As airlines around the world reduce services, and in some cases ground their entire fleets, Israel has offered to help out. As the coronavirus impacts the airline industry with a crisis like they have never seen before, the State of Israel has offered one of its airports as a parking facility for grounded aircraft.
According to Reuters, the Israel Airports Authority has been in contact with several European airlines to discuss the possibility of storing grounded aircraft during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
With only two Israir domestic flights a day operating out of Ramon Airport (ETM) near the Red Sea resort of Eilat, the airport has the facilities to accommodate around 100 parked aircraft.
Southern Israel has a desert climate
With a climate similar to Arizona and Nevada, the desert air in the south of Israel is ideal for aircraft storage. Even before the coronavirus crisis forced airlines to find places to park their unused aircraft, many of the traditional go-to locations were full of parked Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.
Following two fatal crashes five months, apart from each other, aviation safety authority around the world grounded the aircraft in March of 2019. This led to airlines that were flying the MAX to find 383 parking spaces with suitable conditions for long term storage. Now, with borders closed and routes slashed, airlines are scrambling to find a place to park thousands of unneeded planes.
Planes are being parked on runways
Some airports around the world have taken a novel approach to the situation by closing runways to use these and adjacent taxiways for parking. Three that we know of are Hartsfield Jackson Airport in Atlanta (ATL), Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris (CDG) and Copenhagen Airport (CPH) in Denmark.
At a time when airlines are not earning revenue from their aircraft, the companies that own the airports still want to be paid for allowing airlines to park their planes. When talking about the possibility of using Ramon Airport with Reuters, airport authority spokesman Ofer Lefler said:
“The site offers a good climate for preserving the planes, as well as security,” adding that the price for parking aircraft at the facility would depend on the volume of aircraft.
An Eastern European airline is interested in Ramon
Without providing details, Lefer let it slip that an Eastern European airline had expressed interest in the Israeli offer.
Israel only opened Ramon Airport last year in an attempt to bring tourists to the Red Sea resort of Eilat and to act as an alternative to the country’s main Ben Gurion Airport (TEL) in Tel Aviv.
Given the current situation on the ground, Ramon Airport looks like a great choice for storing grounded aircraft, providing of course that the price is right. The desert air will also be a big selling point that airlines will look at as it helps to protect the airframes and technical parts from corrosion. The engines will, of course, have to have covers to protect them from blowing sand and other debris.
While not knowing the identity of the Eastern European airline that the Israel Airport Authority is in talks with, I have a sneaking feeling that it could be Hungary’s Wizz Air.
What is your guess? Please let us know in the comments.