Qantas is sending a regional jet on an epic round-the-world trip, but the 17-year-old Boeing 717 aircraft may soon end up being broken up into spare parts to keep Delta Air’s own fleet of ageing 717s running.
The Qantas Link 717 that’s currently flying around the world is set to end up in the Victorville airplane boneyard, but the direct flight between Australia and the southern Californian desert is slightly beyond the 717s maximum range of 1,570 nautical miles.
Although the aircraft (registration: VH-YQV) is officially marked as ‘in storage’, the iconic rear-engined plane was regularly flying on behalf of Qantas Link between Canberra and Melbourne before it positioned to Broome in Western Australia on April 18 in preparation for its trip to California.
Since then, the plane has visited Surabaya in Indonesia, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, Bengaluru in India, Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates, Hurghada in Egypt, Sofia in Bulgaria, Stavanger in Norway and Reykjavik in Iceland.
The aircraft left Australia for the final time on April 19 and, by Monday, April 24, had made it to Iceland with a couple more stops scheduled before it reaches Victorville.
Once in California, the 717 is set to be dismantled and used for spare parts to help keep Delta’s existing fleet of 60 active Boeing 717s in operation. Delta has been in search of spare parts since Boeing stopped making the 717 in 2006 – considered a flop of an aircraft after Boeing failed to win no more than 156 orders.
The 717 is now only operated by Delta, Hawaiian Airlines and Qantas (through its Qantas Link regional subsidiary).
Both Delta and Qantas are replacing their 717 fleets with Airbus A220s, but it seems as if Qantas has a more aggressive replacement timeline, and the Sydney-based carrier plans to take delivery of its first A220 in the second half of 2023.
Qantas announced its domestic narrowbody replacement order last May, which was codenamed, Project Winton. The airline has placed firm orders for 20 Airbus A321XLRs and 20 A220-300s which will replace the 717 fleet and ageing 737s.
Chief executive Alan Joyce says the new planes will become the ‘backbone’ of Qantas’ domestic fleet for the next 20 years and that improved range and economics will open the possibility of starting new routes that weren’t previously possible.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.