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Snakes NOT on a plane: How Qantas keeps serpentine stowaways off of its stored A380s

June 03, 2021
4 min read
Snakes NOT on a plane: How Qantas keeps serpentine stowaways off of its stored A380s
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If you were weirded out by last week's stowaway bat news, you'll be glad to know that Qantas is doing all it can to keep venomous rattlesnakes off the A380 aircraft it has been storing in the desert for more than a year.

During last year's sharp downturn in travel, thanks to COVID-19, many airlines had to put large portions of their fleets into storage. Arid desert environments are preferred, but deserts are also home to creepy-crawlies, such as snakes and scorpions, which can pose a threat to workers assigned to the stored planes' upkeep.

Qantas engineers assigned to upkeep stored planes in California's Mojave Desert use "wheel whackers" to scare away snakes. (Photo courtesy of Qantas)

Enter "wheel whackers," the repurposed broom handles Qantas engineers use to bang on aircraft tires, where snakes tend to gather for warmth as they lie dormant in California's Mojave Desert.

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"The area is well known for its feisty 'rattlers' who love to curl up around the warm rubber tires and in the aircraft wheels and brakes," Tim Heywood, Qantas' Los Angeles-based engineering manager, said in a statement. "Every aircraft has its own designated 'wheel whacker' ... as part of the engineering kit, complete with each aircraft's registration written on it."

Each wheel whacker is a repurposed broom handle that bears the registration number of the plane to which it is assigned. (Photo courtesy of Qantas)

"The first thing we do before we unwrap and start any ground inspections of the landing gear in particular is to walk around the aircraft stomping our feet and tapping the wheels with a wheel whacker to wake up and scare off the snakes. That's about making sure no harm comes to our engineers or the snakes."

"Only then do we carefully approach each wheel and unwrap [it] before performing our pressure checks and visual inspections."

TPG has already covered some of the ways in which airlines seal off their stored planes to prevent insects and rodents from seeking shelter, but we couldn't resist a good "Snakes on a Plane" (or, rather, not on a plane) reference.

Stored planes, like this Qantas A380, undergo extensive maintenance, even when in storage. (Photo courtesy of Qantas)

When planes are put into storage, there are many precautions that must be taken to protect and keep them in good working order. They include less technical measures like covering the cabin seats and more crucial ones like sealing off windows and the tops of the aircraft rudders and protecting landing gear.

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"Aircraft like these are highly technical, and you can't just land [them] at the storage facility, park [them] and walk away," Heywood said. "It's really important that, even when in deep storage, the aircraft are maintained to the Qantas standard."

Special attention is paid to tires and landing gear when planes are put into storage. (Photo courtesy of Qantas)

Qantas says its planes undergo weekly, biweekly and monthly maintenance that involves a series of tasks, such as removing condensation from fuel tanks, rotating tires and checking for animal nests.

As demand for air travel increases this summer, several airlines have had to bring stored aircraft back into service, a process that can take a long time. Qantas says its fleet will return to service when the demand reaches pre-pandemic levels, which could take as long as two years.

Featured photo by Irfan Khan/LA Times via Getty Images.

Featured image by Los Angeles Times via Getty Imag
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

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  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
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  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
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  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
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