Giants lurk among the hedgerows and rolling lowlands of the Cotswolds. They appear from behind trees unexpectedly, looming beside the rural roads.But these are not creatures of myth – or relics from some bygone age. Instead, they are the flotsam created by our appetite for foreign holidays and our desire to visit far-flung places. This field in Gloucestershire, surrounded by English countryside, is where aircraft go to die.
Five Jumbo Jets, two Boeing 777s, a handful of Airbus A320s and 20 other large passenger aircraft lie scattered across a former RAF airfield. Some are clustered in groups while others sit alone, propped up on railway sleepers.
This is no graveyard; these hulks are not going to be left to rust away. Instead, they are the life-blood for a salvage industry that cannibalises discarded airliners.
“The engines and parts are worth more if you take them off than if you try to sell the aircraft as a flying machine,” says Mark Gregory, the founder of Air Salvage International, which is responsible for dismantling this collection of unwanted passenger jets. “These are all aircraft people fly away on for their holidays or to take transatlantic trips.”His company has been operating for the last 20 years out of Cotswolds Airport, a private airfield near Kemble which was owned by the Ministry of Defence until 1993. Between 50 and 60 passenger jets make their final flight here each year, their wingspans casting huge shadows over the surrounding chocolate-box villages as they rumble into land.