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Air New Zealand to bring 777s out of Californian desert

written by Hannah Dowling | August 10, 2022

Ahead of its planned return to passenger service, Air New Zealand has started reviving the first of its Boeing 777-300s that were placed in storage in the California desert after nearly 700 days.

It comes after the airline in February returned its first 777-300 to the air for cargo operations.

In 2020, Air New Zealand sent four of its seven flagship Boeing 777s to the Victorville storage facility in California’s Mojave Desert for long-term storage amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The carrier confirmed on Tuesday that with the “sheer demand for flights”, it is now ready to bring its desert-stored wide-body jets back onto the flight schedule.


The airline said ZK-OKP is the first to be moved out of the desert, with the remaining three jets to be revived over the coming months. OKP was moved to Victorville on 13 August, 2020, and is due to exit the facility later this month, over two years later.

The remaining three 777s were stored in Auckland, with two aircraft, ZK-OKN and ZK-OKQ, already back flying.

“No one could ever predict what would happen in the pandemic and now that demand has bounced back quicker than anticipated, we knew it was time to bring these aircraft back from Victorville,” said Air New Zealand chief operating officer Alex Marren.

“When the hard decision was made to park our 777 fleet we knew the desert was an ideal environment due to its warm and dry conditions. After being stored for almost two years in this climate, they are coming out of long-term parking in good condition.

“It takes around six to eight weeks to get a desert-based 777-300 ready to fly and the team are working with a local maintenance provider to reanimate our aircraft out in the desert.”

According to Marren, the aircraft is first washed scrupulously, before engineers step in to remove the protective covers that were placed over the wheels, windows, sensors, and wings of the aircraft.

The plane then undergoes a “thorough servicing and maintenance programme” before it can return to passenger service.

“From servicing the wheels on the landing gear to checking upholstery and the inflight entertainment system within the cabin, a lot of work goes into these aircraft to make sure they are ready to welcome customers back on board,” he said, noting that the jets have also been maintained throughout their stint in California.

“The 777-300 is our biggest widebody aircraft and capable of carrying up to 342 customers with up to 154 cubic metres of cargo capacity available. It will be great to have more of these 777-300s flying to connect New Zealand to the world,” he added.

“These aircraft going into service means we’re rehiring more cabin crew, pilots, and engineers to resource our schedule and it’s been fantastic to see people coming back into the business. We know our pilots and cabin crew can’t wait to get back on board to carry customers from Auckland to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sydney, Melbourne, and more.

“It’s a welcome change from the type of flying our operating aircrew did through the height of the pandemic and for those stepping back onto a 777-300 for the first time in more than two years, it will be an emotional reunion with one of their favourite aircraft.”

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