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As airlines cut capacity, aircraft “boneyards” rise

Written by editor

Almost every airline has released reports of capacity cuts, so where do all these planes go?

Almost every airline has released reports of capacity cuts, so where do all these planes go? Chances are the jets go to a “boneyard” like one in Victorville, Calif., also known as the Southern California Logistics Airport, which is experiencing record business. And with slashes in airline capacity scheduled for this year, many of these boneyards may be overrun.

A boneyard can be an aircraft cemetery, where planes are sent and never retrieved, but according to a Los Angeles Times story, about 10 to 20 percent of the planes will fly again. Although many were sent because they weren’t fuel-efficient, the jets are being grounded now because of capacity cuts. About 200 are at the site in Victorville — which has two other boneyards. All seem to be in the midst of record hiring.

The desert outposts are better for the planes because the dryness helps in preservation. Mechanics often drain the planes of any fluids to prevent corrosion and tow them every two weeks to even out wear on the tires. The planes are used for parts or sometimes sold to Latin America or Africa. Otherwise they will be scrapped.

With recent reports that global capacity is going down, including in Africa and Latin America, most of the aircraft may end up becoming beer cans.

“The industry is in a global crisis and we have not yet seen the bottom,” International Air Transport Association chief Giovanni Bisignani told the Associated Press. “Alarm bells are ringing everywhere.”

While airlines are cutting positions and grounding planes, the business of taking care of those same grounded planes is growing. Aircraft mechanics are needed to cannibalize jets or keep them in working order, which will likely be a boon to Victorville, Calif. which was hit doubly hard by the housing market and the economy.

As some of the boneyards reach their own capacity, expect more to rise up — perhaps in areas also hit hard by the economy. (I’m betting the desert outside of Phoenix and Las Vegas.)