Thursday, November 19, 2009

Opa-Locka - Florida's Boneyard

After hearing about Opa-Locka for a long time and never getting there, I recently finally made the trip. Really , it was only a 10 minute diversion off my normal route to Miami, so now I know where it is, I'll be going more and more often as there are always amazing sights at Opa-Locka (KOPF). There are old retired B727's (Champion Air was one I remember), old retired DC-8's, old retired DC-10s - so many I can't remember them all now and I didn't get them in the camera lens as I had a 5 year old that had been for a photo shoot himself that morning and by the time that we got to OPF, was already dozing off - and we still had an hour plus drive home to West Palm Beach. I can tell you this will not be the last blog entry about OPF.

I will start by saying that OPF is not just a boneyard though - it's a great operational airport that happens to have some interesting airworthy aircraft too. The first one that I managed to shoot is a first for me - my first Russian-made aircraft. This AN12-B was one of 3 on the ramp that Sunday afternoon. From what I have heard, the 3 are still operational operating to the Caribbean and South America.

Gulf Air has their home base as Bahrain in the Persian Gulf. For quite a while, they operated B763's all over Europe, the Middle East and Asia and then started to phase the B763's out and replaced them with Airbus equipment. This ex-Gulf Air B763 has been at OPF for a while now, rumored to be going to a private owner, but the colors still remain for the moment.

One thing that is very evident at OPF are a lot of the old propeller engined aircraft. I saw so many, old DC-3's and this one was one of a few DC-7's that still seem to be airworthy and have been restored to their old glory. Next time I go to OPF, I'm going to try and catch more of these old graceful ladies of the skies and get a lot more information about them. In the meantime, this old lady proudly wears the colors of Eastern Airlines.

When talking to some of the other local photographers about OPF, there was a lot of talk about a new arrival at OPF that had arrived in the last couple of days. A S7 Airbus A310 from Russia. I'm not sure at the moment if this is a maintenance call or if she is here for the boneyard or fitting out for a new owner. I'll try and find out what is with her.

A few weeks ago while I was at Ft Lauderdale for a lunch time, I happened to see a Varig B733 taxing out for departure and wondered where it was going for scrapping knowing that Varig had phased out their B733's. Well, I get to OPF and am driving around looking when lo and behold, there is PP-VOZ right in front of me, along with a sister ship from Varig and another B733 from GOL also from Brazil. A little further around the airport, there were another 2 B733's from GOL - one white and one in full orange colors. The engines were being removed so I am guessing they are destined to be broken up here at OPF.

Look for more pictures and associated stories from OPF in the future....


Tim G in MN said...

Glad to see you back at it Mark!
How do you have access to these areas where you can get so close and shoot unobstructed?

Tim G in MN

(PS, I finally started putting stuff on my blog page)

Mark Lawrence said...


Opa-Locka is a very spotter friendly airport. Everything is close to the fence and shooting through the fence or over it in some places is no problem. But - if it's a little far away, a 300mm lens helps too :)

Len (Barfbag) said...

Hey Mark,

I saw that green Airbus at MIA a few weeks ago. It was over at the North ramp with all the GA planes. Did you ever find out anything about it?

Mark Lawrence said...


The reason that came through MIA was that Customs at OPF was closed. There are now 2 of them at OPF. We are not sure what they are there for - the rumors are that they are going to someone else. But, we have people who go that way daily, so as soon as we see what is happening to them, I'll post more.


altstiff said...

Love the relics at Opa Locka Mark. Is that in a rough area of town?