Two generations working on a solution

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My name is Matt Pankratz. I received the following from my father (Steve Pankratz) this morning and want to share it as my first Medium story. Thanks.

Begin Steve Pankratz’s writing —

The attached information/proposal was brainstormed by my brother, David Pankratz. David is a retired corporate pilot with a unique life experience in aviation. He is also blessed with a creative mind.

I am making this available to my friends in order to broadcast David’s Idea. I have checked with him regarding intellectual property issues. We both grew up on a Minnesota farm and know that in tough times like these, it’s not about power and profit, but the commonness of humankind and the value in recognizing strength in coming together. So, feel free to share this idea with anyone who is interested and especially folks and groups interested in developing the idea.

Begin David Pankratz writing —

March 2020


With reference to our telecon this afternoon, I have organized some thoughts and ideas on the utilization of the numerous airliners that are now idle, and parked all over the US. Most of these aircraft are just off recent service, or can quickly be reconfigured and made available at various locations where the need for hospital bed space in urgent. The general idea is not to transport patients, but to bring the largest planes to major airports where the patients can be brought to an dedicated and isolated airport concourse, where they can then board one of these aircraft which have been reconfigured for emergency patient assessment, testing, and ventilator/ICU treatment as indicated. Beginning with close coordination with knowledgeable and qualified hospital nurses, doctors, technicians, health officials, airline executives, city mayors/state governors, and perhaps Boeing/Airbus systems engineers, I believe these planes could each be stripped overnight of all seats and non-essential equipment. (lavs, sinks, micro-wave ovens, etc, should be left in place) The cabins would be cleaned and prepped to hospital standards now in use. The next phase might require the plane be flown to where the medical equipment is located, or the equipment be brought to the location of the plane and the technical personnel. Emergency hospital beds/cots could be installed with appropriate spacing and separation, and minimal disruption to the floor fittings. Required medical equipment and machines could be readily hooked into the aircraft electrical, air, and oxygen systems already on board. WiFi could be used for telemetry transmissions to hospital centers for monitoring and tracing purposes. Once configured, each plane would be flown to a suitable airport in the area or city of urgent need. The planes should be met with all necessary ground support, including electric, air conditioning and purification filtering, human waste, and bio-hazard disposal equipment. This equipment would be manned 24/7, until the plane is no longer needed. It could then be re-assigned as necessary. These planes, then, would be mobile ERs or hospitals. They would not fly patients, but would serve in place as an urgent, temporary facility, to relieve and augment the needs of the areas in the US which may become overwhelmed by the COVID-19 patients. I have no idea how this would be funded, but I am convinced it can be done logistically, and quickly. Please read the article at the link. I am open to suggestions, and I reiterate that you can modify, amend, or civilize this idea as you see fit. You have a thorough background and knowledge in Boeings of all sizes, and can easily visualize what I am proposing here. I believe you can transmit theses ideas to the people who can make this happen. I was glad that I was able to contact you so soon, Steve. Please keep me looped in, as to progress and feedback. Thanks!

Regards, David

Where Are The World’s Empty Airbus A380s Being Parked? — Simple Flying Where Are The World’s Empty Airbus A380s Being Parked? — Simple Flying As a number of the world’s airlines cut their service capacity, many of their fleets have been grounded.…

P.S.: I did some rough math after consulting with Laura, my chief nurse, and Tim, my nephew-in-law in ICT, who runs the respiratory therapy dept. for a major hospital. With reference to dimensions of the main and upper A-380 decks, the total square area of 6880 sq. ft. would allow for approximately 100 to 115 beds, with proper separation and working clearance for nurses/doctors/techs to move around each bed. Much of the equipment could be stowed in the overhead baggage compartments, and some under each bed. Also, Boeing in ICT has recently laid off nearly 10,000 people, many of whom were on the 737 MAX. I can imagine that some could be called back to help accomplish these reconfigs. Most interestingly, my brother Steve, who lives in ICT, said there is a Boeing/Airbus group there that works together on different projects.

As a number of the world’s airlines cut their service capacity, many of their fleets have been grounded. This novel situation has necessitated immediate solutions where space is limited. With so many aircraft temporarily out of action, where will they be stored and what will happen to the empty A380s?

What will happen to the grounded A380s?

Photo: Getty Images

What’s the issue?

The airline industry is still battling the ill effects of reduced travel demand due to coronavirus. Not only has that caused logistical problems for rescheduling flights and cutting services, but it also presents the issue of airlines having large numbers of aircraft out of operation. Airlines like Lufthansa have been forced to ground a significant portion of their fleet.

Large aircraft like the A380 have been some of the first aircraft to be grounded due to schedule deficiencies. The aircraft are large and there’s simply not the demand for the seats at the present moment. It makes sense for airlines to drop these aircraft in the interest of saving money. However, whether it’s widebodies or narrowbodies, airlines still have the issue of where to store these planes.

The issue is that the aircraft groundings are only temporary. It’s not as simple as shipping these planes off to be scrapped. Airlines will want to use them again. The obvious answer is to keep the aircraft at their home airport. However, as Lufthansa recently found out, airport storage space is limited.

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Where are airlines storing their A380 aircraft?

That said, some of the world’s largest airlines have found a way around this unique conundrum and that includes the storage of the widebody giant A380.

One airline that has already stored some of its A380 fleet is Lufthansa. It’s got four A380 aircraft parked in Terminal 3 at Frankfurt Airport, but the airport is running out of space and it’s not only A380s that need a home.


For this reason, Lufthansa is also using Berlin Brandenburg International Airport (BER) to store seven Airbus A320 and 12 A321s. The airport is currently under construction which makes it an excellent storage facility in the short term. In addition, Lufthansa is pulling on its other hubs, like Hamburg for example, to store grounded aircraft.

Some of Lufthansa’s A380s are parked in Frankfurt Airport. Photo: Getty Images

US airlines are storing their widebodies

However, the A380 is not the only widebody heading into storage. In the US, American Airlines has found storage for nine grounded widebody aircraft that it owns. The airline will be sending these aircraft to one of two locations: Pennsylvania or Oklahoma.

According to The Points Guy (TPG), the airline will be storing three Airbus A330 aircraft at Pittsburgh International Airport. In addition, it will send four of its Boeing aircraft to Tusla International Airport. Here two Boeing 777 and two Boeing 787 will be stored.

American Airlines will also park some of its aircraft.

Photo: Getty Images

Delta Air Lines has also managed to find storage for some of its widebodies. It plans to park over 600 aircraft including some which are already accounted for. Its A350s stored in Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport in Alabama and Pinal Airpark in Arizona will be joined by some Boeing 767s and Airbus A330s. Its strategy of putting planes in the desert in Arizona is a sensible one that could gain more traction.

Parking in the desert

When aircraft are grounded for periods of time longer than one year, they tend to end up in the desert. That’s because the conditions in this dry heat prevent rapid degradation. Parking grounded aircraft in the desert will unlikely be the first choice for many airlines. That’s because if air carriers wanted to use their aircraft again and quickly then parking in an accessible location is important.

However, when that first choice is no longer available, the desert is a suitable alternative. Since there’s no timeline for how long these groundings will last, parking in arid desert conditions will mean that airlines will save on maintenance costs in the long run.

More aircraft will be grounded

Not all of the world’s airlines have shared information about where their aircraft will be parked. Qantas confirmed that it would be grounding the majority of its A380 fleet as would Korean Airlines. However, it’s unclear where Qantas’ eight and Korean Airlines’ 10 A380 aircraft will go.

Where will Qantas’ A380s go?

Photo: Getty Images

In addition, Emirates has some 115 A380 aircraft, although only 20 of them have been grounded so far. When the time comes, where will these aircraft go?

What’s for certain is that the logistical capacity for storing aircraft has not yet been exceeded. The development of the coronavirus will necessitate that airlines and airports get even more inventive with their thinking, but there are still options. Could we see more airports act like Copenhagen and use spare runways as parking lots? We’ll have to wait and see what airlines decide.



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