Heartbreaking sight in Google Earth image

 

A satellite image of an eerie boneyard in the California desert has revealed how the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated international travel.

The Google Earth image shows Qantas A380s among the rows of commercial aircraft in hibernation at the remote facility in Victorville near the Mojave Desert.

Qantas sent most of its A380 fleet to the facility after it was forced to suspend international flights due to the virus crisis.

Months on, the aircraft are still sitting idle in the desert where they await the eventual return of international operations.

Qantas A380s are among the aircraft in storage at the facility in southern California. Picture: Google Earth
Qantas A380s are among the aircraft in storage at the facility in southern California. Picture: Google Earth

The liveries of Air New Zealand, Delta Air Lines and FedEx planes, among others, can also be seen in the vision from Google Earth, which captures billions of dollars worth of out-of-use aircraft.

Executive Traveller noted that the sorry sight may be depressing to "those with fond memories of soaring aloft in the Qantas Airbus A380".

The expansive desert wasteland is, however, a smart place to store the jumbo jets until they can carry passengers again.

The dry conditions of the desert reduce the chance of corrosion while the aircraft are stored, sometimes for years, before they return to the skies or are stripped down for parts.

The Qantas planes could be spotted sitting idle next to aircraft from Delta, Air New Zealand and FexEd. Picture: Google Earth
The Qantas planes could be spotted sitting idle next to aircraft from Delta, Air New Zealand and FexEd. Picture: Google Earth


Australia has a similar facility near Alice Springs, which is undergoing expansion works due to the massive demand for aircraft storage during the pandemic.

Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific are among the airlines that have sent their planes there.

Qantas recently fuelled hope in an imminent return to international travel when it began selling flights overseas to depart from mid-2021.

However, when all but two of its A380s to the Mojave Desert last year, the airline warned that model may be mothballed there for at least three years.

The A380 double decker jets have been a cornerstone of the Qantas international fleet, featuring luxurious first class up the front as well as economy at the rear.

But COVID-19 has hastened the demise of the mighty aircraft, which was already being slowly phased out even before the pandemic.

A wider overview of planes being stored at the facility. Picture: Google Earth
A wider overview of planes being stored at the facility. Picture: Google Earth

Manufacturer Airbus had previously announced no more A380s would be built after 2021 - even though planes in service could keep flying well into the 2030s.

Like the Boeing 747, the double-decker, four-engine A380 - which turned 15 at the end of April - have been increasingly shunned by airlines in favour of large but more efficient twin-engine aircraft like the Boeing 777 and Airbus A350.

"Even larger than the 747, the A380 is way, way too big for the new world of reduced demand for air travel we are seeing now," Alberto Rivo from the Points Guy wrote in March.

"While many A380s are grounded, some of them are likely to return to service once demand comes back, but the writing is on the wall: The future belongs to twin jets."

Aircraft expert John Grant recently told CNN the A380 was simply "too big for current needs".

 

"If airlines are going to maintain any schedules they need to match capacity to demand; that means in many cases smaller aircraft types and - as we are seeing - large frequency reductions," Mr Grant said.

"The A380 doesn't fit that bill, especially when many airline operators require large proportions of transfer traffic from other countries. With countries being locked down it just does not make commercial sense, despite the cost of fuel currently being so low."

Earlier this month Qatar Airways said it would permanently ground half its A380 fleet, calling the model one of the "worst aircraft when it comes to emissions."

Originally published as Heartbreaking sight in Google Earth image


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