Visualizing The Pandemic’s Impact: 17,000+ Parked Planes

Anna Kroupina, Open Jaw

As of Tuesday, CTVNews reports there were 12,350 passenger planes in service around the world, according to travel analytics firm Cirium. That’s less than half the approximately 30,000 commercial aircraft that Cirium says would typically be flying the skies.

Grounding a multimillion-dollar plane isn’t as simple as parking a car in a garage and walking away. 

In short-term storage situations, a parked plane would still require engine and hydraulic system checks, tests to the aircraft’s electrical and flap systems, and tire rotations, says George Dimitroff, the head of valuations at Ascend by Cirium. 

“Aircraft are not designed to sit on the ground. Their condition actually deteriorates that way,” Dimitroff said. He also said planes in short-term storage are still flown occasionally so they’re not sitting idle the entire time.

WestJet, for example, was forced to ground more than 130 aircraft to respond to virus-related travel restrictions, and was able to do so in under a week, company spokesperson Morgan Bell said in an email to 

“Keeping the aircraft in warm storage treats the plane as if it is flying even though it’s not, meaning that regular maintenance intervals such as daily and weekly checks are performed on a schedule,” Bell wrote. 

Commercial jets placed in long-term storage will also undergo these types of periodic check ups. 

But the longer a plane sits idle, the higher the chance more high-level maintenance is needed to keep it functional and flight-ready.

A “C-check,” as it’s called in the industry, is an extensive inspection performed on an aircraft to determine its functionality and airworthiness. The frequency of performing C-checks varies depending on how many flight hours a plane has racked up as well as the carrier’s operational guidelines. 

Depending on the type of aircraft, Dimitroff estimates the cost of a C-check can run from $150,000 for a narrow-body aircraft to upwards of $300,000 for a wide-body jet.

In WestJet’s case, Bell said it takes about 60 man hours a week per aircraft to conduct the required maintenance. 

Multiply that process by the 17,271 aircraft that are currently parked on fields, airport tarmacs and in hangars around the world and it becomes clear how complex and costly it can become for airlines over time.

Anna Kroupina

Anna Kroupina Journalist

Anna is OJ's newest member and she joins the team as a writer/reporter. She co-writes the daily news and covers events. Although she's new to the industry, pursuing a career path in travel/tourism has been a goal since her first family road trip to the Florida Keys sparked a desire to discover the world and this exhilarating, fast-paced industry.

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