the most notable tour stops. Built just before the outbreak of World War II, this base was home to several fighter and bomber units. It was closed in the 1980s and much of it was demolished. Some buildings are used for training for police officers and it’s become a popular spot for explorers.
Many claim you can feel the ghosts of long-gone pilots still trying to make one last flight.
3 The Silent Temple
Berlin is a city filled with many haunting sights. The Berlin Tempelhof Airport is one of the most unique. It was one of the largest airports in the world when it was built although it didn’t become a legitimate airport until after World War II. It became a key link for the nation and was renowned for its massive structures capable of holding thousands of passengers.
It ceased operations in 2008 after years of financial problems and is now home for migrants and the occasional movie shoot. Its deserted fields stand as a testament to a different time.
2 Don Quijote
In literature, Don Quixote is a would-be knight with delusions of grandeur. That seems a fitting name for what's also known as the Ciudad Real Airport in Spain. A more fitting nickname would be the “Billion Dollar Folly.” It was mired from the start with numerous financial and construction issues and when opened in 2008, it lasted barely three years before being shut down.
Much of its frame and huge sculptures stand and has gone through several owners to be one of the biggest public follies in Spain’s history.
1 Nasty Nicosia
Once the Nicosia Airport was the biggest airport in Cyprus and the only main air access to the island.
For the 1930s and 1940s, it was a state-of-the-art facility that did its best to handle large traffic. That all changed when Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974. Nicosia sustained heavy damage from bombing and ceased flights in 1977. Since then, the airport stands mostly empty with many planes still grounded for 40 years to make it just another Greek ruin.
Sources: Tripadvisor.com, insider.com, theculturetrip.com, mentalfloss.com, atlasobscura.com