Practice English Speaking&Listening with: How Airlines Park Thousands Of Planes

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The coronavirus has devastated the airline industry.

U.S. air travel has dropped 95 % compared to last year, and the

number of flights scheduled globally is down by 63 %.

The insides of airports are empty, but outside is another story.

While some airlines have started transporting cargo on passenger

planes, more than two-thirds of the world's commercial aircraft are

grounded. It's somewhere between 14 and 15,000 aircraft that are

parked, or almost 60 % of the fleet.

Never before in history have airlines had to ground so many planes so

quickly. Customers have come to us and said, look, we're parking

literally hundreds of aircraft per day.

And logistically, it's very, very complex.

This is a particular difficult time and we've created a particular

app that literally allows them to virtually park the aircraft with no

demand for flights. Delta and United reported their first quarterly

losses in more than five years.

American Airlines told CNBC its revenue is down 90 % from a year ago.

Parking hundreds of aircraft is also adding to their losses.

These planes can't just sit idle.

They need routine maintenance and a place to be stored.

And when you suddenly have thousands of planes with nowhere to go, it

becomes a logistical nightmare.

Before the coronavirus hit, airplanes were where they were meant to be

in the air. At certain times of the year, there could be as many as

20,000 planes in flight at the same time around the world.

At the end of 2019, the global air fleet was nearly 24,000 and now

more than 16,000 of those massive machines need a place to park.

And that number can continue to go up as airlines cut their networks.

Aircraft storage facilities have been around for decades, but never in

history has the aviation industry had to park so many planes at once.

Airlines are having to get creative about finding space for planes.

A recent flyover of a storage facility in Victorville, California,

shows planes fit together like puzzle pieces on unused runways.

Victorville is well known as one of the world's biggest airplane

boneyards, a storage location for out of service or old planes.

It was already storing Southwest's fleet of Boeing 737 max eight, but

it's now storing hundreds of other aircraft due to the lack of demand

and air travel. Victorville, along with boneyards in Roswell, New

Mexico, and Tucson, Arizona, are currently the top three locations

for parked aircraft. They've collectively stored 800 so far.

Routine parking happens from time to time.

Very, very small volumes of aircraft.

But this is completely unprecedented, so widespread that aircraft are

being parked at airports, all over major airports now have many

parked aircraft on the ground and they're gonna be there for a while?

As you can see here, American Airlines is using Tulsa International

Airport as a parking lot for many of its jets.

There's currently over 50 grounded airplanes here.

Nothing this big has ever landed in the Alice.

More than a dozen planes are now sitting in a storage facility at the

Outback Airport.

Aircraft range in size.

For scale, a standard football field is 160 ft.

wide. A narrow body jet like Boeing 737 has a wingspan of 117 ft.

But wide body airliners can be twice that.

The world's largest plane, Airbus's A380, has a wingspan of 261 ft.

Even aircraft manufacturer Airbus is being asked to help out.

Customers have come to us and said, look, we're talking literally

hundreds of aircraft per day and we have a huge amount of maintenance

work to do with that. And we've created that particular app.

And that's an app that helps our customers to work out exactly how

much maintenance is needed and even logistically where the aircraft

are. And that enables them to very quickly optimize how to block the

aircraft, which park them and also to prepare them when they come out

of service when this is through.

Airbus, along with Boeing, dominate the commercial aircraft industry

and together make up 91% of the market share.

Airbus has over 11,000 planes in operation.

Skywise is a digital platform the manufacturer offers its customers

to keep up the health of an aircraft.

It collects data from systems and sensors to help predict

maintenance, as well as help with logistics of daily operations.

Airbus has added a new feature to help airlines find parking.

Parking an airplane isn't as easy as just finding a spot.

Factors like how long the plane will be out of service and what type

of maintenance needs to be done, play a role in finding a location.

A decision is made as to whether it's basically storage or whether

it's actual parking.

Now, parking is typically relatively short term.

It's a bit like putting something in the fridge compared to longer

term storage, which would be where you put it in the freezer.

So certain pieces of maintenance must be done before you can pick up

an aircraft, even if it's just for a couple of days.

These aircraft cost hundreds of millions of dollars and maintaining

them is not cheap. Even when parked, they need to run the engines,

cycle fluids and move the tires, among many other checklist items.

This is why some airlines are flying with just a few passengers aboard

just to keep them running.

When airlines know the plane is going to sit for months at a time,

they're sent to the desert because the dry climate helps prevent

corrosion. If it sits on the ground for one or two months and has

been operated that whole time, it requires a lot more maintenance to

bring it back in the service than, let's say, if it has been started

up every 10 days or so.

I was just speaking with the head of maintenance for significant U.S.

airline. And what this person told me is that right now they have

need for X number of aircraft, but they're actually keeping 2X.

In other words, twice as many active and they're rotating them in and

out. So that way for those other aircraft, they won't have to worry

about the more extensive maintenance bringing them back in the

service. At the moment, w e have about 80% of the fleet in the park

ing mode. Eithad Airways, for example, returned over 100 planes to

its main base in Abu Dhabi, where it sealed up engines and sensors to

prevent things like sand from getting into critical areas.

They're a very intricate, complex piece of machinery.

It's not a lot parking a car.

The outlook for coronavirus is still unclear.

Boeing told its shareholders that air travel could take two to three

years to return to normal.

Airlines have had to consolidate fleets to cut back on costs.

International travel has been hurt the most and with good reason.

And it's very difficult now to travel between countries.

This means that long haul aircraft, which are generally what we call

twin aisles, or wide bodies are going to suffer more than single

aisles like the 737 and 320.

The A380, the big double decker that Airbus launched a little bit

over a decade ago, every one of those is on the ground.

A hundred percent of the A380s are grounded today.

The larger it is and the older it is, the more it suffers.

So when you're down gauge, you're going to go to the smaller

aircraft, the most economical aircraft.

Airlines before co ronavirus were doing great.

They had the highest employment levels in the United States, at least

in 17 years.

They were hiring like crazy, Pilots, flight attendants, expecting

this big rush in travel to continue.

And we've seen it over the last decade, the decade of profitability.

And now they're going to be posting the first losses in years.

Airlines have seen incredible losses.

And analysts don't expect that to stop anytime soon.

Like many businesses, large and small, they're in survival mode and

looking for ways to conserve cash.

Lack of demand could lead to canceling or deferring future orders

from manufacturers.

Airbus and Boeing have already cut back on production.

And both companies are planning to slash jobs.

As for the thousands of aircraft parked around the world, retirement

could come much earlier than expected.

The thing to understand is that before this crisis hit, airlines

couldn't get these planes fast enough with one of their biggest

complaints was that aircraft were delayed.

So the market for aircraft was very high.

Airbus and Boeing, which dominate aircraft production, have been sold

out of some of their best sellers through pretty much the middle of

the decade. So it was even hard to get a slot.

And we're going to see that kind of reverse.

And you'll see some cancellations.

You'll see deferrals. We'll see that market sort of loosen up.

But some airlines, because fuel is such a big cost, they do want the

more fuel efficient aircraft going forward.

But the timing of when they get those planes, that's going to change.

It will all depend on when demand comes back.

6,000 of these are 15 years or older.

4000 of these are 20 years or more.

And so they're already approaching retirement age.

And we're in a situation now where we have thousands of excess

aircraft. So if you're an airline and you're deciding what aircraft

you're going to keep around, you don't want to spend millions of

dollars on maintenance to keep your older aircraft around for them to

fly into next year.

So the impact here is dramatic.

There is no timeline for when the world will return back to normal.

So for now, much of these aircraft will sit waiting for the return to

normalcy like the rest of us.

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