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na
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Accelerated Retirements Of Modern A/c Types

Sat Oct 05, 2013 12:48 pm

Lately it has been very interesting to observe that the service life of modern airliners seems to shrink more and more.
16-18 year-old A340-300s are being parted out, about half a dozen 777s have been scrapped after just flying for 12 or 15 years, and the thirsty beautyqueen A340-500 will likely fare worse.

Looking back, the first 747-100 faced the axe when 20 years old, and the first 747-400 was 19 years, similarly to the first MD-11.

Its also my subjective observation that nowadays airlines prefer to buy new planes and less secondhand. I am afraid this will in a few years lead to increasingly huge numbers of planes returned to lessors after the typical 10 or 12 years period which wont find new homes.
 
mauriceb
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RE: Accelerated Retirements Of Modern A/c Types

Sat Oct 05, 2013 1:10 pm

Its kinda sad, isn't it?


The world has changed.. changes in fuel prices, relative low prices for new builds (because of A. and B competitiveness) and a new era of planes (upgraded A320/737, 787, A350 etc) makes it often easier to sell them per part and make beer cans out of the remains.
Especially 4-engine aircraft suffer from the world wide crisis!

Airlines are also continuously seeking to save money, and using second hand parts can be one of those methods to achieve that goal.
 
rfields5421
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RE: Accelerated Retirements Of Modern A/c Types

Sat Oct 05, 2013 2:24 pm

One factor is the increasing value of spare parts from relatively 'new' aircraft. Obviously airlines find it cheaper to buy used certified parts than going to the manufacturer for a new run of parts at higher costs.
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srbmod
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RE: Accelerated Retirements Of Modern A/c Types

Sat Oct 05, 2013 2:42 pm

A great example of this is with the A318. Frontier retired planes less than a decade old (some barely a half decade old) and those planes have been scrapped for parts (only two of the eleven they operated are listed as being stored and will likely be scrapped as well). A similar fate may be faced by the 736, as four have already been scrapped (and the seven currently listed as being in storage are likely to be scrapped as well) and these planes are still relatively new as well.

Part of the problem with the A318 and the 736 is that the operating costs are similar to their bigger siblings in the family and the only value these planes have is in the parts, as not too many airlines are interested in them for their fleets once an airline retires them.
 
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RE: Accelerated Retirements Of Modern A/c Types

Sat Oct 05, 2013 2:57 pm

Quoting mauriceb (Reply 1):
relative low prices for new builds (because of A. and B competitiveness)

And an "endless" availability of cheap government-backed loans to carriers without good credit scores to buy new planes. That's going to have an effect on the second-hand market.
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glbltrvlr
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RE: Accelerated Retirements Of Modern A/c Types

Sat Oct 05, 2013 3:00 pm

The trend you identified also has some serious implications for the component suppliers. Many of the supplier business models built around the manufacture of aircraft assume that the original components (engines, brakes, APUs, etc.) are sold at cost or less and that the returns on investment are made on repair and overhaul or replacement. When aircraft start getting retired at 10 years or less, that model fails. Over the long term, that should drive the cost of new aircraft up, which will make it more economical to keep the older ones longer. In the short term, it can be quite painful.
 
bmacleod
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RE: Accelerated Retirements Of Modern A/c Types

Sat Oct 05, 2013 5:49 pm

It depends on size of aircraft too...

Big carriers AA and DL have held on to their MD-82s; Delta it's MD-88 and MD-90s choosing instead to upgrade and modernize them.

Also DL hasn't decided when to retire the 744s; it looks they will be the last U.S. carrier to fly after UA's 350-1000 arrives replacing UA 744s....

[Edited 2013-10-05 10:51:47]
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hOMSaR
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RE: Accelerated Retirements Of Modern A/c Types

Sat Oct 05, 2013 6:11 pm

It's not just modern airliners. How long did planes such as the Convair 880/990 last? Airlines didn't keep their fleets of Boeing 720s too long, either.

And while the MD-11, as one example you cite, may have lasted a couple of decades before the first one was parted out, virtually all passenger airlines dumped them long before then, some within 10 years.
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srbmod
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RE: Accelerated Retirements Of Modern A/c Types

Sat Oct 05, 2013 6:17 pm

Business models of new entrants have changed as well. It used to be commonplace for start up airlines to acquire older a/c on the cheap instead of ordering or leasing brand new planes. JetBlue changed the game here in the US and other start ups like Skybus, USA 3000 and Virgin America ordered and leased new planes. Then you have airlines like Allegiant, who have stuck to the old ways and bought older planes for next to nothing (acquiring some of them solely for parts) and been quite successful doing so. Even Allegiant is upgrading to newer a/c but still buying/leasing used frames. As the A320neo and 737MAX enter fleets, the market value for the prior generation A320 and 737NG planes will start to drop and those planes will be plucked up by airlines like Allegiant or bought for parts.
 
glbltrvlr
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RE: Accelerated Retirements Of Modern A/c Types

Sat Oct 05, 2013 6:24 pm

Quoting srbmod (Reply 8):
Business models of new entrants have changed as well. It used to be commonplace for start up airlines to acquire older a/c on the cheap instead of ordering or leasing brand new planes. JetBlue changed the game here in the US and other start ups like Skybus, USA 3000 and Virgin America ordered and leased new planes.

A couple of factors come into play here: The primary factor is cash management. A new aircraft requires very little cash to maintain. If those aircraft are leased at today's insanely low finance rates, a startup airline has time to get up to speed and be generating cash before having to put out for significant maintenance costs. You buy old aircraft, chances are you have to finance them your self and have to invest a significant amount of money to get them current.
 
TrijetsRMissed
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RE: Accelerated Retirements Of Modern A/c Types

Sat Oct 05, 2013 6:50 pm

Quoting hoMsar (Reply 7):
And while the MD-11, as one example you cite, may have lasted a couple of decades before the first one was parted out, virtually all passenger airlines dumped them long before then, some within 10 years.

I think NA's point is still valid. The MD-11 is unique in that the program was terminated while production was still at viable levels. Unlike the A340 (all variants), 764, 744, and more. Thus multiple reasons attributed to the MD-11's premature exit from passenger service.

This includes:

- Operator discontent over performance (in particular, the early-builds)
- The anticipated depreciation of the asset - a cause and effect from the discontinued production and program termination.
- Strong demand from freight carriers (a result of the freight market booming coincidentally shortly after the MD-11 production ceased)

The last two points factor significantly into why many operators quickly changed their position following the Boeing/MDC merger. Content on operating the MD-11 for another decade in 1996, only to decide on phasing the type out in 1998.


Quoting bmacleod (Reply 6):
Big carriers AA and DL have held on to their MD-82s; Delta it's MD-88 and MD-90s choosing instead to upgrade and modernize them.

That's true, but these two situations are also very unique.

With AA and DL, it's a culmination of:

- Favorable economies of scale (AA will realize this more in two years as they cut out the fat)
- Low operating costs (majority are paid-off, the remaining at favorable leases)
- In-house technical support expertise
- Very durable airframe, attributing to relatively low maintenance costs

The same could apply to DL's 752 strategy; but unfortunately the airframe is not quite as durable. Conversely, we don't see many carriers opting for this strategy with 737 classics. Even with WN, the commitment was extended to accommodate the disposal of the 717 fleet.

Edit: grammatical error

[Edited 2013-10-05 11:52:19]
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zippyjet
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RE: Accelerated Retirements Of Modern A/c Types

Sat Oct 05, 2013 7:46 pm

Quoting mauriceb (Reply 1):

The death of the wide body at least for domestic flights has hastened this cycle. sadly. However, the 737's will buck this trend. We still fly a ton of 737-300's and a lot of those have been updated/upgraded so they aren't flying off to the desert or used bird market any time soon. I feel this trend really got under way with the L1011.
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na
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RE: Accelerated Retirements Of Modern A/c Types

Sat Oct 05, 2013 9:37 pm

Quoting mauriceb (Reply 1):
Especially 4-engine aircraft suffer from the world wide crisis!

Well, in a way yes. But that is not the whole truth. Most Quads still last or lasted longer than I expect the average Twinjets now leaving the factory will. The 744s now being scrapped are mostly 23, 22, 20 years old. More and more 777s are being axed after flying for just 12 or 15 years!!! And thats just the beginning. With the A350-1000 and 777X in the air after 2020 many 77Ws will be cut up at a rather young age as the used plane market will likely be too small to take even 50% of the offloaded frames! Look, everyone is taking and ordering new widebodies, new planes, and two or three hundred of them per year. The used plane market only swallows a few dozen, and that only if being optimistic. Scrappers are apparently paying more for a 15 year old 777 than any airline out there!
 
Ozair
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RE: Accelerated Retirements Of Modern A/c Types

Sat Oct 05, 2013 9:46 pm

Quoting na (Thread starter):
Its also my subjective observation that nowadays airlines prefer to buy new planes and less secondhand. I am afraid this will in a few years lead to increasingly huge numbers of planes returned to lessors after the typical 10 or 12 years period which wont find new homes.

Without taking this to far off topic it is interesting to note it is going the opposite direction with military fighter aircraft. While most types were rolled over reasonably quickly during the 50s-70s (with the exception of the Mig-21 and F-4) and even into the 80s the next generation of aircraft such as the F-35, Rafale and Typhoon, will probably remain in production for longer and serve for at least 40 years or 50+ for F-35.

Quoting zippyjet (Reply 11):
The death of the wide body at least for domestic flights has hastened this cycle. sadly.

And from the military perspective the widebody aircraft remain in service longer than their smaller cousins.
 
glbltrvlr
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RE: Accelerated Retirements Of Modern A/c Types

Sat Oct 05, 2013 9:53 pm

As mentioned in a previous post, this behavior is due in large part to the unusually low cost of capital right now. Once interest rates start to rise (and they will, probably quite quickly), the equation changes and it becomes less expensive to keep the older aircraft financed at cheaper rates and the retirement ages will stretch out.
 
na
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RE: Accelerated Retirements Of Modern A/c Types

Sat Oct 05, 2013 10:08 pm

Quoting glbltrvlr (Reply 14):
As mentioned in a previous post, this behavior is due in large part to the unusually low cost of capital right now. Once interest rates start to rise (and they will, probably quite quickly), the equation changes and it becomes less expensive to keep the older aircraft financed at cheaper rates and the retirement ages will stretch out.

I cannot see a scenario that will change the low interest rates much over the next 5 years or so. There are so many new twinjet widebodies now in the air or ordered, and even repalacements ordered for planes less than 10 years old now that I cant see that they have a chance to last as long as 747s or MD11s usually did or do. I mean, until a few years ago many airlines now flying new 777s or A330s, mostly from South America, Asia or Africa used to fly secondhand planes. Because they mostly have these new planes much of that secondhand market is gone. Who should take those 50 and more SQ or EK 77Ws that are being retired around the turn the decade?
 
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kanban
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RE: Accelerated Retirements Of Modern A/c Types

Sat Oct 05, 2013 10:49 pm

It's always interesting that some seem to think the value of used components is a driver for scrapping.. Yes some are expensive new or refurbished, however how much value is there to a part if by scrapping 20% of the fleet you have reduced the market for the parts. Not many can be upgraded to fit the latest model.. Interiors get upgraded so recycling galleys, lavs, and seats doesn't make sense.. Many components are life limited and the smelt value exceeds the resale value.. I will agree that third and fourth owners or embargoed countries are more likely to maintain their fleets with refurbished equipment

The other aspect is fuel costs.. when costs are high and more fuel efficient models or sub-models are offered, airlines jump regardless of the cost of money. On one hand we lament the short life of some models while championing the frequency of revised version or new models.. Yes some models just can not be updated and are gone. There will always be a A.neter wanting to know why the don't restart the 757 line or offer a MD11 or L1011 with newer engines or even a 747 with 2 humongous engines and two empty cowls so it still is a 4 holer.

so reduced fleet ages are a direct result of the speed of aircraft improvements
 
prosa
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RE: Accelerated Retirements Of Modern A/c Types

Sat Oct 05, 2013 11:22 pm

Quoting Ozair (Reply 13):
Without taking this to far off topic it is interesting to note it is going the opposite direction with military fighter aircraft. While most types were rolled over reasonably quickly during the 50s-70s (with the exception of the Mig-21 and F-4) and even into the 80s the next generation of aircraft such as the F-35, Rafale and Typhoon, will probably remain in production for longer and serve for at least 40 years or 50+ for F-35.

If manned fighters aren't obsolete by then.
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ncltrident
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RE: Accelerated Retirements Of Modern A/c Types

Sun Oct 06, 2013 12:20 am

The British airways VC 10 and the tridents also did not make it to 20 years, neither did a lot of caravelles
 
DfwRevolution
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RE: Accelerated Retirements Of Modern A/c Types

Sun Oct 06, 2013 12:47 am

Quoting na (Thread starter):
Lately it has been very interesting to observe that the service life of modern airliners seems to shrink more and more. 16-18 year-old A340-300s are being parted out, about half a dozen 777s have been scrapped after just flying for 12 or 15 years, and the thirsty beautyqueen A340-500 will likely fare worse.

I don't buy your premise.

The life expectancy of any population whether machine or biological will follow some kind of probability distribution. Naturally, some units will be retired earlier than the population median.

The number of A340-300s or 777s retired "early" actually strikes me as very low. I can't speak to the A340 history, but several of the 777s parted out were in dilapidated condition because the operator neglected their maintenance. Had they been maintained normally, they could very well still be in service.

I expect we will see the median service life of recent generation aircraft last longer than past generations given the attention to maintainability that was put into their initial design. IIRC, the 777 doesn't necessarily require D checks and requires something more inline with a heavy C check.

Quoting na (Thread starter):
Looking back, the first 747-100 faced the axe when 20 years old, and the first 747-400 was 19 years, similarly to the first MD-11.

Perhaps in significant numbers, but I would bet that a handful were retired earlier than that. Especially for the MD-11.
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tjh8402
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RE: Accelerated Retirements Of Modern A/c Types

Sun Oct 06, 2013 1:03 am

Quoting DfwRevolution (Reply 19):
I can't speak to the A340 history, but several of the 777s parted out were in dilapidated condition because the operator neglected their maintenance. Had they been maintained normally, they could very well still be in service.

Isn't N777UA still in regular service?
 
n92r03
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RE: Accelerated Retirements Of Modern A/c Types

Sun Oct 06, 2013 2:14 am

N777UA is usually found in the air over the Atlantic these days...

http://flightaware.com/live/flight/N777UA
 
tjh8402
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RE: Accelerated Retirements Of Modern A/c Types

Sun Oct 06, 2013 2:22 am

Quoting n92r03 (Reply 21):
N777UA is usually found in the air over the Atlantic these days...

http://flightaware.com/live/flight/N777UA

good to see she's still got it in her. not to hijack the thread, but I wonder how long other first in service ships of other models flew for, and if any prior to the 777 are still flying (I assume the first A380 and first 787 are still in service).
 
TrijetsRMissed
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RE: Accelerated Retirements Of Modern A/c Types

Sun Oct 06, 2013 4:59 am

Quoting DfwRevolution (Reply 19):
The number of A340-300s or 777s retired "early" actually strikes me as very low.
Quoting DfwRevolution (Reply 19):

I would bet that a handful were retired earlier than that. Especially for the MD-11.

I thought it would be interesting to run the numbers.    Let's see...

FWIW, the MD-11 currently has an 86.2% utilization of the remaining viable frames (aircraft that are active or stored), 163/189. Thirteen years after production ceased, two frames have been scrapped.

The A343 currently has an 84.6% utilization, 176/208. Eight frames have been scrapped, just five years after production ceased.

Source: planespotters.net
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hOMSaR
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RE: Accelerated Retirements Of Modern A/c Types

Sun Oct 06, 2013 5:57 am

Quoting TrijetsRMissed (Reply 23):
I thought it would be interesting to run the numbers. Let's see...

FWIW, the MD-11 currently has an 86.2% utilization of the remaining viable frames (aircraft that are active or stored), 163/189. Thirteen years after production ceased, two frames have been scrapped.

The A343 currently has an 84.6% utilization, 176/208. Eight frames have been scrapped, just five years after production ceased.

Source: planespotters.net

Thanks for the info.

I decided to take a look at that site, and check on how the Boeing 777 is doing.

If my counting is correct, there have been 648 Boeing 777-200s (of all variations, including freighters), of which 3 have been scrapped (i.e. retired and parted out; no indication of the condition of the plane before this occurred), and 5 are stored. Three additional ones have been written off (but you can't really count those, or otherwise you'd have to count the numerous 747s that were written off early on in that plane's service life).

No 777-300s (standard or ER) have been parked; all are flying.

So, essentially, this thread seems to be making a mountain out of a molehill. Even if you assume that all five stored 777s wind up going to the scrapyard, you're talking about 1.2% of all 777-200s (and 0.7% of all 777s of any model) being scrapped, 18 years into the plane's service life. I'm having trouble seeing what the big deal is.
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columba
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RE: Accelerated Retirements Of Modern A/c Types

Sun Oct 06, 2013 6:28 am

707s, 727s, 747classics, Dc 8s, Dc 10s, MD 11s all got a second life as a freighter after they have been withdrawn from passenger service.
These freighters are now being replaced with the aircraft that have ended their carrier as a passenger aircraft 737-300s, 757s, 767s, 747-400s. I guess we will see these types still flying for another 20 years. Airbus has stopped the A320F conversion program which I think is a mistake. The A320F would be a good fit for many small cargo airlines as well as DHL, UPS, Fedex and the likes.
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na
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RE: Accelerated Retirements Of Modern A/c Types

Sun Oct 06, 2013 10:07 am

Quoting DfwRevolution (Reply 19):
Perhaps in significant numbers, but I would bet that a handful were retired earlier than that. Especially for the MD-11.

Later, yes, but it took 20 years after the first 747 flight before the first was parted out. It took 12 years until the first 777 got scrapped.

Quoting hoMsar (Reply 24):
If my counting is correct, there have been 648 Boeing 777-200s (of all variations, including freighters), of which 3 have been scrapped (i.e. retired and parted out; no indication of the condition of the plane before this occurred), and 5 are stored.

Two or more are currently being scrapped or have been sold for scrap.

Quoting hoMsar (Reply 24):
So, essentially, this thread seems to be making a mountain out of a molehill.

If you are looking at the planes which are scrapped until now, granted, but I am talking about the mid- and longterm aquisition and retirement perspective. Dont you notice that the buying behavior is different than 20 years ago? 20 years ago many airlines used to buy part of their fleets secondhand. It isnt so anymore. That means there are less possible takers if all those A330s and 77Ws (before all) are being returned to lessors after the typical 10, 12 or 15 year period. And soon many airlines will order 77X and A350-1000 which means they wont prolong the lease periods on many of the older big twins. If you cant see that possibility I am a bit surprised I must say. The only alternative would be a considerable drop in new sales over the (expected) initial 77X sales hausse.
 
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lightsaber
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RE: Accelerated Retirements Of Modern A/c Types

Sun Oct 06, 2013 10:09 am

Quoting glbltrvlr (Reply 9):
The primary factor is cash management. A new aircraft requires very little cash to maintain. If those aircraft are leased at today's insanely low finance rates, a startup airline has time to get up to speed and be generating cash before having to put out for significant maintenance costs. You buy old aircraft, chances are you have to finance them your self and have to invest a significant amount of money to get them current.

   This is the main reason we're seeing aircraft turnover.

Credit is far cheaper now than ever before.
Fuel is at a huge fraction of flight costs.
Parts are still in demand.
Operators demand *exact* fleet commonality, which is only available if one buys used from certain other airlines. Otherwise, it is buying new. (Ironically, engines are now one area airlines will be flexible on.)

This will only accelerate with the NEO and MAX. Suddenly you have new versions that burn 15% less fuel. This will have a 738MAX or an A320NEO having a per flight cost less than a 73G or A319 (in typical high-utilization service). Yes those older airframes share parts that are of high value... thus the trend should accelerate.

The range of narrowbodies will also increase pushing out marginal widebody routes.

Quoting columba (Reply 25):
707s, 727s, 747classics, Dc 8s, Dc 10s, MD 11s all got a second life as a freighter after they have been withdrawn from passenger service.

But do recall that belly cargo is gaining an ever increasing fraction of the market. This means a smaller fraction of older airframes will find a home as freighters.


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ltbewr
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RE: Accelerated Retirements Of Modern A/c Types

Sun Oct 06, 2013 11:03 am

In the end, it is all about the money, the accountants and financial managers. Further related factors can included tax laws in some jurisdictions that allow accelerated depreciation, the costs of major checks vs. buying a used or new a/c, a greater use of financial write-offs even if a frame is still flyable as more profitable to the owners, especially the money first leasing companies.

On the technical side, I would suggest a factor is the huge advances in the use of computerized systems. They can become obsolete much more quickly than with older and pre-computer systems, as well as to expensive to maintain or retrofit with more efficient systems.
 
n471wn
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RE: Accelerated Retirements Of Modern A/c Types

Sun Oct 06, 2013 7:56 pm

Quoting hoMsar (Reply 24):
If my counting is correct, there have been 648 Boeing 777-200s (of all variations, including freighters), of which 3 have been scrapped (i.e. retired and parted out; no indication of the condition of the plane before this occurred), and 5 are stored. Three additional ones have been written off (but you can't really count those, or otherwise you'd have to count the numerous 747s that were written off early on in that plane's service life).

According to atdb.org 6 777-200's have been or are going to be scrapped---3 are already scrapped and 3 more are awaiting their fate---so 6 total with no 777-300s derelict now or scrapped--all 200 series
 
MIflyer12
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RE: Accelerated Retirements Of Modern A/c Types

Sun Oct 06, 2013 11:37 pm

Quoting na (Thread starter):
I am afraid this will in a few years lead to increasingly huge numbers of planes returned to lessors after the typical 10 or 12 years period which wont find new homes.

Find a way to short the aircraft leasing companies, because if you're right, they're dead. (IMHO, they're not dead, but lease return values will depend on fuel prices and relative efficiencies of newer aircraft. One can price for risk.)

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