From desert to dreamy destinations – Air New Zealand's last 777-300 returns from Mojave Desert ready for service

The last Air New Zealand's 777 aircraft stored in the Mojave Desert during the pandemic is set to touch down in Auckland tomorrow May 10, after more than 855 days in storage.
09 May 2023
  • The last of four 777-300 aircraft that were stored in the in the Victorville Mojave Desert, United States, during Covid will touch down in Auckland on Wednesday evening 10 May.
  • It will take off on its first commercial service on Saturday 13 May from Auckland to San Francisco
  • The aircraft will help boost capacity on Air New Zealand's international network, adding an extra 342 seats into the schedule.

When Covid hit in 2020 and aircraft around the world were grounded, all seven of the airline's 777 aircraft were taken and put into deep storage.

Three were stored in Auckland, while the remaining four were stored in the desert near Victorville, USA, as the warm and dry conditions were ideal to keep the aircraft in pristine condition.

Now the aircraft, registration OKM, is making the more than 10,000km journey from Victorville to Auckland via Singapore, before it gets ready to take off on its first commercial service on May 13 to San Francisco.

Air New Zealand's Chief Operations Officer Alex Marren says the return of all seven of aircraft signals the airline has bounced back after Covid and customer demand is higher than ever.

"Having all of our 777-300s back will help build more resilience and more seats into our international operation, meaning we can fly more customers to where they need to go - whether that's San Francisco, Honolulu, Houston or Tahiti!," she says.

"An incredible amount of work has gone into bringing these aircraft back. The reanimation of OKM alone has taken more than seven weeks and involved more than 1500 manhours of work."

A team of Air New Zealand engineers have been in Victorville working with a local maintenance provider to reanimate the aircraft.

"The process starts off with unwrapping the plane from its storage protection and then it gets a good wash, getting rid of the dust and grime that has accumulated in the desert. Then it goes through a thorough servicing and maintenance programme. It's a long and a complicated process and our engineering and maintenance team have done an amazing job getting the aircraft ready to fly again."

As a final safety check, a pilot team spend a day running through checks and tests, similar to what's done when getting a new aircraft from the factory.

"Overall a team of more 100 Air New Zealanders have been involved in bringing back these 777 aircrafts in some way."

OKM will undergo a short visit to the Auckland engineering and maintenance hangar before NZ8 takes off to San Francisco this weekend.

"We're really excited to be bringing these aircraft back into our skies for years to come."



For images of the 777-300 aircraft in the Mojave Desert visit here.

Issued by Air New Zealand Communications.

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About Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand's story started in 1940, first taking to the skies between Auckland and Sydney on a flying boat - a Short S30. Known for its warm Kiwi hospitality, today, the airline has 104 operating aircraft ranging from Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners and Airbus A320s to ATRs and Q300s, offering customers comfort in the latest most efficient jets and turboprops. It's a modern fuel-efficient fleet with an average age of 7.3 years. Air New Zealand's global network of passenger and cargo services centres around New Zealand. Pre-Covid, the airline flew more than 17 million passengers every year, with 3,400 flights per week. Air New Zealand was recently named the World's Safest Airline by the Australian rating service, highlighting the airline's laser-focus on safety. Last year, Air New Zealand won Best Corporate Reputation in New Zealand – 8th year in a row.

Air New Zealand has a well-connected domestic business, connecting customers and cargo to 20 different regions around New Zealand. Internationally, the airline has direct flights to major cities across Australia, Asia, the Pacific Islands and the US, and through its strong relationships with alliance partners, offers customers more choice and convenience to connect further afield to hundreds of destinations. Air New Zealand has a particular focus on sustainability and its Sustainability Framework  helps guide the airline's efforts in tackling some of New Zealand's and the world's most complex challenges. Air New Zealand aircraft are proudly identified by its distinct tail livery of the Mangōpare, the Māori symbol of the hammerhead shark which represents strength, tenacity, and resilience.


About Star Alliance

Air New Zealand is proud to be a member of Star Alliance. The Star Alliance network was established in 1997 as the first truly global airline alliance to offer worldwide reach, recognition and seamless service to the international traveller. Its acceptance by the market has been recognized by numerous awards, including the Air Transport World Market Leadership Award and Best Airline Alliance by both Business Traveller Magazine and Skytrax. The member airlines are: Aegean Airlines, Air Canada, Air China, Air India, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian, Avianca, Brussels Airlines, Copa Airlines, Croatia Airlines, EGYPTAIR, Ethiopian Airlines, EVA Air, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, SWISS, TAP Portugal, Turkish Airlines, THAI and United. Overall, the Star Alliance network currently offers more than 18,500 daily flights to 1,321 airports in 193 countries.