Grounded: Southwest Ferries 737 MAXs to California Desert

A Southwest 737 MAX in Las Vegas (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

As the fallout of the Boeing 737 MAX groundings continue to linger, Southwest has prepared for a long term wait on getting the newest variant of the Boeing 737 aircraft airborne again with some of their MAX 8 aircraft making a trip to Southern California Logistics Airport for what could be long term storage.

The airline had six of their 34 aircraft make the trip to the desert on Saturday in anticipation of the grounding continuing for some time.

A large portion of the airline’s fleet of Boeing 737-300s were moved to the Mojave Desert after their time with the airline came to an end on Sept. 29, 2017 with the fleet slowly dwindling in the last few years before being completely removed just before the 737 MAX 8 would enter service. However, unlike the Boeing 737-300s that made the trip to Victorville in 2017, Southwest fully expects the entire 737 MAX 8 fleet to make the trip back out and resume service with the carrier at a later date.

Southern California and Arizona have always been a hotbed of aircraft graveyards and aircraft storage as the hot, dry and unwavering temperatures keep airframes from seeing too much wear and tear from the elements and Southwest’s choice of moving the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to the desert gets some airplanes out of wetter climates.

Of the six aircraft that made the move, two came from Nashville and St. Louis and Indianapolis saw a single 737 MAX leave their airfield for California. The other two airframes came from Dallas-Love and Phoenix. Southwest’s remaining 737 MAXs remain scattered across the country ranging from Las Vegas to Baltimore. Whether or not these aircraft make the trip to the desert has yet to be seen.

For the other two U.S. carriers that use the MAX, aircraft movements were made in the few days following the grounding. American moved their fleet of MAXs with most being moved to either Miami or Tulsa while United moved theirs to Houston. For both of these airlines, their respective aircraft were moved to main hubs for the MAX with Tulsa being a maintenance base for American’s operations.

While the 737 MAX grounding continues to plague airlines that utilize the type, Boeing continues to strive for solutions to get the aircraft’s MCAS system to avoid causing similar incidents that occurred with Lion Air and Ethiopian. Boeing expects the first changes to come through by the end of the month, but Southwest has prepared for a longer hold by repositioning their aircraft for potentially long-term storage.

Ian McMurtry

Although Ian McMurtry was never originally an avgeek, he did enjoy watching US Airways aircraft across western Pennsylvania in the early 2000s. He lived along the Pennsylvania Railroad and took a liking to trains but a change of scenery in the mid-2000s saw him shift more of an interest into aviation. He would eventually express this passion by taking flying lessons in mid-Missouri and joining AirlineGeeks in 2013. Now living in Wichita, Kansas, Ian is in college majoring in aerospace engineering and minoring in business administration at Wichita State University.
Ian McMurtry