Rattlesnakes invade jumbo jets mothballed in ‘airplane graveyard’

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Mechanics at an airplane storage facility in the Southern California desert have found parked jets crawling with rattlesnakes.

And they’re using a high-tech tool to battle the venomous rattlers: broom handles.

Thousands of planes, put out of use by the pandemic-fueled travel downturn, have been sitting idly in hangars in the American southwest for much of the past year.

Qantas Airlines mechanics at a Victorville, Calif., storage facility two hours outside Los Angeles have found many of their craft crawling with scorpions and Mojave rattlesnakes in and around the wheel wells, according to reports.

“The area is well known for its feisty ‘rattlers’ who love to curl up around the warm rubber tyres (sic) and in the aircraft wheels and brakes, “reported Tim Heywood, a Qantas engineering executive, in a press release. “Every aircraft has its own designated ‘wheel whacker’ (a repurposed broom handle) as part of the engineering kit, complete with each aircraft’s registration written on it.”

As the pandemic crippled global travel, airlines around the world stored or retired thousands of aircraft in what are known as “airplane graveyards” in the deserts of Southern California and Arizona.

Many of those aircraft have since returned to ferrying passengers. But hundreds of the largest aircraft, including giant double-decker Airbus A380 jets used for long-haul travel, remain mothballed in these desert facilities.

The aircraft are carefully monitored even while in storage, with mechanics taking special care now to watch for slithering creatures.

“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. That’s about making sure no harm comes to our engineers or the snakes,” Heywood said.

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