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Snakes Found Napping in Stored Qantas A380s

A fleet of Qantas A380s stored in the California Mojave Desert during the COVID pandemic are frequently inspected by Los Angeles-based engineers.  The engineering staff have found quite a few unwelcome stow-away passengers.  Qantas Manager for Engineering in Los Angeles, Tim Heywood, said, “We’ve encountered a few rattlesnakes and also some scorpions.  It’s a unique part of looking after these aircraft while they’re in storage, and it’s another sign of how strange the past year has been.” 

Qantas reports that snakes and stinging critters like sleeping in the wheel wells and around the wheels of the A380s.  “The Mojave Desert is an ideal environment for venomous rattlesnakes and scorpions.  Both set up camp around the wheel wells and tires of slumbering aircraft,” says Qantas.  One reason the Mojave Desert was chosen as the site to store the A380s was the area’s dry heat and low humidity - snakes find these types of weather conditions appealing as well.

According to Qantas, the A380s wheels, tires, and landing gear legs are kept wrapped in a protective film in an attempt to ward off animals; however, during inspections, wheels need to be rotated and tire pressures checked.  There are tight, confined areas that need to be unwrapped and poked into – areas that could be hiding a bird’s nest, scorpion, or a rattlesnake.

Every aircraft has its own designated wheel whacker (a repurposed broom handle) as part of the engineering inspection kit.  “The first thing we do before we unwrap and start any ground inspections of the landing gear, in particular, is to walk around the aircraft stomping our feet and tapping the wheels with a wheel whacker to wake up and scare off the snakes,” said Heywood.

The A380s are expected to be stored in California for another year or two before bringing them back into service.  In the meantime, the engineers are keeping the planes in tiptop condition.  “The wheel whacker does its job, and the snakes scuttle off,” says a Qantas employee.