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Widebodies: Park, Store, Scrap, Return to Service? — October 2021

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There are always some aircraft in the world’s commercial fleet that are parked, in storage, or otherwise just not in service. They may be on their way to a new operator, getting ready for conversion from passenger to freight, heading for a retirement home, destined for the knackers yard, or just being used for spares. Even in good times this can be around 5% of the available fleet, as it was at the end of 2019.

In each of the past few cyclical downturns, the aircraft boneyards in such as the Mojave desert, Teruel or Alice Springs, have been a temporary solution for commercial airlines to cope with the sudden loss of demand; and the proportion of aircraft in storage has historically risen to over 15% of the total commercial fleet. Industry observers have dusted off their analysis from the previous downturn to point out that a good majority of the parked aircraft will not return to service: the downturn acts as a catalyst to retire aircraft that had already been worked past retirement age.


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