Inside the desert boneyards
Thousands of aircraft are currently in long-term hibernation in a handful of desert ‘boneyards’. And while some will awake for a new life post-COVID, others will be broken down for scrap. Adam Thorn investigates just what goes on in the super-secretive facilities.
Right now, ten of Qantas’ grounded A380s are sweltering under the 40-degree sun at the Southern California Logistics Airport in the western Mojave Desert. The four-kilometre-long facility – better known as the Victorville boneyard – is traditionally where airlines banish their heftiest assets to be broken down for scrap. But Qantas, perhaps uniquely, believes its $600 million double-deckers have a promising future flying long-haul routes in the messy aftermath of COVID. With fewer flights on offer, so the thinking goes, bigger aircraft, and their economies of scale, will be a money-spinner.
For this reason, the airline has decided to keep an extra-special eye on its fleet and regularly asks its own team to make the two-hour journey from their base in LA to Victorville to conduct inspections. Their work involves everything from covering the seats with new plastic sheeting to applying a protective film on all cabin windows. It also involves removing the plastic wrapping from the A380’s giant wheels – where the local rattlesnakes call home.
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