Flying Above Victorville, the New Forever Home of United’s 747s

Dec 17, 2017

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

What happens when an airline decides an aircraft is no longer suitable to remain in its fleet? It’s a question I’ve seen pop up frequently over the past few weeks, as United and — in a few days — Delta retire their Boeing 747-400s.

Airlines are typically hesitant to discuss post-retirement plans — and tours are almost certainly out of the question — so I decided to take things into my hands. I chartered a helicopter and flew some 70 miles east of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to a sleepy desert town called Victorville, the home of Southern California Logistics Airport (VCV) — and, as of a few weeks ago, most of United’s former 747 fleet.

There are dozens of unwanted aircraft at Victorville’s airplane graveyard, many of which are packed in tightly, positioned nose to tail.

My last VCV visit was back in 2014, when I drove out to capture several of the field’s older residents, which are still exactly where they were three years ago.

While you can get fairly close by driving along the perimeter fence, the best views are from the air.

We started our aerial tour at 5,500 feet — “photography operations” are generally not permitted, so we were required to stay just above Victorville’s airspace for the shoot.

Most commercial air traffic doesn’t fly at a low enough altitude near VCV, so don’t bother keeping an eye out as you travel in and out of LAX.

The helicopter provided incredible views, though, even from our position at 5,500 feet.

That wasn’t enough for me — I wanted to get much closer.

While the FAA wouldn’t specifically give us permission to descend to shoot photos, we were eventually allowed to practice some landings on the adjacent runway, which got us within a few feet of United’s former fleet.

While cargo carriers like FedEx are most prevalent, a handful of airlines are represented, too, with British Airways, China Airlines and now United representing most of the commercial inventory, along with a couple dozen now-replaced Southwest 737s.

United’s planes are the most recent additions, though — as they wait for a more permanent parking assignment, they’re crammed into any available spot.

As for what’s next? A small number of planes parked at Victorville may eventually fly again, though most will either be scrapped or used for spare parts.

United, for one, auctioned off some 747 components, including instruments and economy seats — some of which went for an ungodly number of miles. If you won an auction item, it’s probably still on one of the planes at VCV, though we did see technicians moving one of the 747s during our visit — perhaps getting ready to yank out your new treasure.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.