Air New Zealand to deep store Boeing 777 planes at Alice Springs 'boneyard'

Air New Zealand is shuffling off its wide-body 777 aircraft to the heat of the Australian desert.

Chief revenue officer Cam Wallace says the aircraft will go into "deep storage" in Alice Springs.

They will join at least $5 billion worth of planes currently housed at the Asia Pacific Aircraft Storage (APAS).

Since the Covid-19 pandemic devastated the airline industry, dozens of aircraft have been left in the dry heat of the desert, including Singapore Airlines' A380 superjumbos and 777s.

Singapore Airlines' grounded planes at the facility in Alice Springs.

Singapore Airlines' grounded planes at the facility in Alice Springs. Photo: Steve Strike

"We just don't see any likelihood of us using them in the next 12 months," said Wallace.

He said the value of the planes had to be written off on the airline's balance sheet as the aircraft market globally was "swamped".

The writing had been on the wall for the aircraft. The national carrier has eight of the 777-200ER which have an average age of 14 years, and seven 777-300ER with an average age of eight years.

Last month, the national carrier told shareholders it was grounding its fleet until at least the end of the year due to the impact of the pandemic.

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Analysts believed the ageing 777-200ERs, which were introduced in 2004 and due to be replaced by the Boeing 787-10, were no longer needed. It was based on an expectation that the airline would be 30 per cent smaller in two years time and international travel may take even longer than that to recover.

The 777-300ER, which came into service in 2010, was the first aircraft to feature the Economy Skycouch, and was refurbished in 2017.

Air New Zealand's Economy Skycouch.

Air New Zealand's Economy Skycouch. Photo: Supplied

The dry climate in Alice Springs makes it an ideal location for aircraft storage. Planes can be preserved in excellent condition before returning to service or being recycled.

Aircraft storage facilities, sometimes called "boneyards" due to airlines sending retired aircraft to them for dismantlement into scrap, are often located in deserts.

Singapore Airline subsidiary SilkAir had already been storing six Boeing 737 MAX planes at APAS after the MAX models were grounded worldwide last year following the crashes of Lion Air and Ethiopian Air flights that killed 346 people.

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