When Orville Wright first flew above the sandy grounds of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, with his brother Wilbur running alongside, they probably knew they were onto something. Would today’s aviation world be even remotely recognizable to them? Massive, fast, crazily maneuverable (to say nothing of space)? But planes have a shelf life. The Wrights’ plane is in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., along with a great many other notable planes. But most decommissioned planes are destined for the scrap heap these days. A special few, however, find a second life intact but forever grounded. Some have been repurposed as museums dedicated to the history of flight, others have been transformed into unique restaurants and hotels, and still others are left to molder in various ways.
Amid residential buildings in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, is what appears to be an abandoned Antonov An-24, a model built in the Soviet Union from 1959 to 1979. The two four-bladed propellers were perfect for dealing with the harsh Mongolian weather, and now this one belongs to the School of Mechanical Engineering and Transportation, where it helps train future engineers. Almost half a world away in Colorado Springs, Colorado, culinary and aviation enthusiasts can board a Boeing KC-97—for a bite, and hopefully a dining experience that is better than what you’d get in the air. From the plane that made cross-country travel possible in the United States to one located in a mall, here are some of our favorite unusual places for you to appreciate aviation history in a new way.