Watch: How airplanes are put into storage because of the coronavirus

Mar 27, 2020

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Thousands of commercial airplanes worldwide are being parked because of the coronavirus pandemic. Left without passengers, either because of travel restrictions or because people just aren’t flying, airlines are choosing to put many of their planes in storage at airports all over.

But you can’t just decide to park an airplane and then start it back up in weeks or months when the crisis is over. First, an airline has to find available space; the American Southwest has a lot if it, plus a dry climate that helps metals avoid corrosion, so that’s where many airplanes are going. Second, it has to prepare the planes for storage, which requires a lot of work: Planes aren’t cars, and they can’t just pop back to life after months in the garage.

And because taking planes out of long-term storage is expensive, many of the jets airlines are parking because of COVID-19 will never take to the skies again. Stripped of valuable parts like engines, seats or instruments, they will end up scrapped for metal to recycle. That is for example the fate that will most likely befall the McDonnell Douglas MD-80s that Delta Air Lines is sending to storage. One consequence is that when the crisis is over, U.S. airlines will fly younger and more fuel-efficient fleets, which also will emit fewer greenhouse gases.

In this video, TPG Audience & Community Producer Wallace Cotton, whose knowledge of civil aviation is renowned even among a staff full of serious aviation geeks, explains how airplane storage works and how airlines are using it to cope with the effects of the pandemic.

Featured image: Delta Air Lines aircraft sit parked at a field in Victorville, California, U.S., on Monday, March 23, 2020. Delta Air Lines will park more than 600 planes, or about half its fleet, as it cuts flying capacity 70% amid collapsing travel demand from the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

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