On March 10 of this year, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed six minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa. The aircraft, registered as ET-AVJ, was a Boeing 737 MAX and the fallout from the incident would ground the 737 MAX program to a halt. Many airlines grounded their MAX fleets until further notice and the process of finding a place to store the aircraft had begun. Singaporean airline SilkAir made its grounding announcement on March 12, and recently revealed the airline’s solution to the problem. Requiring a dry climate to store and maintain aircraft, SilkAir’s Boeing 737 MAX aircraft could be stored in Australia. Potentially, more airlines may follow…
Boeing’s 737 MAX grounded
In March 2019, airlines around the world began immediately grounding their 737 MAX aircraft on a voluntary basis after two catastrophic incidents within a six month period. Flawed software on the aircraft was discovered as a major cause, and aviation authorities had no choice but to officially ground the aircraft as unsafe to fly. At this time, Boeing had some 4600 aircraft that had been ordered and pending delivery.
Needless to say, the process has left hundreds of aircraft grounded and in need of a place to be stored and maintained. This isn’t as simple as finding a storage unit with space somewhere, as specific conditions need to be prevalent. Asia Pacific Aircraft Storage (Apas) has recognised its desert storage facility in Australia as the ideal space, and the company has finalised its first deal to store Boeing’s 737 MAX.
The conditions required to properly store and maintain aircraft, whilst awaiting re-entering into service, need to be ideal – meaning as dry as possible. This is to combat the difficulties encountered in humid regions, such as the corrosive effect that moisture can have. The issue is that most regions that have the right climate, do not actually have the runway size or infrastructure required to store large aircraft such as commercial jetliners.
The Australian Outback is an arid, dry, and expansive region. Close to its centre, the town of Alice Springs offer both the ideal climate, as well as a runway that can be used by an Airbus A380 in an emergency. This make the Apas facility an attractive option, and an option that is located much closer to Asia Pacific nations, than the United States of America.