After being stored in the California desert due to Corona, how Qantas employees expel snakes on planes

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN)– Since the beginning of the pandemic, thousands of planes have been grounded from airlines around the world, with many of them temporarily moved to hot and arid deserts, ideal conditions for aircraft storage.

However, aircraft maintenance workers have discovered that such climates bring with them unwanted, and sometimes deadly, populations.

And Australian airline Qantas revealed that engineers tasked with maintaining its fleet of giant A380s, which are stored in California’s Mojave Desert, had to come up with a simple, but effective system to protect themselves from venomous rattlesnakes in the area.

In a news update posted on the airline’s website, Tim Heywood, director of engineering at Qantas in Los Angeles, said: “The area is known for its snakes, which love to get around on warm rubber tires, aircraft wheels and brakes.”

Before carrying out any inspections of the landing gear, Heywood says, workers first walk around the plane, stepping on their feet and hitting the wheels with a paddle, to scare away any sleeping snakes.

“We’ve encountered a few rattlesnakes and some scorpions as well, but the racket does its job, which makes them stay away,” he noted.

At the height of the epidemic, more than two-thirds of the world’s commercial aircraft were grounded and sent to storage facilities around the world.

Unused Qantas A380s sit at an airport in Victorville, California.
Credit: Qantas

Once stopped, the planes go through a process that includes draining fluids, covering the engine and exhaust areas and protecting external instruments such as Pito tubes, which are used to monitor the aircraft’s speed in flight.

Although experts say it will take at least two years before air traffic returns to its pre-pandemic levels, air travel has slowly begun to recover, with countries reopening their borders to global travelers.

Getting planes out of hibernation isn’t that simple, requiring more than just starting the engine and taking off the plane. CNN Travel spoke with several experts about the process it would take for planes to return to travel, in 2020.

According to licensed B1 aircraft engineer, Steve Smith, he explained that preparing the aircraft after it had been parked for a period of time meant that one had to start with simple things, such as removing the huge number of voids and straps covering each hole or port.

According to Smith, a wide-body aircraft takes more than 100 hours to make it airworthy after storage, and about 40 hours for a narrow-body aircraft.

The time taken depends on both the size of the aircraft and how long it has been stored.

“While long-term stowed aircraft can take a long time, especially if you’re talking about an aircraft like the A380, it’s going to be a lot of work because it’s a big plane,” Smith explained.

Other tasks include changing the fluids in the motors and reconnecting the batteries.

“Then you turn everything on, re-establish everything and do all functional checks of the system,” Smith said.