It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke: where do you park 16,000 passenger jets that have been grounded during a worldwide coronavirus pandemic? The punch line: anywhere you can find space. And a maintenance team.
Where in the World are Airline Fleets Sheltering in Place?
The backstory: the drop in air travel due to the coronavirus has resulted in the fewest passenger jets in service in over 25 years. About two-thirds of the world’s jets need to be parked, at least for a while.
And it’s not just finding a parking space, but keeping each fleet maintained and ready for air travel.
Turns out that even if the planes are idle, they still need attention. For example, while in storage, they need protection from humidity. Their flight-control systems and hydraulic systems also need maintenance. Engineers must regularly power up the grounded planes, check the controls, and cover the engines and sensors to keep them clean and functioning. You wouldn’t want to find a family of seagulls nesting in the landing gear of an out-of-service 737.
What Happens to Planes Grounded by Coronavirus?
Where exactly do you park and store a grounded passenger plane? Apparently, hot, dry environments are ideal.
Some popular international locations for finding parking for aircraft fleets include Australia, which is renting space to Asian carriers like Singapore Airlines, and Fiji Airways. In Europe, France is where British Airways is storing six of its superjumbo Airbuses.
Qantas fleet Courtesy Wallpaperflare.com
In the U.S., Comav LLC, a California-based aircraft logistics company, is managing to keep up with storage demand in Southern California. Delta Air Lines is sending their grounded planes to relax in the sunshine at Pinal Airpark in Tucson. American Airlines is using a base in Oklahoma.
But once you’ve located your parking area, where is there actually room to queue up dozens of planes? Since most airports are not active these days, planes are being parked at gates and along runways.
And I always thought a car valet had a tricky job.
What’s the Cost of Sheltering a Fleet of Airplanes?
And I thought long-term airport parking was expensive for my Honda Civic. Check out the price tag for parking planes grounded by coronavirus. Parking in India: it can cost $1,000 a day per plane. That could add up to a whopping $12 million for a fleet of 250 just over a 6-month period. That sum does not include maintenance costs.
I love plane spotting while planes are in the air or parked at airport gates. I find the logistics of planes grounded by coronavirus fascinating. While this parking problem is only temporary, it poses a considerable challenge for the airline industry. Next time I pick up my car at long-term parking, I’ll have renewed appreciation for what it goes into to keep a vehicle—or an airplane—safe and functional!
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