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Air New Zealand planes coming to Roswell airfield


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The Roswell Air Center is scheduled to be the storage site for some Air New Zealand Ltd. aircraft being retired.

Air Center Director Scott Stark said that this is the first time to his knowledge that the airline has stored planes in Roswell.

He said it “looks like eight B-777s are coming.”

He said the arrival date of the planes is not certain, but that he expects that they will be stored here until sold or scrapped.

“They won’t be going back into service with Air New Zealand,” Stark said. “These airlines have had to make retirement plans for these airplanes. COVID-19 sped up those decisions for some of them.”

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The planes will join about 477 other commercial aircraft now stored at the Air Center, a record number due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the worldwide slowdown of commercial passenger air service.

The Air Center had built a reputation as a storage site even before the coronavirus. The generally mild temperatures and dry weather and the availability of parking area made Roswell suited for the purpose. The Air Center also has several maintenance and repair organizations, or MROs, that refurbish, repair and dismantle planes, sometimes selling parts or components.

The typical number of planes in storage had been about 200 prior to the COVID-19 situation. City officials wrote to airlines letting them know of available space here and cleared about 300 acres for parking. The city gets about $14 a day for aircraft, and MROs also can earn money performing maintenance required by the Federal Aviation Administration if the planes are expected to be sold or put back into service.

Stark said the Air Center now gets an airplane or two for storage each day. He said the airfield has the capacity to store another 100 or so aircraft, depending on its size.

According to an Air New Zealand news release, the airline company has experienced a 74% drop in passenger revenues due to the pandemic, which led to its first operating loss in 18 years of abut $87 million. Industry news reports said the company has decided to use a more fuel-efficient aircraft instead of the 777s for now and until at least September 2021, and noted that some of the 777s were expected to be stored in California, as well.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.