When you think of aircraft graveyards your first thought is probably Victorville, California – the Walmart of second hand aircraft – not Alice Springs, home to the only aircraft graveyard in the Southern Hemisphere.
Last month, the Asia Pacific Aircraft Storage (APAS) facility – received its first resident an EMB-120 Brasilia. APAS is capable of holding 250 large aircraft up to Code E – A340-600 or B747 – size. Designed as a storage and aircraft on-sale facility, it also has the capability to break down aircraft that reach the end of their service life.
APAS markets itself as a local alternative to the graveyards on the US West Coast “offering significant fleet efficiencies and costs savings”. Even so, airlines were initially reluctant to park aircraft with three years passing before the first Brasilia arrived.
Alice Springs is seemingly perfect for a graveyard: an ATC tower that can offer 24 hour service if required, no curfew, no noise complaints, and it enjoys year round balmy 30+ degree, low humidity weather.
As a Free Trade Zone Victorville offers substantial commercial advantages – there’s no tariffs or quotas – and it is a 24/7 U.S. Customs port of entry. Alice Springs offers neither of these benefits. Pratt & Whitney, GE, Boeing and Federal Express all have large operations at SCLA, and the size of the operations drives economies of scale that makes parking, on-sale or aircraft recycling significantly cheaper. Managing these functions has supported a very lucrative diversification for maintenance/support contractors who kick the tyres and undertake an engine run or two on the stored aircraft. You can have your fleet stripped and painted. While there is a limitless supply of material to support the training colleges that certify ~200 new AME’s per annum.
Plenty of Asia-Pacific airlines, including Qantas, are looking for a storage solution closer to home. With enough aircraft parked, similar economies of scale may eventually allow APAS to offer the same. And growth will only be an opportunity for economic diversification in the red centre, which currently relies so heavily on tourism.
It’s important industry and the Federal Government realise the APAS facility delivers a new long-term strategic capability to Australia’s aerospace industry.
Qantas first B767-300ER VH-OGR to be retired at the facility. Image: APAS.