It's the bizarre "boneyard" where old, retired planes go to live out their final days.

Surrounded by desert and collecting dust, hundreds of commercial jetliners are held at a remote facility in Victorville, one of several aircraft graveyards in the deserts of California and Arizona.

The expansive wasteland of jumbo jets and old aircraft sit on the edge of the Mojave Desert in Southern California, an odd graveyard of planes that once dominated our skies.

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 Max aircraft lands in the high desert town of Victorville, California. Photo / AP
A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 Max aircraft lands in the high desert town of Victorville, California. Photo / AP

Airliner "boneyards" in the deserts of the western United States serve several functions: temporary storage, maintenance, parts reclamation and scrapping.

Advertisement

The remote location works as the perfect storage for the retired planes, as dry conditions reduce corrosion meaning the planes can be stored for years while they are stripped for spare parts.

But following the worldwide grounding of Boeing's 737 Max 8 fleet earlier this month, the facility has started to welcome a few new guests that are far too young to be stored in such a wasteland.

When it was found the Ethiopian Airlines crash, which killed 157 people, had "clear similarities" to the doomed Lion Air disaster, which killed 189, just six months prior, Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration were forced to suspend the Max 8 fleet globally.

California has historically been a perfect location for the storage of surplus aircraft. Photo / Getty
California has historically been a perfect location for the storage of surplus aircraft. Photo / Getty

It was a move that stripped the glitzy new aircraft from the sky, leaving hundreds sitting in airports around the world taking up much-needed real estate.

In preparation for long-term grounding, one US carrier has decided to move its Max 8s out of city locations to the desert graveyard.

Southwest, which has 34 of the Max models as part of its fleet, started the migration to Victorville earlier this week, but not all relocation flights went exactly as planned.

Earlier today, the US Federal Aviation Administration announced a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 Max jet made a safe emergency landing in Orlando, Florida, after experiencing an apparent engine problem en route to the desert in California.

The crew declared an emergency after taking off from Orlando International Airport around 2.50pm (7:50am NZT), and landed the plane safely.

Advertisement

No passengers were on board because US airlines are allowed to shuttle the planes to new storage locations providing only flight crew are on board. So far, Southwest has relocated six of their Max 8s since the grounding two weeks ago.

The remainder of the aircraft continue to be stationed in various locations around the US, awaiting further notice about the situation.

Airport space has been one of the biggest obstacles following the global grounding, with a spokesman for American Airlines — which has 24 Max 8s as part of its fleet — saying they've had to put many of their planes in storage.

And while the aircraft are expected to be used once again, sending a fleet to the desert signals that Southwest is expecting the grounding to last for a significant amount of time yet.

Several Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 Max planes at the airport in Victorville, California. Photo / AP
Several Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 Max planes at the airport in Victorville, California. Photo / AP

According to Bloomberg, for Chicago-based United Airlines, it was Houston's two airports — one of which is a United hub, the other has a maintenance base — that had room for 11 of its 737 Max 9 aircraft.

The other major impact from the global grounding is flight cancellations across the US in particular, with some carriers warning of hundreds of potential flight disruptions in the next month.

In a statement given to CBS News, American Airlines, which owns 24 Boeing 737 Max aircraft, is cancelling about 90 flights a day and is extending the cancellations through until the end of April.

Southwest Airlines has been cancelling an average of 130 of its 4000 daily flights for now.

The Max 8 is the newest version of the 737 with more fuel-efficient engines. It is a central part of Boeing's strategy to compete with European rival Airbus.

But the decision to ground planes around the world — and especially in China — couldn't have come at a worse time for Boeing.

On Monday, its biggest rival Airbus announced a huge order from China. The European plane-maker said that it had reached a deal to sell 300 passenger jets to Chinese airlines. According to CNN, the order covers 290 planes from the A320 family and 10 from the A350 line, Airbus (EADSF) said in a statement.

The company said the agreement showed strong demand from all areas of China's rapidly expanding aviation market, including "domestic, low cost, regional and international long haul."

China was the first country to ground the 737 Max earlier this month following the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight, which killed all 157 on board.