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Snakes On A Plane: Another Weird Pandemic Effect

In these pages, I have commented on some unexpected consequences of the pandemic, to wit: With reduced restaurant business, farmed fish are not selling and the fish are getting too big for the restaurants to buy--a vicious circle. And with the switch from sit-down dining to take-out, there has been a run on ketchup packets, creating an expensive secondary market for the packets on ebay. Now we learn that as a result of the pandemic, planes are having a problem with snakes—rattlesnakes to be precise.

Since the start of the pandemic, thousands of planes from airlines around the world have been grounded in hot, arid deserts, which are ideal for long-term aircraft storage. Australian airline, Qantas, stored about a dozen of its A380 superjumbos in an airfield near Victorville, in California's Mojave Desert. It is an area well known for feisty rattlers who love to curl up around the warm rubber tires and in the aircraft wheels and brakes. The maintenance workers use a low-tech solution, giving each plane its own designated 'wheel whacker' as part of the engineering kit, complete with the aircraft's registration number written on it. The whacker is a repurposed broom handle.

Prior to any landing gear inspections, the workers walk around the plane whacking the wheels and landing gear with the broom stick to scare off any slumbering snakes. Some scorpions have also been rousted.

It takes more than 100 man-hours to make a wide-body aircraft airworthy after storage—now they have to add a few more minutes for “whacking” the tires and landing gear.

It puts a new meaning on “check your luggage.”

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