How Qantas Hibernates Its Planes: Rotating Wheels, Deep Cleans, Covering Holes & More!

Qantas has lots of its planes in hibernation right now, ranging from its A380s to 737s. So how does Qantas maintain its aircraft as they wait for their return to the sky? Unlike your car or another piece of equipment, planes need a lot of maintenance to keep them airworthy. Let’s find out what Qantas’ planes do in hibernation.

JetStar 787
Dozens of Qantas Group aircraft are parked in major Australian airports and long-term storage in California. Photo: Qantas News Room

Care and attention

Putting a plane into hibernation is not as easy as just parking them and forgetting them until their next flight. A recent release from Qantas News Room details what exactly goes into maintaining grounded aircraft to keep them airworthy for the future.

Before their time on the ground, Qantas kickstarts the process with a deep cleaning of the plane. This includes wiping down every surface onboard, from the tray tables to carpets, with an industrial-grade disinfectant. Deep cleaning usually occurs every few months, but this year’s crisis has made it much more frequent and likely a term you may have heard before.

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Qantas, Boeing 787, Desert Storage
The process starts with a deep clean on the aircraft. Photo: Getty Images

There are a lot of sensitive parts of the plane that need regular maintenance. First up are the tires. They need to be rotated every one to two weeks to prevent flat spots on the surface.

The rotation can either be done by tugging the plane around the tarmac or jacking them to rotate them in the air. The plane’s landing gear is also given a frequent coating of hydraulic fluid to prevent any kind of rusting.

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Qantas makes sure that its plane’s tires are rotated every 7 to 14 days. Photo: Qantas News Room

Engine and other nooks

Other incredibly important items are the engines, especially considering that an A380 engine can cost up to $25 million. To ensure that no moisture builds up inside them, massive silica packets (like those in packing boxes) are placed in engines. One plane can use hundreds of kilograms of silica packets to maintain the right humidity levels in the engine and cabin.

One important reason why planes go to storage facilities in the desert for long-term parking is the warm and arid conditions there. Moisture can corrode critical parts of the airplane, costing airlines millions to repair them. Qantas has sent all of its A380s and most 787s for long-term storage in the Mojave Desert in the US.

Aircraft boneyard
Desert facilities, such as Mojave pictured here, serve as optimal places to park planes for a long time. Photo: Getty Images

Much like the tires, the engines also need to be fired every one to two weeks. After a quick run of the engines, they are shut down and sealed to prevent any unwelcome guests. When the planes are ready to fly again, the engines are rechecked to make sure nothing went wrong in storage.

Speaking of unwelcome guests, maintenance teams need to close off any open external openings, such as sensors, to prevent insects from entering these holes. The Auxillary Power Unit outlet at the back of the plane serves as a particularly lovely place for birds to nest, so it’s essential to cover those well.

Hibernation is temporary

Unlike mothballing a plane, hibernation is a temporary process. Airlines spend thousands of dollars for parking and maintenance of planes while they are temporarily out of use.

Qantas plans to park its A380s for up to three years, and its 787s for under one year. With it more than likely that the planes will return to service, airlines have to ensure the planes are airworthy at the end of their nap.

Qantas’ A380s and 787 will make a comeback eventually! Photo: Qantas News Room

What do you think of the hibernation process? Let us know in the comments!