Fact Check

Is Ukraine's Donetsk Airport 'Abandoned in the Ocean'?

The country's Sergei Prokofiev International Airport was destroyed during a violent conflict in 2014.

Published Dec 2, 2021

DONETSK, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 26:  Destroyed commercial airplanes sit scattered at the Donetsk airport on February 26, 2015 in Donetsk, Ukraine. The Donetsk airport has been one of the most heavily fought over pieces of land between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russian rebels.  (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images) (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Image Via Andrew Burton/Getty Images
Claim:
The Donetsk Sergei Prokofiev International Airport in Ukraine is abandoned in the ocean.

In December 2021, an online advertisement claimed to show a picture of a crumbling airport that was "abandoned in the ocean." The ad read: "Once a Crowded Airport, Now It's Completely Abandoned in the Ocean."

Donetsk Sergei Prokofiev International Airport was not completely abandoned in the ocean as hinted at by an online advertisement. This ad was misleading and appeared to be clickbait.

The ad appeared to hint that a massive, abandoned airport was crumbling and perhaps slowly going underwater.

Ukraine

A simple reverse image search on Google showed that the airport in the photograph was the Donetsk Sergei Prokofiev International Airport in Ukraine, which was located nowhere near the ocean. The picture appeared to have been originally captured by a Reuters photographer, according to the BBC.

In 2015, The Atlantic reported that the airport was "completely destroyed" in the year prior. It sustained significant damage by shelling during violent clashes in the region.

Donetsk Sergei Prokofiev International Airport was not completely abandoned in the ocean as hinted at by an online advertisement. A picture taken on February 7, 2015 shows a destroyed tank and plane at Donetsk's Sergey Prokofiev International Airport. (Credit: AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET)

In February 2021, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced plans for a new airport that would service the Donetsk region.

Johnston Atoll Airport

The ad in question led to a 40-page slideshow article on the Discovery Time website.

While the Ukrainian airport photograph was misleading clickbait, the lengthy story on Discovery Time did mention at least one abandoned airport that was truly surrounded by hundreds of miles of ocean in every direction.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Johnston Atoll Airport is located in the Pacific Ocean "about 717 nautical miles west-southwest of Hawaii." It's also visible on Google Maps.

https://flickr.com/photos/tnwanderer/2400465270/
 

The EPA published that it's currently "under [U.S.] Air Force ownership and control." On the same page, it also mentioned that its "military history began before World War II and continued until the island was decommissioned in 2004," and that, "at one time over 1,200 military and military contractor personnel lived at the Johnston Atoll."

Abandoned Disney World 'Airport'

Another "airport" featured in the 40-page article was named Lake Buena Vista Airport, which is better known as the abandoned "airport" at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

We previously reported that the old Lake Buena Vista STOLport ("short takeoff and landing") was likely better described as an airstrip. It only allowed small aircraft and didn't have the large buildings often associated with major airports.

An airport that once existed at Walt Disney World is now abandoned. This aerial view shows that the airport was basically just a landing strip.

It opened in 1971 and saw its last flights in the 1980s. As of 2021, it's simply a private road that appeared to be used for storage.

In sum, an ad showed a picture of a completely abandoned airport in Ukraine while at the same time falsely claiming that it was surrounded by ocean. For this reason, we have rated this claim as "Miscaptioned."

Snopes debunks a wide range of content, and online advertisements are no exception. Misleading ads often lead to obscure websites that host lengthy slideshow articles with lots of pages. It's called advertising "arbitrage." The advertiser's goal is to make more money on ads displayed on the slideshow's pages than it cost to show the initial ad that lured them to it. Feel free to submit ads to us, and be sure to include a screenshot of the ad and the link to where the ad leads.

Sources

“Abandoned Airports.” Discovery Time, https://www.discoverytime.com/history/abandoned-airports-around-the-world.
 
“Does Walt Disney World Have an Abandoned Airport?” Snopes.com, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/abandoned-airport-disney-world/.
 
“President: It Is Planned to Start Construction of an Airport in Donbas This Year.” Official Website of the President of Ukraine, https://www.president.gov.ua/en/news/glava-derzhavi-cogorich-planuyetsya-rozpochati-zvedennya-aer-66681.
 
Taylor, Alan. A Year of War Completely Destroyed the Donetsk Airport - The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2015/02/a-year-of-war-completely-destroyed-the-donetsk-airport/386204/.
 
Tennessee Wanderer. Johnston Island Postcard. 9 Apr. 2008. Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/tnwanderer/2400465270/.
 
“Ukraine Rebels Dream of New Russia.” BBC News, 23 Oct. 2014. www.bbc.com, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-29721466.
 
US EPA, REG 09. Corrective Action at Johnston Atoll. 24 Oct. 2018, https://www.epa.gov/pi/corrective-action-johnston-atoll.

Jordan Liles is a Snopes reporter with expertise in investigating misinformation, inauthentic social media activity, and scams.

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