Not to mention the fact that it served as an air base during the Spanish civil war in the 1930s, the airport in the north-east of the country is virtually unknown in aviation. It does not have a passenger terminal nor is it a travel destination, however, it has received huge planes with increasing frequency. This is Teruel Airport, a maintenance center that has increasingly attracted aircraft from failed airlines and, recently, also due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The infrastructure of the place is not enough to impress. The airport has only a 3,000 meter runway and two main hangars, but in in other hand it offers a large parking area in which dozens of large aircraft line up. These include some British Airways Boeing 747-400 and the massive A380 from Lufthansa and Air France, all of which have been removed from the operation in the face of the collapse of air transport in recent weeks.
Why is the unknown airport so popular? The main reason is the same one that multiplied the number of small airports in the US desert, the dry climate, which facilitates their storage. Spanish MRO partners, the government of the autonomous community of Aragon and the municipality of Teruel, decided to invest in the old air base just over a decade ago, which reopened in 2013.
It didn’t take long for the huge aircraft parking lot to be occupied by different types of models, including part of the fleet of Russian airline Transaero, which went bankrupt in 2015. But Teruel also provides maintenance and aircraft dismantling services, in addition to provisional “accommodation”, as has often been the case in recent weeks.
According to recent reports, the airport already hosts about 90 planes, just behind Madrid Barajas, the Spanish international hub, in number of aircraft. Of these 43 are Boeing 747s, including some British Airways aircrafts that arrived at the beginning of April.
Recently, Air France sent some of its A380s, which may not fly again by the airline. Lufthansa was one of the last to arrive in Teruel with its A340 and A380 quad engines. A company that contributed to increase Teruel’s role, Tarmac Aerospace, which carried out the first disassembly of an A380, uses the Spanish airport to maintain the planes it receives.
Recent images of the airport reveal a wide variety of aircraft and companies. There are jets such as Etihad’s A330s and A340s that TAP recently took out of service. A rare Airbus A318 used by Avianca Brasil before suspending its operation is also seen on site. Some of these aircraft, however, have brief passes through the airport, such as the Embraer E190 and Boeing 777 jets of the Ukranian Airlines company that were in Teruel not long ago.
If for many companies, the pandemic could be the end of their business, for PLATA it means seeing their revenue grow to the point that a new area to park the huge planes is being prepared by the company. Teruel’s fame will only grow from now on.