It is no secret that air travel is in a downwards spiral. The industry always manages to find excuses, it could be the crappy economy, high fuel prices, or a general sense of panic that is keeping people from flying.
And when air traffic drops, so does the demand for many of the planes operated by the airlines. When a route could once be served by a 747, low traffic may now demand a smaller plane, and when a 747 is idle, you can’t just pull into a parking spot at the local airport and throw some quarters in the meter.
There are several types of aircraft boneyards in the world – some specialize in ripping all the valuable parts out of the carcass, others devote their knowledge to preparing the plane for a long break, awaiting the return of paying passengers.
A plane that is destined for a long break will have all its fluids removed, as well as some instruments that don’t do too well when they sit still. The engines and other openings are then blocked, and the airline simply pays for the spot. Some airlines even pay to have the plane moved around a little, to keep the tires in good shape.
In total, 1200 planes were grounded and moved to the boneyard last year, with an additional 675 heading to a parking spot this year, making it one of the worst on record.