Why Unused Aircraft Are Typically Stored In The Desert

The events of the past year have made aircraft storage facilities a popular destination for carriers worldwide. Whether they’ve been retired, temporarily removed from service, or have yet to enter service, aircraft have been increasingly sent to storage facilities, most often located in desert environments. Let’s look at why this is the case.

Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, California, is a well-known storage facility. The region sees around four inches or 10 centimeters of rain annually. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | JFKJets.com

The climate

The temperature and humidity of desert storage sites are ideal for aircraft to be sitting stationary for long periods of time – or at least the conditions are not as bad as other environments.

The lack of rain and moisture offers the best conditions for the storage of aircraft, reducing the risk of damage that can occur due to corrosion of the airframe and other aircraft components.

Desert environments also tend to have fewer insects and wildlife. While little critters do exist in these arid climates as well, the lack of vegetation and water makes it less likely. This is a factor as birds and bugs may see aircraft as ideal places for nesting.

“Alice Springs offers the perfect environment for the preservation of aircraft and their inherent capital value. The facility benefits from an arid desert environment characterised by an average year round humidity of approximately 25%, outside Australia’s cyclone zone, low rainfall, and with low lying in situ vegetation providing additional dust suppression qualities.” -Asia Pacific Storage

Many Qantas aircraft have been sent to the Mojave Desert for their retirement. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | JFKJets.com

The space and terrain

A big factor for storage sites being located in deserts is that they simply aren’t airports. While airports do have parking facilities, their space is certainly more limited than those found at dedicated long-term storage sites.

Outside of a global health crisis and aviation-industry downturn, airports would prefer to use what little space they have, whether it be gates or hangars, for more active aircraft. Therefore, deserts are ideal with their ample supply of space. There’s not much competition for the land. This makes land acquisition costs low for storage facility operators and makes the rent cheap for airlines and plane makers.

Some desert sites also have ideal terrain that is dry, hard, and does not need paving. In other environments, the weight of a large commercial aircraft may cause the land beneath it to sink.

Lufthansa, Airbus A340-600, Retirement
At some sites, paving isn’t necessary as the land is solid enough to support the weight of even the heaviest aircraft. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | JFKJets.com

Here are some of the most well-known desert storage sites that Simple Flying has covered:

Qantas A380
Many Airbus A380s have had to go into long-term storage in the past year. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | JFKJets.com

Have you visited an aircraft graveyard? Please share your experience with us in the comments.

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