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Final Cathay Pacific plane now back in Hong Kong from Alice Springs

written by Jake Nelson | June 12, 2024

Cathay Pacific’s A330-300, B-HLV, departs the Alice Springs boneyard for Hong Kong. (Image: Cathay Pacific)

The last Cathay Pacific aircraft stored in Alice Springs during COVID-19 has returned to Hong Kong.

The A330-300, registered B-HLV, was on 28 July 2020 the first of more than 85 Cathay Pacific aircraft to be mothballed in Alice Springs. B-HLV finally left Australia last week and is now undergoing hangar maintenance checks in Hong Kong before returning to full service.

Cathay Pacific’s chief operations and service delivery officer, Alex McGowan, described the process of parking and reactivating so many planes as a “once-in-a-lifetime undertaking, the scale and complexity of which has never been seen before at Cathay”.

“An incredible amount of work goes into keeping an aircraft safe and protected when it isn’t flying, and to then reactivate it for entry back into regular service,” McGowan said.

“To do this for more than 85 aircraft long-term parked overseas, as well as to manage the large number of aircraft that were parked in Hong Kong, is a phenomenal achievement.

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“Our heartfelt thanks go out to the Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department for their invaluable support throughout this process.”

With its fleet returned to service, Cathay Pacific will now focus on future investment, McGowan said.

“The Cathay Group has more than 70 new aircraft on order, with the right to acquire an additional 52 aircraft in the future. We are also exploring options for a new mid-size widebody aircraft,” he said.

“These investments reflect our ongoing confidence in the Hong Kong international aviation hub as we look ahead to the exciting opportunities presented by the Three-Runway System at Hong Kong International Airport when it is fully commissioned by the end of this year.”

Asian airlines including Singapore, Cathay Pacific, Scoot and HK Express all made use of Alice Springs’ Asia Pacific Aircraft Storage (APAS) maintenance facility to store their aircraft during COVID-19.

Like many so-called boneyards, APAS is chosen by airlines because its low precipitation and hot weather reduce rust, while staff are on-hand to carry out the 100-plus maintenance tasks per year required to keep aircraft operational.

The NT government during 2020 invested $3.5 million to expand the facility to a capacity of around 100 aircraft due to high demand from airlines.

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