Alice Springs Is Running Out Of Space To Store Aircraft

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The travel downturn is bad news for airlines, but for some other operators in the industry, it’s a business bonanza. One business doing well is the Asia-Pacific Aircraft Storage (APAS) at Alice Springs Airport in central Australia who are bursting at the seams. Their storage park is almost at capacity, and the owners have begun turning to other airports to take the overflow.

The aircraft storage park at Alice Springs Airport is almost at capacity. Photo: Getty Images

Exponential growth at Alice Springs

According to a report in Australia Aviation, the long term aircraft storage park is close to its maximum capacity of 100 planes. Until the travel downturn, it was rare to see more than 20 aircraft there at any one time. But with thousands of aircraft sitting idle worldwide, airlines began sending their planes down to Alice Springs earlier this year. By July, the park was looking after nearly 50 aircraft. Now, it’s closer to double that number.

Singapore Airlines Group famously sent some of its massive A380s to Alice Springs mid-year, making headlines worldwide.

Business is so good the Northern Territory Government has kicked in a few million dollars to fund infrastructure expansion at APAS. The storage park is becoming a significant local employer and pumping millions back into the local economy.

Among the airlines now using the park are Cathay Pacific, Cebu Pacific, Cathay Dragon, Fiji Airways, Virgin Australia, Singapore Airlines, Silk Air, and Scoot.

Robyn Ironside in The Australian is reporting that APAS is expected to reach capacity next week.

Alice Springs Airport Houses Planes Grounded Due To The Coronavirus Pandemic
Alice Springs has become a popular parking spot for many airlines throughout 2020. Photo: Getty Images

Alice Springs aircraft storage park expanding and sending planes elsewhere

APAS is madly scrambling to expand. Soon it will have the ability to handle up to 200 planes over a 350,000 square meter site. APAS is also starting to work with other airports to take surplus aircraft. They’ve done a deal with Toowoomba’s Wellcamp Airport to store aircraft there.

Wellcamp is close to Brisbane, a couple of hours flying time east from Alice Springs Airport. The deal is interesting for many reasons. Both APAS and Wellcamp are examples of smaller private businesses operating in an industry dominated by big business and government. Both are agile and responsive – they get things done.

The two airports have different climates, and climate is important when it comes to storing aircraft. Alice Springs has a dry desert climate, hot days with low humidity, and colder nights. But it’s in central Australia, and that part of the world has red bulldust in abundance.

Toowoomba is a 90-minute drive inland from the Queensland coast. It’s more humid, but there’s a lot less dust to get into planes. Toowoomba and Wellcamp sit high on an escarpment. The area typically sees cold crisp winters and warm summers.

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Toowoomba’s Wellcamp Airport will offer an alternative to Alice Springs. Photo: Wellcamp Airport

Qantas passed on Alice Springs for California

The climatic differences mean APAS can offer its potential customers more choice. While Alice Springs is a popular choice for many airlines, not all choose it. Local airline Qantas famously picked California’s Mojave region over much closer Alice Springs to park its A380s and 787-9s.

Qantas says Alice Springs is too humid, so we guess they won’t like Wellcamp either as a storage option. But they also liked California because they’ve also got a big A380 maintenance and engineering base at Los Angeles International, an easy drive from the Mojave storage park.

That said, Wellcamp will appeal to some airlines. With the travel downturn continuing, APAS says they can see themselves looking after up to 300 aircraft. Meanwhile, they are busy building more hardstands at both airports.

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