Friday 14 June 2024

Cathay Pacific pulls last aircraft from storage

Last week, the Cathay Group reactivated its 85th and final aircraft, concluding the extended parking of its fleet in the arid regions of Australia and Spain.

After almost four years in the desert of Alice Springs, Australia, Cathay Pacific's Airbus A330 with the registration B-HLV landed back in Hong Kong for a comprehensive hangar maintenance check. This aircraft was the first to be stored overseas by the Cathay Group on the 28th of July 2020, when the pandemic brought global air travel to a virtual halt.

During the peak of the pandemic, Cathay Pacific and HK Express were compelled to store the majority of their passenger fleet at Hong Kong International Airport and at remote locations in Alice Springs, Australia, and Ciudad Real, Spain. With the pandemic receding, the Cathay Group began the gradual process of bringing these aircraft back into operation.
If my records are correct, Cathay Pacific stored 57 aircraft at the Alice Springs Graveyard, and HK Express stored 10 aircraft.

Alex McGowan, Chief Operations and Service Delivery Officer, stated, "The task of parking and reactivating such a large number of aircraft is unprecedented in Cathay's history, involving a once-in-a-lifetime scale and complexity. An immense amount of work is required to ensure an aircraft remains safe and protected while grounded, and then to prepare it for re-entry into regular service. Accomplishing this for over 85 aircraft that were parked long-term overseas, in addition to those in Hong Kong, represents a remarkable feat.

Upon arrival, each aircraft designated for long-term parking in Alice Springs was subjected to a 14-day preservation check, which was followed by a series of recurring inspections and checks. Throughout the duration of the parking program in Alice Springs, over 16,000 periodic checks were carried out, with 800,000 labor hours dedicated to preservation, periodic, and reactivation maintenance tasks.

In addition, more than 40,000 parts and specialized equipment items were transported from Hong Kong to facilitate the operations in Alice Springs. Concurrently, the Cathay Group's on-site Quality Assurance team executed over 2,000 audits.

"Now that our fleet is fully assembled again, we are turning our attention to future investments. The Cathay Group has placed orders for more than 70 new aircraft and holds the option to acquire 52 more. We are also considering the acquisition of a new mid-size widebody aircraft. These investments signify our continued belief in the Hong Kong international aviation hub, especially in light of the promising prospects offered by the fully operational Three-Runway System at Hong Kong International Airport by the end of this year."

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