TOURISTS might soon have a reason to fly to Alice Springs other than visiting Uluru.
The red centre could soon have its equivalent of the so-called aircraft ”boneyards” synonymous with deserts in California and Arizona.
A 110-hectare site beside Alice Springs Airport’s runway and terminal has been earmarked as Australia’s first graveyard for airlines’ old workhorses. The arid climate makes it ideal for storing planes, and the airport’s runway is big enough to handle passenger planes as large as Airbus’s A380 superjumbos.
The Brisbane company behind the plans, Asia Pacific Aircraft Storage, wants to begin construction on a parking lot big enough for up to 300 aircraft such as Boeing 737s, 767s and 747s by the end of the year.
Having signed an initial 10-year lease with Alice Springs Airport, the next challenge will be to find airlines and aircraft leasing companies willing to ditch the Mojave Desert in California and Arizona’s 840- hectare Pinal Airpark in Arizona for Alice Springs.
”Our focus now is to get out and speak to potential customers, and gauge their interest,” Asia Pacific Aircraft Storage’s managing director, Tom Vincent, said yesterday. ”We are not trying to reinvent the wheel – it is modelled on the same [sites] as in the US.”
Qantas has three 737s and three 747 jumbos parked in the Mojave Desert.
It said the Mojave was an ideal location for retired aircraft because the largeness of Southern California Aviation’s site at Victorville made it ”attractive to buyers”.
”However, if we did need to park any more aircraft in future – and there was a good Australian facility available – then that would potentially be of interest,” a Qantas spokesman said yesterday.
Australia’s dry climate makes many places ideal for aircraft storage but most lack runways big enough to handle large passenger jets. Alice Springs, in contrast, can be used by A380s in an emergency.
Mr Vincent takes exception to the negative descriptions of aircraft parking lots as ”graveyards” and ”boneyards”. He said most aircraft retired to such facilities were recycled for parts or aluminium. ”It is not a dump or tip, as some people make out,” he said.
His company was backed by private investors, mostly in Brisbane.
Mr Vincent declined to name them but said the multimillion-dollar project would be funded by equity rather than debt. The company would need to build a taxi way, a refuelling area and hard stands for aircraft.
Mr Vincent said his company would also consider allowing planespotters access to the site, although they would not have ”free rein” because the site was beside a working airport.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald (http://m.smh.com.au/business/alice-springs-likely-as-aviation-graveyard-20110527-1f8kj.html)Accessed:??28/05/11 1:49 PM