VICTORVILLE — As demand for air travel has plummeted due to coronavirus-related restrictions, requests to store commercial aircraft have spiked, most noticeably at Southern California Logistics Airport.
At ComAv, which specializes in both short and long-term storage, company spokesperson Lisa Christine said Tuesday that more than 100 airplanes had already flown in since the weekend.
Typically, the company hosts about 280 aircraft at any one time, with a capacity to hold more than 500.
The number of incoming planes is anticipated to grow to 200 or more, Skeels said, as the pandemic is expected to swell.
“It’s all evolving very fast,” she said, adding that the company’s capacity for storage could expand with the closing of runways and other proposed alternatives.
Travel warnings and bans due to COVID-19 have been accompanied by airlines announcing the cancellation of flights and partial grounding of fleets.
On Tuesday, Delta Air Lines said employees were “carefully carrying out plans to safely and securely park more than 600 aircraft,” according to a statement.
Southwest Airlines announced the same day it planned to cancel 1,500 of about 4,000 daily flights starting Friday until April 14. Earlier, the company said it had reduced capacity by at least 20% in response to the outbreak.
Revenues in the air transport industry worldwide are projected to drop $252 billion from those made in 2019, according to the International Air Transport Association.
Christine said she couldn’t disclose the airlines that are storing their planes at SCLA. She said the situation was similar to what occurred after Sept. 11, 2001, when the terrorist attacks on U.S. soil led to a grounding of all aircraft.
Commercial planes can’t just be parked and left to sit, however.
Skeels said along with the increased demand for storage, the company is also working to recruit more than 120 aircraft maintenance technicians.
According to Federal Aviation Administration regulations, several procedures must take place to preserve planes while in storage, such as tire inflation, cleaning out the fuel system and inspection for moisture or mildew.
Skeels said this takes dedicated teams qualified to work on the different aircraft while they sit in the desert.
To quell concerns related to the coronavirus, she added that planes are cleaned and disinfected before flying into the airport and having technicians work on them.
“Hopefully, when all this subsides these aircraft will be deployed,” Skeels said.
According to the Los Angeles Times, over 2,600 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in California, with 55 deaths as of Tuesday evening.
San Bernardino County reported Tuesday evening its first coronavirus-related death, with the number of cases jumping to 38.