Like the wrecks of Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands are littered with the twisted carcasses of Japanese and American aircraft destroyed during the War in the Pacific.
These remains reflect just a handful of those accessible to tourists, abandoned near villages and strewn throughout the rain forests.
Above, the shell of one old fighter plane has been secured by a metal framework, the grass cut neatly around it.
(All images by Jon Wickenden, reproduced with permission)
Photographed on a rainy November day, the stripped-out hulk of this former Chilean Army SA330L Puma H255 helicopter lies seemingly derelict in woodland. But the abandoned chopper is actually still in use, albeit as ‘set dressing’ on a paintball course near the market town of Horsham in Sussex.
Gutted of all useful components from rotor blades and tail boom to undercarriage, cockpit and internal systems, the gaunt shell of Puma H255-1 certainly offers an air of authenticity to the simulated combat zone. Prior to moving to Horsham the abandoned helicopter was noted at Kemble’s Cotswold Airport in 2004.
More recently, also at Kemble, a photographer spotted the rudder section of wrecked British Airways 777 G-YMMM, which crashed on landing at London’s Heathrow in 2008 inbound from Beijing.
This Avro Shackleton of the South African Air Force was restored to flight in 1994. But it crashed later that year while transiting to the UK. The aircraft, SAAF 1716, call sign Pelican 16, was forced to make an emergency landing after suffering a double engine failure. Nobody was injured in the crash, but the aircraft was abandoned in the Sahara Desert.
Sister aircraft ‘Pelican 22‘, owned by the South African Air Force Museum, is the only remaining airworthy Shackleton MR3 in the world. While it’s been grounded due to safety and preservation reasons, the engines are run-up once a month.
In 1960, Thomas Kendall, his family, and a photographer from Life magazine set off on a round the world pleasure trip in this Catalina.
On 22nd March they touched down in the Gulf of Aqaba.
The following day they were attacked with automatic gun fire from a headland nearby by local people who had mistaken them for Israeli commandos.
Mr Kendall and his secratary were injured and 4,000 litres of fuel poured onto the sand. After interogation in Jeddah they were all released.
Bristol Freighter, Canadian NW Territories, landed on frozen lake in 1956, but the left gear broke through the ice.
She was pulled up on shore and stripped of parts before being abandoned.
The wreck of the Dornier Do-17 plane being raised to the surface of a ship at Goodwin Sands, Kent, at the mouth of the English Channel, on June 10, 2013. Experts from the Royal Air Force (RAF) Museum had spent five weeks preparing to lift the aircraft, which is believed to be the only Dornier Do-17 bomber plane left from the war. The aircraft was a mainstay of the German bomber fleets during the Battle of Britain in 1940.-
On 1 Nov 2006, a Fw 190 A-3 was salvaged from the ocean off the island of Sotra, near Bergen, Norway.-
Its pilot had made an emergency landing in December 1943 and had scrambled to safety and was rescued soon after; his aircraft had sunk to the bottom of the sea. After its retrieval from 60 m deep water, the Fw 190, “Yellow 16,” from IV/JG 5 was only missing its canopy and the fabric-covered wing and tail surfaces.-
This Douglas C-47-DL, serial number 42-32892, factory 9118 was deliver to the US Air Force on February 24th 1943. It was then handed to the USSR Air Force on 12th march 1943 under the lend-lease programme, where it was given the ID ‘USSR-H-328′. It was sent to the 7th Arctic Aviation Regiment of the 1st Air Division.
According to order number OK/071 of April 16th 1943 it was enlisted by the Office of Polar Aviation to conduct ice reconnaissance. From October 22nd to November 1th 1943 it explored the Kara Sea under the command of the pilot, MA Titlova.
From 3th June to 24th July 1944 it made further sorties from bases in Anderme for further reconnaissance of the Kara Sea. In 1945 it was sent to the Chukotka Polar Air Arm where it was given the number A-3072.-
One book describes the final fate of this aircraft.
“Emergency, Saturday April 13th 1947 in the area of the river Dudypty, North of the village Volochanka. Failure of the left engine. Successfully made a landing and sat for around twenty days, until discovered by the crew of F. Shatrova. 28 people survives, some with minor frostbite on their hands and face (mostly children). Commander Tyuikov, airborne radio operator Smirnov and seven passengers were missing – they had gone in search of help in the snowy tundra and never returned.”
A Kittyhawk P-40 that crashed in the Sahara desert on June 28, 1942 has been found in remarkablygood condition by Polish oil company employee Jakub Perka. Perka was exploring the desert west of the Nile 200 miles from the nearest city when he found the downed plane. It was damaged from the crash landing and bears scars from flak encounters, but other than that, the single-seater fighter plane appears to have been frozen in time by the desert heat.-
The P-47 Thunderbolt, C or D model, is sunk in the waters near the town of Bastia, France. The unit is very close to the coast and only 10 meters deep in crystal clear waters that allow a very clear view of the fighter.
Here are also two plane wrecks near the Sonesta Beach Hotel, purposely sunk in 70 to 90 feet of water. The Convair 400, put down in the 1990s, was largely intact until Hurricane Lenny uprooted it. The YS-11 was sunk in 2004, adjacent to the Convair 400 (wreck diving). Some claim the planes are confiscated drug runners, while other sources say Aruba Airlines once flew them.
Corsair near Honolulu, Hawaii. The pilot of this plane (who is still alive) swam safely to the island of Oahu in 1948 after ditching the small fighter plane.
Douglas R4D8 near Vik, Iceland. This U.S. Navy plane was forced to land near the coast in 1973. All aboard survived.
To achieve aerial views of the wrecks, such as this one, Eckell sometimes mounts his camera on a radio-controlled Oktopkopter and triggers the shutter remotely.
Grumman Albatross near Puerto Escondido, Mexico. According to local news reports, the plane was suspected of involvement in drug trafficking and was forced to land in 2004 when it was intercepted by two government planes. All aboard survived. It is unclear whether the occupants of the plane were found to be involved in the drug trade.
Curtiss C-46 Commando near Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. Reportedly, this aircraft was overloaded when it was forced to land in 1979 a half-mile short of a nearby airport. All the passengers survived.
According to Eckell, the wreck seen above is called ‘Swamp Ghost” by the locals in Papua New Guinea. It’s a massive American B24D heavy bomber that force-landed in 1943. All nine airmen survived. It’s over 16 feet high and the swamp grass is 6 feet high.
U.S. Air Force C-47 wreckage from a 1950 crash near Haines Junction, Yukon, Canada. According to the Aviation Safety Network, the plane was participating in a search for a missing plane when it was caught in a downdraft and flew into the side of the mountain. All ten people aboard survived.
This is part 2 of my slides from my time in Papua New Guinea in the 60s. I was travelling a lot throughout the territory as it was then known and came across a lot of plane wrecks from WWII, when the Japanese occupied the territory. But I also had some dangerous flying experiences while getting around.