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With various countries grounding the 737 Max, where are they (their carriers) keeping the grounded planes? Are they simply being kept at Gates of various airports (which I doubt since gates are expensive and/or logistical reasons)? Are there "holding areas" at some airports?

While I understand some carriers just fly a few of these, what about those carriers with larger fleets, such as ones in China or the EU?

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Gates (with jetways and all that) are extremely precious. They are only used by passenger aircraft, and even then to load or unload passengers. My last flight had a nice tailwind and arrived early; we had to wait 20 minutes for a gate to open up.

During any other times, aircraft are sent to a ramp area, or a chunk of airport area reserved for parking and servicing airplanes.

London Heathrow is a very cramped airport with an abnormally tiny ramp area, however here is much of it.

enter image description here

Note the special guest near bottom, just right of center.

Notice a couple of areas walled off for engine run-up testing. Southwest of here there's additional ramp in the space reserved for Terminal 5D. All in all, Heathrow is very sparse on ramp area; even SFO has more. (SFO also still has the literal ramps for seaplane operations.)

Now, busy airports have lots of taxiways that less-busy airports do not need, like taxiway A and B at Heathrow, which provide basically 2-way traffic. If an incident causes reduced activity that makes some of those taxiways redundant, they can park planes on them. Further, if certain runways are expected to be crosswind runways for the duration of a crisis, they can stack those up too. At extremes, Kingman Airport basically took their east-west runway out of service and is using it to store decommissioned RJ's. They used to store more aircraft still. This could also be done temporarily with a crosswind or little-used runway.

enter image description here

Also, even if an airplane is grounded, a ferry move may be permitted out of a very cramped airport like Midway to an airport with more ramp space available. Look at this sat photo of the ramp at Victorville (former George AFB). See something familiar?

enter image description here

The date is Aug. 25, 2018, and these planes are about 110' long, making these most likely 737-300's (or -700s?). Bet Southwest wishes they had them back right now! The one at far right is about 129' long, making it a -800 or MAX 8.

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    $\begingroup$ One of those planes is not like the others. One of those planes isn't the same! $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Mar 13 at 22:26
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidRicherby sssshh! It's incognito. $\endgroup$ – jwenting Mar 14 at 5:10
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    $\begingroup$ By the way, although the photo clearly shows Southwest-liveried Boeing 737s, I don't think we can identify what specific kind of 737s they are. Since this answer was posted within a few hours of the grounding of the American 737 Max fleet, and since Google maps satellite views can be years old, I think it's misleading to suggest that the photo contains Max 8's. In particular, the shadows of the wings suggest that these planes don't have the split wingtips that are characteristic of the Max-8. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Mar 14 at 9:59
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidRicherby: Besides, many if not most of Southwest's 737NGs have also been retrofitted with split winglets (albeit of a slightly different design). $\endgroup$ – Sean Mar 16 at 3:01
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    $\begingroup$ Those aren't 737NGs, Southwest hasn't displaced any from the MAX yet. Those are 737 Classics which were taken out of service because of the fuel tank interting requirement (December 2017). $\endgroup$ – user71659 Mar 17 at 2:30
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They're at whatever airport they were at (or next landed at) when they were grounded. Airports are big enough places that there's room plenty of room to park planes that aren't currently in use, and it's completely normal to have such planes parked at an airport. Just look at a few in Google Maps satellite view.

At least in Europe (and presumably elsewhere), the directive banning flights does allow one ferry flight (of up to three legs) to get the plane to a location where any corrective action can be taken. But note that this does not allow moving the plane just to get it to a more convenient storage location.

Great Circle Mapper's featured map for 14th March showed the actual location of the 737 MAXes owned by US airlines, as of the previous evening. Those aircraft are spread across around 30 airports in the US and Caribbean.


Thanks to Antzi for pointing out the ferry flight exception.

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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, this coupled with the fact only 376 are out there, answers it for me. Thanks! And I suppose airports that do have the 737 landing there are almost by default big enough to have space to park them out of the way, and wouldn't be smaller regional places without such space. $\endgroup$ – BruceWayne Mar 13 at 14:33
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidRicherby I won't post it as an answer since it doesn't really answer the question as stated. Source (EASA): ad.easa.europa.eu/blob/EASA_AD_2019_0051_E.pdf/… relevant part: From the effective date and time of this AD, do not operate the aeroplane, except that a single non-commercial ferry flight (up to three flight cycles) may be accomplished to return the aeroplane to a location where the expected corrective action(s) can be accomplished. Maybe you could edit your answer ? $\endgroup$ – Antzi Mar 14 at 1:10
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    $\begingroup$ @Sean given that the modification will most likely be software only, it can probably be facilitated almost anywhere there's ground power available. $\endgroup$ – jwenting Mar 14 at 5:11
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    $\begingroup$ @Sean You're making bad assumptions. The two 737 Maxes that have crashed so far have done so shortly after take-off. Airports are, by design, close to urban areas so, assuming the two crashes weren't just a coincidence, a crash is much more likely to be in an urban area than the global average. Even the average can be pretty high: nearly 11% of England is classified as urban. And you can bet that, if there are any 737 Maxes at Heathrow, they won't be allowed to ferry on a day when the wind's from the east so take-offs are over central London. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Mar 14 at 10:08
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    $\begingroup$ @Sean Sorry but that's just wrong. JFK and EWR are 13 miles from Manhattan and surrounded on three and four sides by heavily urban land; ORD is 15 miles from downtown and surrounded on all sides; ATL 8 miles, ditto; LAX 11 miles, 3 sides; SEA 11 miles, 4 sides. Even DEN, which is famous for being in the middle of freaking nowhere is less than 20 miles from downtown. For reference, Lion Air 610 crashed 22 miles from the airport and Ethiopian 302, 39 miles. If an airline flies 737s to an airport in the US, you can pretty much bet that half a million people live within 20 miles of that airport. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Mar 15 at 10:27
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FlightRadar24.com has compiled a list of where (almost) all the grounded 737 MAXs were as-of 17 March 2019.

Their page shows airports with 5 or more aircraft and there is a list that's sortable by registration, aircraft type, MSN, airline and airport. The airports with the most are:

  • Guangzhou Baiyun, China (15)
  • Boeing Field, WA, USA (14)
  • Ürümqi Diwopu, China; Windsor, ON, Canada (12 each)
  • Dubai, UAE; Istanbul, Turkey; Beijing Capital, China; William P. Hobby, Houston, TX, USA (10 each)
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    $\begingroup$ good edit, David. I shoulda done that myself... $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Mar 20 at 12:14
  • $\begingroup$ You're welcome. You'd been flagged, presumably as "link-only", but I think it's a link worth preserving. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Mar 20 at 17:36
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Bloomberg has an Interactive Map showing where the planes are in the USA.

You can scroll through the days, and it also shows which flight paths they took to arrive at their "final" destination, and is color coded by carrier.

Pretty neat!

Edit: Also, they're storing some in the Boeing Employee's Parking Lot: enter image description here

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