Southwest Airlines is preparing for a long-term grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX. So much so, that the airline is beginning to send the aircraft to the Mojave Desert for storage. With the global grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft still in effect, a team from Southwest will be joining other US airlines in visiting the manufacturer soon to preview the aircraft updates.
737 MAX 8 fleet takes a trip to Victorville
On Saturday, Southwest Airlines began to migrate some Boeing 737 MAX 8 fleet to its long-term storage facility. Located at the Southern California Logistics Airport facility in Victorville, this is in the heart of the Mojave Desert. A total of six of the aircraft made the journey so far, which could be followed by others if the model continues to be banned.
Aircraft from around the US were ordered to be sent here by the airline. Two of the planes came from Nashville, and other individual aircraft came from St. Louis, Dallas-Love, Phoenix, and Indianapolis. The Southwest fleet includes a total of 34 Boeing 737 MAX 8. The remainder of the aircraft continue to be grounded in various locations around the US, awaiting further notice about the situation.
Mojave Desert is an airplane graveyard
Southwest frequently uses the desert to store planes being discontinued from its fleet. Most recently, it terminated the Boeing 737-300, all of which were sent to Victorville at the end of Q3, 2017. It’s known as an airplane graveyard thanks to the significant number of unused planes grounded here.
Although Southwest Airlines is expecting the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft to return to its fleet eventually, the desert was still the best choice for storing the planes. The desert climate makes for perfect environmental conditions for long term storage of aircraft.
Other airlines also have hubs for long term aircraft storage. American and United have also begun to sent parts of their Boeing 737 MAX 8 fleet storage locations. American has sent a few aircraft to Miami and Tulsa, while Houston has received some from United.
Sending its fleet to the desert signals that Southwest is expecting the grounding to last for a significant amount of time. With close inspection from the FAA and airlines alike, Boeing is hoping for good news in the upcoming weeks regarding the 737 updates.
All eyes on Boeing
The industry-wide grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft occurred shortly after the second fatal crash of the model. The FAA has demanded Boeing perform updates before any airlines will use the aircraft again.
In the upcoming week, Boeing will host representatives from the FAA and US airlines, including Southwest, to review the changes. Boeing are rolling out software updates of the MCAS system, as well as training updates to ensure the safety of the MAX.
Boeing is expecting to surpass all expectations of the inspections and reviews, but airline companies are a bit more hesitant to return the 737 MAX 8 to their active fleets so soon.