Warning: this article may trigger depression among readers, especially those with fond memories of soaring aloft in the Qantas Airbus A380.
As the severity of the coronavirus pandemic and its longer-term impact on travel became clear, Qantas made the difficult but necessary call to put its flagship Airbus A380s into hibernation for at least the next three years.
Most of the 12-strong superjumbo fleet, which had already been grounded at the end of March 2020, made a long lonely trek to Victorville, on the edge of California's Mojave Desert.
And there they'll stay – protected against deterioration by the low humidity and arid climate – until demand for international travel returns to pre-COVID levels, which Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce believes isn't likely "until 2023-2024."
Which brings us to the forlorn sight now available at Google Earth: a snapshot of those Qantas A380s, sitting among hundreds of other mothballed jets at Victorville's Southern California Logistics Airport.
The 0.97km2 facility offers 'long-term parking' for more than 500 planes, and you can visit it on Google Earth at this link.
If you pull back and pan up along the runway, you'll spy row upon row of aircraft from airlines around the world.
And at the far end of their ranks sit nine Qantas A380s (click this Google Earth link to jump straight there).
The iconic red tails and Qantas branding are unmistakeable, especially once you zoom in.
(Update: reader pjflyer has spotted the tenth A380 parked well away from the crowd – perhaps some airplane-style social distancing? – at the end of runway 21.)
That's not the entire Qantas A380 fleet: two more are in residence at Qantas' dedicated engineering and maintenance hangar at LAX.
While on the ground, those A380s aren't just gathering cobwebs (in fact, every opening from the mighty engine intakes to airflow sensors are covered to keep insects out). The 22 massive tyres are rotated regularly, and the four Herculean engines are fired up every few weeks.
"When you park an aeroplane, it’s not like parking a car – you don’t just switch it off and lock the doors," explains Qantas’ Head of Maintenance John Walker.
"We actually do lots of maintenance on the aircraft to ensure it’s in a maintainable condition when it comes back to service."