By ERWIN CHLANDA
Good-bye boneyard, hello aircraft storage and maintenance facility.
Our dry climate, where corrosion is minimal, is crucial and ideal for keeping old planes alive, making us one of the best places in the world for this.
This makes The Alice a top competitor for similar facilities in Arizona and California.
On top of that we are much closer to Asia – the principal target for Asia Pacific Aircraft Storage Pty Ltd which is getting its operation here up to speed.
Its manager, Tom Vincent, says seven of the eight jetliners parked on its 100 hectare site so far – including two Airbus A319 and and two A320, and two wide-bodied Qantas 767s – are very much alive, subjected to scheduled maintenance, and destined to take off again.
Only a 737-300 is being “parted out” and when all the useful bits have been retrieved, the rest will be recycled.
There won’t be many dead aircraft at the Alice airport at any time, says Mr Vincent, a light aircraft pilot and enthusiast who’s been developing the project for six years.
The spin-off for Alice Springs is the expected growth of staff numbers, highly trained LAMES – licences aircraft mechanical engineers. There are three here at the moment. During peak periods there were 15 staff all up.
So far only 10% of the company’s leased area is in use for “hard standing,” big enough at present – depending on size – for up to 20 planes.
Mr Vincent plans for next is bringing Stage Two on line, bringing the total to 60 planes, with a commensurate increase in staff. A good number of them will live in The Alice.
Its 3500 hectares makes the Alice Springs airport the nation’s biggest, and one of the biggest in the world.
Its western and northern edges are earmarked for residential and some commercial development.
There are no concrete plans yet for that, says airport manager Dave Batic.
But the facility’s proximity to rail and road transport, and its central position within the nation, may well turn it into a hub for international freight some day.
By ERWIN CHLANDA