With most A380s around the world still grounded, airlines have been forced to operate empty flights to keep pilots certified and ensure that planes are in operational condition. Most of the time, these flights are less than an hour-long, and involve a large, circular flight path.
China Southern, despite being one of the few airlines who is currently operating A380 passenger flights, is also flying training flights…and these flights are insane! Unlike other airlines, China Southern’s training flights last several hours. Flight CZ5699 on July 16, 2020 clocked in at just over six hours of flight time. You can see the flight path from FlightRadar24 above.
The training flight circled Guangzhou (CAN) airport nearly thirty times. What’s even more incredible is that the flight made a landing approach each time it circled CAN. You can see from the flight’s speed and altitude graph, below, that the flight made 28 approaches where the A380 descended from around 4,000 feet to as low as 175 feet above CAN airport, before ascending to around 4,000 feet and repeating the process.
You can see a closeup of the approaches below.
CZ5699 wasn’t the only flight with this bizarre path. On July 29th, China Southern flight CZ2107 took a similar route, although this flight only lasted 4 hours and 39 minutes.
China Southern hasn’t announced an official reason for these flights, but it’s safe to assume that they’re being used for some sort of training.