DC3 Plane Wreck Travel Guide
The DC Plane Wreck is a famous site located in South Iceland, its rusting shell laying on haunting black sands. The wreckage is a particularly beloved spot by local and visiting photographers alike thanks to its sparse and wild surrounding landscape and its incredible visual contrast to the aircraft’s gnarled metal.
Visit the DC Plane Wreck on a tour of the South Coast. Vacation packages which feature the South Coast, such as this 6-Day Summer Adventure, often visit the wreckage, conditions allowing. If taking a self-drive tour such as this 10-Day Road Trip, you can easily detour to it. Similarly, if you rent a car, you can seek it out independently.
The aircraft, a Douglas R4D-8, a Super DC-3, was originally in possession of the US Navy and considered to be a symbol of the golden age of air travel.
Originally utilised as a cargo aircraft, the US Navy was routinely flying over Iceland during the 1970s as a part of its unilateral defence agreement with the country. Iceland is a NATO member, and US forces had a permanent base on the island until 2005.
The aircraft crashed into Sólheimasandur on Wednesday, November 21st, 1973, at around 14:00 as reported by the Aviation Safety Network. It was flying from Höfn in Iceland's east coast and onboard were seven crew members.
No one is quite sure why the plane crashed, with several theories flying about. Some blame it on ice damaging the plane’s structure; others say that the thrusters were not working correctly. Some say that it was a mishap of the pilot who believed the thrusters were not working when they were.
Regardless, it little matters as no one was injured in the crash. The forced landing was made on an icy river by the coast, and though the ice broke, the plane didn't sink.
In the years since its rocky landing, the DC Plane Wreck has borne the brunt of Iceland’s tempestuous weather; heavy rainfall, freezing and powerful gales. Today, the aircraft’s wings are no longer attached, and it has only half a tail (rumours stipulate that a local farmer cashed in on the tail long ago.)
It is not expected that the plane wreck will be there forever. Sólheimasandur is a glacial outwash plain, meaning when there is an eruption underneath the glacier Mýrdalsjökull, there is a chance floodwater could wash it away.
Photo by Thomas Tucker
If you are looking to visit the DC Plane Wreck, you could join organised hiking, horse riding or ATV riding tour that take you right up to the site.
Alternatively, you could choose to find the wreckage yourself. To reach it requires a walk, however, as driving over the sands is considered to be driving off-road, and incredibly heavy fines are attached to this.
A recently built car park by the main road allows visitors to leave their vehicles and proceed their way over to the wreck, taking approximately two hours.
It's also now possible to take a shuttle bus out to the plane wreck. The bus runs regularly and can be pre-booked in advance.
It should also be noted that as this is not a natural attraction, nor is it a permanent feature, so Icelanders in the past have not been too concerned about visitors climbing it for photographs. However, there is now a sign from the owner of the land stating that climbing on the plane is not allowed, and this should be respected.
Even if you keep your hands off it, do take extra precautions when moving around the wreck in order not to hurt yourself on the rusting metal.