Mojave Warbirds From Three Decades Ago



Mojave, California can boast of having one of the most interesting airports in the world. While it is a civilian-owned and operated airport, it sees more than a normal share of warbird operations too… 

I was fortunate to be able to take three trips to the airport in the 1990s during some “aviation-overload” weekends in California’s High Desert region, which is home to Edwards AFB as well as Mojave. 

Now known as the Mojave Air and Space Port, the facility has many interesting features… an airliner boneyard, storage space for other transport aircraft, businesses that are in the forefront of aviation research and development, and in the 1990s, an air museum too. Over a few decades, the airport has hosted dozens of first flights for many cutting-edge aircraft, and is the site of numerous record-setting flights too. The National Test Pilot School is based here, as is Scaled Composites, the visionary aircraft design and development company. The Virgin galactic civilian space flight company has tested their early aircraft (spaceships?) there, and General Electric jet engine testing was also prevalent.


When I visited the airport, Tracor Flight Systems ran a major military drone conversion factory on the field. During my three visits, I saw QF-86s, QF-100s and QF-4s readied for delivery to military squadrons in the United States.

Douglas C-133

More rather modern warbirds, while not readied as drones, included A-3 Skywarriors, Saab 32 Lansens, and F-104s. There were a few MiG-17 and MiG-21s being restored, and at least one DeHavilland Venom jet fighter. There were a pair of Douglas C-133s, a few T-33s around the field too.

Convair 880

On the civilian side, NASA Convair 880 and 990 jets were parked… and more ex-TWA Convair 880s were parked across the airport from the main industrial area; some work was accomplished towards making the -880s into fast jet freighters, but it seems the idea never came to fruition. Nearby the red and white Convairs were a group of early Delta Airlines L-1011 Tristars that were gradually broken up over the decade I made my visits. More rare Convair airliners in the -990 version were parked at the airport too. A former Hughes Boeing 720B testbed was parked near the Convairs, a large in-flight door was added on the left side of the fuselage.

NASA Convair 990 Coronado

Here is a group of photos from my trips… three different years in total. Enjoy!

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