On the desolate Sólheimasandur black sand beach in the southern part of Iceland one can find an abandoned plane wreck. On November 24, 1973 a United States Navy plane crashed there due a sudden change of weather. But the good thing about this crash is that everyone survived the emergency landing on the beach. Actually the plane did look quite okay back in those days.
But then the US military started to strip the plane. They sawed the wings off, dismantled the control deck and removed the engines. In fact, they removed everything that was valuable and left the shell after they had salvaged the plane. Is the tail valuable as well or why is it missing? That’s another interesting story hardly someone knows: In 1994 they removed the tail and transported it to the village of Hoffell. The reason was that there was another plane wreck with a missing tail. When a guy wanted to turn it into a house he needed the missing tail and therefore brought it from Sólheimasandur to Hoffell.
It maybe sounds strange that there are so many wrecks in Iceland, but leaving the shell behind is absolutely legal. The US government would have to bear most of the costs, but the Icelandic government would be responsible for removing it. Put this would only be the case if a landowner files a claim to remove the plane wreck. And as Iceland is to 80 percent uninhabited and 60% of the island are made up of glaciers and lava deserts hardly someone cares.
Back in those days, air crashes were not a rare event. Alone from 1941 to 1973, when the plane went down on Sólheimasandur beach, 385 US military aviation accidents happened in Iceland. That’s one plane every month for this period.
Last but not least: How to get to the plane wreck? Until 2016 it was possible to drive to the plane. But as many tourists got stuck and had accidents the road on the beach was closed. This means that it is necessary to walk the 4 kilometres from the main road to the wreck to see it. And 4 kilometres back of course as well. The parking lot next to the main road is located on the South coast between Skógafoss and Vík. If coming from Reykjavík Route 1 will cross a bridge after Skógafoss. After the bridge there will be a turnoff for Sólheimajökull on the left. Keep driving for 2 about kilometres till a small turnoff with a gate on the right. Crossing another bridge means that the parking lot has been missed. But as there are many cars most of the time it hardly can be overseen. From there keep walking for 40 minutes on the road on the beach. Keep in mind that the plane is hidden behind a sand dune near the edge of the ocean. So one only can see it shortly before getting there.