Safely storing and maintaining the airworthiness of aircraft grounded for a long period of time has always been something of a logistical challenge for the aviation industry. In 2020, the situation became critical with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. Air travel virtually ground to a halt in March as the world coped with the first spread of the virus. As of January 4, 2021, total global air travel remained 43.5 percent lower than it was pre-COVID. The obvious logistical problem is: What do you do with nearly half of the world’s airplanes when they cannot be put to work in the air? As governments continue to enforce travel restrictions and consumer interest in flying is a fraction of normal demand due to health concerns, airlines are being forced to come up with creative solutions for safely storing their aircraft
What Happens When Planes Are Grounded?
When the first COVID travel restrictions were imposed in 2020, many airlines were forced to immediately find some place to park their aircraft. Because the airline industry has evolved to keep aircraft in the air as much as possible, finding storage space is a problem. Aircraft are meant to be in constant rotation. There are no “parking garages” built for large numbers of planes on the ground. There are a handful of locations with unused runways and space around the world that rent out storage space, but those quickly filled up when aircraft were grounded in early 2020. To handle the overflow, smaller airports that don’t normally see as much air traffic suddenly found themselves renting out runway space to parked airplanes. Large and small airlines are coping with the issue, and competition for parking and hangar space is high.
Aircraft Parking vs. Storage
If an aircraft is grounded for a period of several weeks up to six months, it’s considered to be in a state of “long-term parking.” If the plane is grounded for a period longer than six months, it’s considered to be in “storage” (even if the plane is parked outside on a runway). In both cases, extensive preventive maintenance tasks have to be performed regularly to ensure that a plane can be safely returned to operation.
Once a plane is parked, a lot of protective measures must be taken. For example, engine intakes and exhausts should be covered to prevent birds and other forms of wildlife from making their homes there. Covering the intakes and exhausts also protects against moisture, dust and debris. All the plane’s access points and small ports have to be sealed to protect against humidity, so internal components aren’t compromised or damaged. The process may even entail removing the plane’s engines entirely to protect them.
Depending on how long a plane will be parked or stored, additional complex protective measures may be necessary. For short term storage, the key is regularly maintaining the plane’s airworthiness. This can range from moving the aircraft at regular intervals to protect the wheels and tires, lubricating the landing gear, running engines and performing diagnostic tests. For longer term storage, the process may even entail removing the plane’s engines entirely to protect them.
Some airlines are rotating their aircraft in and out of storage for use in their reduced number of flights, since keeping the aircraft working is the best way to maintain its health.
Testing & Maintenance for Flight Readiness
The longer a plane is in storage, the more rigorous testing and maintenance must become. There are mandatory tests that must be performed at set intervals, to ensure that the plane remains airworthy. For example, landing gear is required to be tested at six-month intervals, and a plane must be flown at the two-year storage mark, regardless of whether it is going back into service soon. Prior to return to flight, crews check fluid levels and tire pressure and inspect gaskets, seals and “O” rings to be sure they are in flight-ready condition.
Some of the detailed tests and maintenance measures are easier to perform and more comfortable for ground crews if they can be performed inside a hangar. Some tests may even be required to be carried out inside a hangar on specialized equipment. And, busy work crews may need to work round-the-clock to get an aircraft ready, which means indoor lighting is needed when they work at night. Hangar space is vital in the current environment, but it is in short supply.
Solving the Temporary Hangar Dilemma with Allsite
Access to hangar space can be an advantage for airlines and cargo air companies needing space for grounded aircraft. It’s also important for any aircraft owner needing short or long term storage or maintenance space.
Allsite Structure Rentals is one of the only companies in the world that offers quickly available large-span, tension fabric aircraft hangars. Its durable tension fabric hangars are available with a width of up to 156-feet and a peak height of 54-feet which accommodates most commercial aircraft. These sturdy modular industrial grade fabric structures are configured to meet the client’s needs and can be delivered and installed just about anywhere, on any surface and in any climate. Allsite Structure Rentals’ tension fabric hangars are engineered to shed snowfall, resist heavy winds, protect against dust storms and more. They are available with an array of anchoring options to install on tarmac, dirt, turf or other surface. Advantages include a choice of openings, including clamshell doors to close off the aircraft from the outside. Allsite hangars provide the indoor space needed for maintenance tasks required for parked or stored aircraft, or for storing the aircraft to protect it from the elements.
If your aviation business needs include a temporary or permanent hangar solution, we’re here to solve your aircraft storage problems. Reach out to us toll-free at (888) 599-5112 for a quote today.