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First Qantas aircraft to leave Alice Springs boneyard

written by Adam Thorn | April 15, 2021

A Jetstar B787 in Sydney (Andrew Green)

The first Qantas Group aircraft will leave the Alice Springs boneyard imminently, Australian Aviation can reveal.

Up to five Jetstar 787-8s stored at the desert storage facility will be redeployed to fly longer-range domestic routes from 1 June.


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The news comes on the day the flag carrier announced it would be flying more aircraft on its domestic routes than before than pandemic, as it competes to fight Virgin to rebuild its market share.

Jetstar today confirmed that three 787s, usually flown on international routes, will initially be brought back to service, with that number possibly rising to five. It marks a significant moment in the industry’s recovery from the pandemic.


The 350-seat aircraft will fly routes including:

  • Melbourne – Gold Coast from 1 June
  • Melbourne – Cairns from 25 June
  • Sydney – Cairns from 1 July
  • Sydney – Gold Coast from 1 July

Aviation enthusiasts can book their flights now on Jetstar.com.

Most of Qantas’ larger A380s are stored in the US, with the last of the model flying to a Californian desert boneyard in September.

There had been much speculation as to whether they would fly again, but Qantas Group chief executive Alan Joyce said on Wednesday that he believes his airline will reactivate its entire fleet of 12 A380s when the pandemic subsides.

He added that if demand returns early, each aircraft could potentially come back into service in as little as “three to six months”.

Speaking to the CAPA Centre for Aviation, Joyce on Wednesday said, “We have luckily enough been replacing the bigger aircraft with the 787 … and the 787 is such a good aircraft. It can replace entire A380s, 747s in terms of range [and] costs are even better than an A380.”

Joyce’s vote of confidence in Airbus’ flagship comes after he said in February that it was “heartbreaking” to see the fleet stored in the Mojave Desert and insisted that curfews and expensive airport slots meant flying them will still be profitable.

The final A380 to depart to the desert was VH-OQI msn 055, which departed Dresden maintenance facility in Germany as flight QF6006 at 10:36am on 25 September 2020. It landed at the Victorville, California, facility 11 hours later.

In June 2020, the Qantas Group announced it would ground 100 aircraft for up to 12 months, including most of its international fleet.

The business said then there was “significant uncertainty” as to when flying levels will support the return of the A380, and revealed it would defer deliveries of A321neo and 787-9.

“As a result, the carrying value of the A380 fleet, spare engines and spare parts will be written down to their fair value,” Qantas said.

The six that are being refurbished are being upgraded with new business class seats and inflight lounges, and are likely to be among the first to come back when the A380 finally returns.

Australian Aviation reported in September how the Alice Springs boneyard was reaching its new expanded capacity of 100 aircraft after the Northern Territory government invested $3.5 million into the site in July.

The state made the investment, which included building new roads to ensure the facility’s capacity could be quickly doubled, to help create 55 local jobs.

Tom Vincent, who owns the Asia Pacific Aircraft Storage (APAS) maintenance facility, previously told the ABC that parking spaces were “definitely in demand”.

“As soon as extra spots for storage come online, there are aircraft filling those spots,” Vincent said.

Comments (24)

  • Interesting fact from the picture of the Boeing 787-800 lined up at Alice Springs Airpark is the statement that 11 of them from Jetstar were recently co-located to ASP. However if you look closely at the picture there are in fact 12 aircraft. (count the number of wings evident) Does this mean one of them is a Qantas 787-900?

    • Craigy


      The last 6 jets in the photograph are Jetstar B788 aircraft. The first 6 appear to be B777 aircraft. All 11 QF B789 aircraft in Australia have been flying repatriation and cargo flights to LA and Asia. There are three QF B789s’ in storage at Victorville and were flown there directly from Boeing. It is unclear as to whether QF has actually taken delivery of the aircraft yet.

    • Vannus


      Hi Andrew, by the angle, one can see the empanage of the last 6 aircraft, definitely with JQ logo.
      And yes, there are 12 tails there!

    • MS Aviation


      @Andrew Ferguson
      If you have a closer look at the image there are actually only 6 Jetstar 787s the other 6 aircraft are 777s from another airline, just thought to let you know 🙂

    • John


      Yes I counted 12 also . All Qantas 787s are now flying so not sure what the 12 th aircraft is

    • Stu Bee


      The far 6 aircraft are all Cathay Pacific airframes….

    • John Boydell


      The 7th aircraft in the row is a SQ B777. The tail is different to the B787’s.

    • John Do



      Interesting fact in the picture only the first 6 aircraft are owned by jetstar, the rest are owned by SIA.

    • Greg


      I agree that there are 12 aircraft in the photo, but I think there are 6 of each of 2 types. The 6 in the foreground are smaller. The ones in the distance look to me like they might be 777s, based on the shape of the end of the fuselage and the wing tip shape. Maybe JQ 787s in the foreground and SQ 777s in the back.

    • Stu Bee



      The furthest 6 airframes are Cathay Pacific B777’s

    • Pete


      The 6 aircraft in front are CX triples.

  • Tim


    It would be a good idea ‘AA’ to get your terminology correct.

    ASP is NOT a ‘boneyard’, it’s only a ‘storage facility’.
    There’s no recycling of aircraft parts’ operations going on there like VCV in USA.

    • Adam Thorn


      Hi Tim,

      Boneyard is a colloquial term, which essentially refers to all desert facilities storing aircraft. The authority on the matter, airplaneboneyards.com, recognises Alice Springs as such, which is why I used the word.

      Thanks for your comment,


  • IAN


    surely these 787s should be deployed on routes to NZ (we need all the kiwi tourists we can get)

    • Ashley


      Yeah, right!
      As long as we don’t have to eventually deport them for criminal activities’ here!

  • 787Guy


    JQ 787s have 335 seats not 350

  • Richard Boydell


    I also counted 12 but upon a second look the 7th aircraft is a SQ B777 as can be confirmed by the squared off rear fuselage.

  • Gary


    The photo clearly shows 6 x Jetstar 787-8’s and 6 x SQ 777’s. There are no Qantas 787-9’s stored in ASP, however there are apparently about 150 aircraft form many airlines stored there.

    Great to see Jetstar putting their aircraft to good use.

  • Tim


    Only the back 6 are Jetstar 787’s. The front 6 appear to be Cathay Pacific aircraft (notice the different engines also).

  • Leighton Halliday


    Look closer…only the bottom six are Jetstar 787s…the top six appear to be 777s of unknown airlines.

  • OVTraveller


    My wife and I will be flying from Melbourne to Darwin ( by all accounts one of the longest domestic route) in September 2021. Currently, this flight is scheduled to be flown by a B 737. What are the chances of Qantas swapping it for a B 787 and we get value for our selection of seating?

  • Terry Blenkinsop


    looks to be only 6 JQ 787 and the possible Cathay aircraft (ky looking at the tails). Cathay aircraft don’t look like 787’s though. Maybe they are A350’s

  • Neil


    Pity JetStar are not using some of their Boeing 787-8s on the East-west continental route between Perth and the East coast cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. They could carry more passengers comfortably, rather than the Airbus A320 & A321s.

  • James Smith


    The Cathay aircraft are definitely B777s. The wings of the A350 have upturned winglets.
    The whole fleet of 11 Jetstar B787s have not been relocated to Alice Springs. When they ceased services last year, eight aircraft were stored at Avalon and three at Melbourne. Subsequently, from February, 2021 eight were relocated to Alice Springs, seven from Avalon and one from Melbourne. Of the remaining three aircraft one has relocated from Avalon to Sydney, one from Melbourne to Sydney and one remains in Melbourne. It is presumed that these three B787s are being readied for domestic services as outlined in the story. No B787s have been redeployed from Alice Springs as yet.

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