Last week four a380 Jumbo Jets arrived at Alice Springs airport in the middle of the red, Australian outback.

The first time the town of 25,000 has received such a large aircraft, it would be even more impressive were there not already six Boeing MAX 8s and 13 narrow body aircraft waiting in the desert.

Singapore Airlines and subsidiary airlines Scoot and Silk are storing the aircraft in the arid outback to preserve the excess fleet for a time post-Covid-19, when demand for air travel takes off once again.

Some $5billion worth of Aircraft from around the world now being holed up in the desert near Alice Springs due to COVID-19 travel downturn

Posted by Steve Strike on Sunday, 3 May 2020

But don't hold your breath. The Max 8s have been waiting for action since last year, when the Boeing aircraft model was linked to fatal air crashes. None of the mothballed planes are predicted to move any time soon.

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It's not just local residents who are intrigued to see the aircraft graveyard arrive on their doorstep.

Photographer Steve Strike took images of the aircraft stored in Alice Springs, which he estimated to be worth almost $5billion.


"I can't imagine the long term effects of this. I don't think anyone has any idea how travel in the world will be in the future," he said about the photos.

The local airport authorities said they were struggling during the downturn in air traffic, though the opportunity to store aircraft was a lifeline for the regional hub.

"Obviously it's not the ideal circumstances around the current situation with Covid-19, however this is a great opportunity for Alice Springs," airport general manager Dave Batic told ABC news.

Like the famous Arizona Boneyard in Tucson which stores 4500 aircraft, the conditions in the Northern Territory are perfect for conserving aircraft.

The dry climate allows for long-term storage with minimal corrosion. Something that the Singapore flight base has difficulty with due to heat and humidity. It simply cannot afford to leave the planes in Changi Airport to rust.

Asia Pacific Aircraft Storage, which is connected to Alice Springs' main runway has been proposing the site for aircraft storage since the early 2000s. There's a lot more to mothballing planes than simply parking up and leaving the multi-million-dollar aircraft.

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Arizona's desert is home to large aircraft storage facilities. Photo / Irfan Khan, Getty Images
Arizona's desert is home to large aircraft storage facilities. Photo / Irfan Khan, Getty Images

"It's quite a process to put the aircraft into storage, [but] once the storage-induction check is complete, we'll then start carrying out the periodic checks every week," the APAS director Tom Vincent told ABC.

Aircraft have to be sealed airtight and filled with non corrosive gases, while engines are covered to protect them from the weather. A team of flight mechanics have to inspect the aircraft weekly, to minimise the time it would take to get them flight ready again.

However, one questions when these aircraft will see service again – for Singapore Airlines or any other airline. The A380s were due to be phased out of production by manufacturers Airbus in 2021.

Singapore Airlines has delivered four Airbus A380s to APAS for storage. Photo / Troy Mortimer, Unsplash
Singapore Airlines has delivered four Airbus A380s to APAS for storage. Photo / Troy Mortimer, Unsplash

Airlines were increasingly relying on smaller more fuel efficient aircraft such as the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. The global pause on air travel may either put an early retirement to the double decker super jumbos or, as some experts predict, give them a second lease of life.

The airline researchers at the Monash University business school predict if social distancing continues the larger, wide-body aircraft may be needed to space out passengers.

Until then the giant, $700million aircraft will be waiting in the Australian desert.