Exploring Abandoned Airports Lost To Time

By Jack Ripley | April 11, 2024

An Airport Overcome by a Volcano and War: Goma Airport in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Embark on a journey through the forgotten corridors and runways of abandoned airports, where echoes of the past whisper stories waiting to be discovered. Once bustling hubs of travel and connection, these silent spaces now stand as poignant reminders of a different era. From the haunting remnants of Nicosia International Airport, frozen in time amidst conflict, to the storied grounds of Tempelhof Airport, witness to the resilience of a city, each abandoned airport offers a window into history's mysteries.

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Goma Airport, situated in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), was originally built during Belgian colonial rule. The airport connected Goma city to other parts of the country. The airport is close to the Nyiragongo volcano, which has erupted multiple times over the years, including a major eruption in 2002 that caused devastation in Goma and led to the temporary closure of the airport. The airport temporarily closed in 2012 due to internal conflict and again (permanently) in November of 2022.

Today, there are still damaged planes left over from either the conflict or the volcano. Children now use it as a playground, and some people sell various parts from the abandoned airplanes.

The Airport With an Underground Complex: the Željava Airbase in Croatia and Bosnia/Herzegovina

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The Željava Airbase is on the border between Croatia and Bosnia/Herzegovina, and it opened in the 1950s. Originally built by the Yugoslav People's Army, Željava was one of the largest and most secretive military airbases in Europe during the Cold War. The airport also had an underground complex, which consisted of tunnels, hangars, and living quarters hidden beneath the surface of the mountain. This complex was designed to withstand nuclear attacks and housed aircraft, weapons, and supplies in the event of a conflict.

The last flight from Željava Airbase was in 1992, during the breakup of Yugoslavia and the Bosnian War. The airbase was abandoned due to the conflict, which led to the dissolution of the Yugoslav People's Army and the division of military assets among successor states.

Despite its abandonment, the underground complex is largely untouched, attracting curiosity seekers and urban explorers. Efforts to repurpose the site have been limited due to its remote location, however.