A Qantas A380 flew to Abu Dhabi on Monday after spending several weeks in Los Angeles. VH-OQC, a 12 plus-year-old A380, did its best to make a low-profile departure from LAX on Sunday night. But when you are one of the world’s most iconic planes, it’s hard to leave town and fly under the radar.
Qantas A380 makes an 8,380-mile flight to Abu Dhabi
Last year, Qantas grounded its entire 12-strong A380 fleet, relocating them to California for long-term storage. Nine of those A380s are at Victorville. Two of the jumbos, VH-OQB Hudson Fysh and VH-OQD Fergus McMaster are kept at LAX, and VH-OQC Paul McGinness is safely landed at Abu Dhabi.
The A380, VH-OQC, departed Los Angeles (LAX) at 19:06 local time on Sunday and flew directly to Abu Dhabi (AUH), landing at 23:33 local time on Monday evening. The 8,380 mile (13,487 kilometer) flight took 16.5 hours to complete. The long-haul flight was operated as QF6013.
VH-OQC caught the eye of Simple Flying in May when it relocated from Victorville to LAX. There was speculation the plane was bound for an airport further afield. Simple Flying received advice a long-haul flight was on the horizon and crews were being stood up.
Shortly after arriving in Los Angeles, engineering staff performed a routine landing gear drop. VH-OQC has remained at LAX since. However, on Friday, eagle-eyed planespotters may have noticed a Qantas A380 conducting a 90-minute loop above the hills and desert west of the city.
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VH-OQC spends over 16 hours in the air
On Sunday night, VH-OQC warmed its engines again and took off for the long flight over continental North America before heading out over the Atlantic. The A380 passed south of Ireland and England before crossing the European coastline at Douamenez in France. Then, near Clermont-Ferrand, the A380 turned onto a south-easterly tracking, crossing the Meditteraen coast at Monaco, tracking parallel to Italy and crossing over Africa near El Alamein in Egypt.
The A380 flew to the top of the Red Sea before turning east and crossing over Saudia Arabia. Then, between Damman and Bahrain, the plane headed southeast again, passing over Qatar before its final approach in Abu Dhabi.
What’s Qantas sending its A380 to Abu Dhabi for?
So what’s in Abu Dhabi that would see Qantas dust off one of its A380s? The Abu Dhabi Government, via Etihad and various corporate subsidiaries, has a large A380 service facility in AUH. Qantas has a history of sending its jumbos there for heavy maintenance and overhauls. Some Qantas A380 cabin refurbishments were recently done at Abu Dhabi (the remainder were completed in Dresden).
You might assume Qantas is sending VH-OQC to Abu Dhabi for an overhaul, but for the time being, the plane is simply going into storage there.
Abu Dhabi has offered A380 maintenance, repair, and overhaul facilities for over a decade, and Airbus has plugged the Gulf workshops into its accredited MRO network. Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies is owned by the Government of Abu Dhabi, which also owns local A380 operator Etihad Airways. But whereas Etihad’s A380 look likely never to fly passengers again, Qantas is talking up the future prospects of its A380s.
Qantas has consistently said it would fly the A380s again and is eyeing a 2023 resumption date. The airline hasn’t been specific about whether it would fly all 12 again, and many speculate they’ll cull the operating fleet to six recently refurbished A380s. The remainder would likely remain gathering dust in California’s desert country.