29+ Abandoned Airports that Tell a Fascinating Story

Eliza Gray History /
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Whether they're in the United States or Europe, these vacant airports have seen some serious action over the years. Take a look at these former airstrips and their unique histories.

Nicosia International Airport

What was once a hub of international travel on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus has now become an empty ruin. The airport was taken over by Turkey in 1974 but is now under the supervision of a UN Peacekeeping Force.

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The majority of wreckage pictured above was due to air and ground assaults authorized by the Turkish military in July of 1974. After stepping in, the UN allowed for the last flight to take off from the Nicosia airstrip in 1977. And since then, a new and improved airport has been built in the Republic of Cyprus.

Yasser Arafat International Airport

Yasser Arafat Airport was opened in the Palestinian southern territory of the Gaza strip in 1998. At the time, it was seen as a big ordeal for the community, and the ribbon-cutting ceremony was attended by Bill Clinton and former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. However, just two years later things took a turn.

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The airport was rendered inoperable during the 2000 Intifada. Nearly every aspect of the flight hub was damaged, including the control tower, radar station, and runway. And by 2002, all flights had ceased entirely. Now, the damaged structure stands as a painful reminder of what once was.

Johnston Atoll Airport

For those that are fans of World War II history, this one might be of interest. The Johnston Atoll Airport is a strikingly eerie airstrip in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with a military backstory. It was conceived to be a compound used for army boot camps and eventually served as a refueling base in WWII.

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Towards the end of the war, the airstrip was struck by enemy submarines and resulted in colossal damages, leading to its eventual closure. The Johnston Atoll ceased operations in 2005, and has, from then on, stood completely empty in the middle of the Pacific ocean.

Kai Tak International Airport

Location, location, location! And Kai Tak International Airport just didn't have it. The airstrip was cursed with a bad neighborhood including being water-locked on both sides and a busy Hong Kong skyline. Overall, the flight hub was seen as a major risk for everyone involved in the incoming and outgoing flights.

deserted airport Kai Tak
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Developers and government officials finally took charge and closed the airport's doors in 1998. Kai Tak ceased operations and instead, a new and more suitable airstrip was built in the nearby agricultural area. Now, instead of serving as a hub for incoming airline passengers, Kai Tak operates as a cruise ship port.

Berlin Tempelhof Airport

Berlin's Tempelhof Airport's history is a rich one. It was built in 1936 during the interwar years and marked a special moment for the German capital. It was one of the city's first airports in history. And roughly two decades later, it served as a vital part of the Berlin Airlift, which occurred in the years 1948 and 1949.

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It closed its doors in the 2000s but was quickly repurposed as a park. And a short while later the space was again reimagined as a refugee camp as Berlin struggled with the migrant crisis that was sweeping across the continent of Europe. In just two airplane hangers, a reported 1,200 migrants were said to have sought shelter.

Ciudad Real Central Airport

Unfortunately, the Ciudad Real Central Airport (A.K.A South Madrid Airport or Don Quijote Airport) had a pretty short lifespan, considering all the hard work and money that went into it. The airport was open for business in 2009 but had racked up a bill of roughly $1 billion dollars throughout its construction.

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At the time of its grand debut, Spain was celebrating its first private international airport, however, by 2012, it was a different story. Despite regular flight traffic from foreign airlines, the airport found itself in colossal financial troubles. It shut its doors that same year and has since remained completely abandoned.

Ellinikon International Airport

For over half a century, Ellinkon International Airport was the heart and soul of Athen's international travel. The Grecian capital saw hoards of traffic each year through the flight hub, but the space was repurposed for the Olympic Games. From its 1938 construction to the summer games, the building had a rich history.

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However, as the Olympic games came and went, Ellinikon faded to the back of public memory. For a while, there were whispers of a luxurious hotel development set to be built on the land, however, it hasn't come to be. In recent years, however, the rundown building has been used as a shelter for migrants in Greece.

Stapleton International Airport

Most of our entries met their demise because there wasn't enough flight traffic, but for Stapleton International Airport, it was actually the opposite. At one point, it placed in the top 10 most bustling airports on the globe! Unfortunately, the constant flights proved to be too much, and concerns started to grow.

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Flickr via Bradley Gordon

It was evident that the tarmacs were too cramped and it proved to be a safety threat. Subsequently, the infrastructure was ripped up, leaving only the control tower untouched. The space how now been converted into a bustling commercial and residential area.

Marine Corps Air Station El Toro

At one point in time, the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro used to be a hub of flight activity for the West Coast Marine's aviation crew. It housed four enormous airstrips, which were built in such a size that they could manage some of the United States military's largest airships.

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Despite being shut down in 1999, the airstrip has a pretty glamorous past. In 1944, the Walt Disney creative team designed a logo for the station. And even in its years' post-military use, the space has been used for Hollywood projects. In fact, scenes from Top Gun were filmed there!

Sergey Prokofiev International Airport

Unfortunately, this next airport has nearly just as much conflict as it's seen in arrivals. The Donetsk International Airport, known also as Sergey Prokofiev International has seen a lot of carnage over the years. And after decades of turmoil, the building needed some serious repairs. Efforts were made in 1973 and 2011-2012.

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However, even with revitalization efforts, the reopening of the airport wasn't a commercial success. And in 2013, a South Airlines flight had a botched landing and ended up making a dangerous landing. Unfortunately, five of the plane's travelers perished in the collision. The building now stands empty.

Željava Airbase

Nestled under the mountains of Plješevica lies the remnants of what was one the biggest subterranean airport in what used to be Yugoslavia. Today, the eerie structure sits on the modern border of Croatia and Bosnia and is a reminder of the Cold War. It was built between 1948 and 1968 during a period of unrest.

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Building a functioning airport underground was no small feat, and it came with a big receipt. The construction cost roughly $6 billion dollars and involved digging underneath nearly 600 feet of boulders. To the dismay of many, the structure was wrecked beyond repair throughout the Yugoslav Wars.

Lake Buena Vista Airport

And here comes another abandoned airport with ties to the Disney empire. The Lake Buena Vista Airport is on Disney World's grounds, however, it may not be as exciting as other structures found in the park. But what happened to this compact and exclusive airport?

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Well, air traffic activity ceased altogether in the 1980s, and the tarmac was taken out of commission. In fact, to ensure no more planes would use the strip, it was believed that the aircraft tracks were taken out for good measure. Now, the space is completely empty and stands as a reminder of what once was.

Goma International Airport

From civil unrest to economic pressures, most of the airports on our list succumb to manmade elements, however, Goma International Airport suffered at the hands of mother nature instead. The airstrip, found in the Democratic Republic of Congo had its 1000 ft. tarmac destroyed from a natural disaster.

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In 2002, the Nyiragongo volcano exploded and flooded the region with lava. The airport suffered a bulk of the destruction and was rendered completely unusable. And unfortunately, there were casualties. The lava, in combination with civil unrest, led the airport to close its doors. It is now an urban jungle gym.

Kalamaki Airfield

From 1939 to 2001, the Kalamaki Airfield served as Greece's standalone airport welcoming global traffic. For decades, the terminals saw travelers from far and wide, but in 2001 the space was overcome by German military presence in response to mounting diplomatic tensions between the two countries.

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The international travel hub certainly went out with a bang. In its final year of operation, the airport saw over 13 million travelers come through its doors. However, upon closure, the hoards of visitors were rerouted to a newer and more updated airport that opened.

Rangsdorf Soviet Airport

When the Rangsdorf Soviet Airport came onto the scene in 1936, it was seen as the region's prized jewel of infrastructure. At first, the airstrip was designated for recreational flying, however, it quickly became adapted to welcome planes from across the world.

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But World War II years brought significant unrest to the region and Ransdorf was taken under the military control of the Soviets. The Red Army remained in control of Rangsdorf until 1944, but despite their exit, the airport did not return to regular operations.

Ugolny Airport

While some airports on the list are restricted to either commercial or military usage, the Ugolny Airport welcomed all forms of air traffic. It was built in the Siberian region knowns as the Gulf of Anadyr. And despite its isolated location, parts of the tarmac are still accessible.

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The abandoned area can be reached via a helicopter, and that is pretty much the only traffic that comes its way. However, during its active years in use, the airstrip was used on more than one occasion for emergency landings for commercial airlines like Korean Air. Scroll for more abandoned airfields from around the world...

Galeville, Shawangunk

Just like many of our airports, the Galevill Shawangunk Airport came to be due to military necessity. The rural New York airstrip was constructed during World War II for instructional use. That's right: This wasn't a refueling stop or a layover for flights going overseas, but rather a place for eager pilots to learn.

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In the years after the global conflict, the airstrip got some refurbishing and began welcoming commercial and private traffic. However, it didn't last long. The area has since been abandoned but rests in good hands with the Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge.

Montréal Mirabel Airport

To fit the busy needs of one of Canada's biggest metropolises, the city of Montréal opted to build a second airport to complement the Trudeau International Airport. It was a good idea, in theory, however, it wasn't a commercial success by any means. But why weren't travelers coming through the doors?

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Many pointed to two main attributes. First, the prices were significantly marked up. And second, the airport was situated in an inconvenient part of town. Together, Mirabel wasn't an appealing choice. Slowly but surely, air traffic died down and before long the enormous building stood empty.

Willy Brandt International Airport

When builders and architects got to work on designing the Willy Brandt International Airport, they wanted to create a modern and accessible addition to the region of Berlin-Brandenburg. However, the building process brought along some serious hiccups that prolonged the whole project.

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When the building started in 2006, 2011 was set as the opening date. However, fifteen years later and not a single plane has taken off from the airstrip. Thanks to defective escalators and inoperable systems, the builders have seen $6 billion go down the drain with not much to show for it.

Meigs Field

If you were a Chicagoan living in the 1950s, then most likely the Meigs Field was the talk of the town. Back then, the airport was open to commercial and personal aircraft and ranked as one of the busiest single-strip airports in the entire country. However, as business diminished, its future laid in the hands of the city.

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In 2003, the former mayor of Chicago stepped in with a solution. They repurposed the airport into a public space and environmental reserve by ensuring that Meigs Field wouldn't welcome another flight. How? He had huge Xs carved into the tarmac to render it unusable. Now, the lakeside strip is open to the public.

The RAF Binbrook

The RAF Binbrook airstrip once played a vital role in British history. It served as an RAF airbase for decades up until the 1980s. However, it was seen as a key part of the country's World War II efforts. So key, in fact, that it influenced the 1990 production of Memphis Belle.

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But by the looks of this picture, the Binbrook airstrip has certainly seen better days. It has been left to the hands of nature ever since being decommissioned. Despite its rugged appearance now, this little airstrip lives on in history as part of Britain's war efforts during WWII. Keep scrolling for more...

NOLA Airport

One man's trash can be another man's treasure. And NOLA Airport is an excellent example of that. When flights stopped, the space was repurposed as three state-of-the-art skate parks. As Jake Wooten, a Red Bull athlete shared, "We spend so much of our lives in airports as pro skaters."

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"...We take four-hour layovers and daydream about what could be done on our boards. I look at stairs and rails. They're the smallest architectural features, but a skate spot is all I see," Wooten explained. And he finally got his chance to skate in the park of his dreams!

Dabolim Airport

In its early years of use, the Dabolim Airport in Goa welcomed commercial traffic, however, its success was short-lived. The building was targeted as the region was annexed during the winter of 1961. Luckily, two nearby planes were able to be used to save civilians.

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As pictured above, the building suffered irreparable damage. But in 2006, the Indian Civil Aviation Ministry took action and began revitalizing what remained of the structure. The finished project opened in 2013 and has since seen domestic and international traffic.

Sukhumi Babushara Airport

The Sukhumi Babushara Airport, which was also known as the Sukhumi Dranda Airport, used to be the main point of access for air travel for Abkhazia. The airport was constructed in the 1960s, back at a time when the region belonged to the Soviet Union. Back then, the airport was allocated to domestic travel only.

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However, in the years of the Civil War, the tarmac was rendered unusable due to destruction. The debris-ridden airport stood empty for decades, but in recent years, the Republic of Abkhazi has begun discussing a revitalization project. But for now, the building stands empty.

Robert Mueller Municipal Airport

When the Robert Mueller Municipal Airport opened in 1930, it was a shining piece of Austin infrastructure and served as the city's original airport for years to come. The building was named after Robert Mueller a local commissioner who sadly died during his tenure in office. However, the airport closed its doors in 1999.

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Air traffic was instead rerouted to the new and improved Austin Bergstrom International Airport, which adopted its predecessor's short-form, AUS. However, the original infrastructure didn't go to waste. Nearly a decade after closing, the garage space was turned into media studios known as the Austin Studios.

Berlin Brandenburg Airport

When Berlin city planners got to work with the Brandenburg Airport construction, the goal in mind was to offer a new alternative to the nearby Tempelhof Airport, which had closed down. However, the lead-up to opening stretched for years on end due to inaccurate blueprints and politics.

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And when the pace finally started to pick up on the project, many parts from the build stood empty. For instance, Brandenburg's fifth terminal was set to open in the fall of 2020, however, it has since been put on hold. Flights have been able to pass through since May of that same year, but portions are still abandoned.

Manston, Kent International Airport

The Manston International Airport in Kent, England had geography working in its favor. Its single-strip tarmac was situated just a mile from the nearby shore, making it ideal for travelers. However, airline traffic kept on decreasing for one reason or another.

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And with airlines opting for alternatives, the airport's financial situation took a sharp downward turn. By 2014, Kent airport's losses were estimated at $13,000 per day. And consequently, Manston's CEO shut operations down that very spring. Now, the structure stands vacant and in disuse.

Croydon Airport

This next one takes us to another old English airport, this time situated in Croydon, Surrey. The Croydon Airport debuted in 1928 and served as the nation's first international terminal. But the firsts didn't stop there! It also housed the country's first control tower and the original airport hotel. But there's more...

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Decades ago, the late Winston Churchill once learned to fly at that very airport! In the years following World War II, commercial flight traffic outgrew the modest airport, and a replacement was built to better fit commuters' needs. But, for history lovers, the area is still open to visitors, including the landmark tower.

Jaisalmer Airport

The people of Rajasthan, India, knew that they had something special to offer the world. Their region was nicknamed India's Golden City because of its gorgeous sand-colored buildings. So, in an effort to boost travel, the Jaisalmer Airport was opened in 2013. But things didn't exactly go according to plan...

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Despite the good intentions, the airport didn't see nearly enough flight traffic to make ends meet and offset the pricey construction. So, from 2013 to 2017, the airport stood empty. From the check-in desk to the tarmac, the new build was speckled in dust and sat in disuse.

Blatchford Field Airport

Blatchford Field not only has numerous stories but numerous names as well. Whether known as Edmonton City Centre Airport or the Alberta Aviation Museum, the rich history is there. The original hangars were built back during World War II and marked Blatchford as the country's first licensed airfield.

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Despite its decades of use, the airport shut down for good in 2013. But remaining hangars have been taken over by a local college in addition to the museum mentioned above. Now, some of the country's oldest planes reside inside the hallowed hall to keep the nation's aviation history alive.

W.H. Bramble Airport

In the late 1990s, the island of Montserrat, located in the Caribbean, fell victim to a volcanic disaster. A nearby fissure began spewing lava and the smoldering ash destroyed everything in its path. Including the island's airport, W.H. Bramble. Nearly the entire tarmac was covered in debris by the time the lava stopped.

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When the smoke settled, the island remained visitable by helicopter or by sea. And consequently, the island's people suffered from the lack of tourism. However, lucky for the country's overall economy, a different airport was built to open the economy back to foreign travelers.

Yangyang International Airport

As international tourism to Asia continued to climb, South Korea responded by building the Yangyang International Airport. It was meant to meet the demand of passing travelers, and quickly. So, in a relatively short period, the airport came to fruition. But it didn't exactly serve its purpose...

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Despite being built in a state-of-the-art manner, passengers never got to enjoy the perks. To this day, the airport hasn't seen a single traveler for either domestic or international travel. Luckily, there are other airports that allow access to the country, but the empty structure puzzles people to this day...

Durban International Airport

Before this South African airport came to be known as Durban International Airport, it was known as Louis Botha International. However, even with the name change, the airport suffered a tough run since opening its doors in 1951. But its problem wasn't the name, rather its inconvenient location for international flights passing by.

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But that wasn't the only thing working against Durban International's success. The airport's landing strip was seen as insufficient in length for most large commercial planes. So, for decades, the building sat empty and out of use. However, renovation plans picked up again in 2007.

Pearls Airport

When Pearls Airport opened on the Caribbean island of Grenada, it made history as the country's first airport. However, despite its landmark status, the current state of the airport is nothing like what it once was. These days, rather than international travelers and flight crews, the area is visited mainly by farm animals.

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Pearls Airport ceased operations in 1983 and has since surrendered to its surrounding landscape. But according to locals residing close to the former airfield, the tarmac has reportedly been repurposed into a recreational race car track. However, two rusty Soviet plans can be found as a reminder of the past.

Eareckson Air Station

The Eareckson Air Station, or as known in the past as the Shemya Air Force Base was a military airbase for American Forces. During its years of use, the airstrip was utilized by the U.S. Air Force, which remains in the ownership of the land to this day. However, no flights have taken off since the summer of 1994.

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The deserted airport, which stands on the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, is just one of the many former military airports that now stand empty. Eareckson, along with the others, was deemed nonvital in the years following World War II but has not been taken down. The original surveillance tower can still be seen today.

Floyd Bennett Field

Soon after opening its doors in 1931, the Floyd Bennet Field airport made history. Not only was it New York's one and only local airport, but it also gained a reputation for its association with Amelia Earheart's endeavors. In the following years, the space was repurposed as a naval air station before shutting down permanently.

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Flickr via H.L.I.T.

However, a change of care in 1972 brought new life to the historic space. The National Park Service has been looking over the New York landmark thanks to its status as a registered building. These days, the space operates as one of the country's biggest inner-city camping sites.

Castellón – Costa Azahar Airport

While most of the airports on this roundup are decades old, Castelló in Costa Azahar is relatively new. The strip's construction was done in 2011, but unfortunately, it wasn't followed by huge commercial success. Not a single airline had registered for landing rights, and the airport itself didn't have government clearance.

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After a bureaucratic battle, Castelló was officially open for business on April 1st, 2012. However, it would take three more years for any major flight traffic to come its way. Overall, the whole ordeal was a major cash pit and was seen as a lost cause. Eventually, the airport shut down as a whole.

Sperenberg Airfield

Our list takes us back to Germany for another abandoned airport with a military past. The Sperenberg Airfield was built in the region of Brandenburg and served the former Prussian Army as a laboratory. However, the space was captured by the Soviets during WWII.

abandoned soviet air base
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In the years that followed, the Red Army left the place deserted, and it stood empty for decades to come. Close to 30 years ago, talks were underway to include Sperenberg in the revitalization efforts of the aforementioned Berlin-Brandenburg airport. However, it never came to be.

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base

Last up on this roundup is the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. And while the airstrip hasn't seen any official takeoffs or landings in decades, it was chosen to store the Air Force's decommissioned jets. According to the military, the dry Arizonian temperatures make it the perfect location for preserving these planes.

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So even after its active years from 1925 to 1945, the airfield is still seeing some use. Today, it's referred to as an aircraft cemetery where hundreds upon hundreds of retired jets have come to live out their days. And, it can still be visited for airshows and exhibitions!

Damascus International Airport

Syria's Damascus International Airport was once an international hub of travel and commerce since its establishment in the 1970s. In what felt like a matter of moments, the strip was quickly recognized as the country's busiest airport, with an estimated 5.5 million passing travelers in 2010, according to The Wayback Machine.

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But unfortunately, the busy commuter hub suffered irreversible damage following the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War. Airlines that once flocked to the airport like Emirates, Royal Jordanian, and Egypt Air couldn't access the arrivals terminal due to a roadblock. However, the airport remains at partial capacity.