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curiousdodo
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What happens to the retired aircraft?

Sun May 10, 2020 4:54 am

Hi airliners.net, I'm a university student working on a deep-dive of the aviation industry for a club project. I'm specifically looking at the airplane recycling business, and how COVID might impact it.

I generally understand that retired airplanes are either converted to freighters or scrapped for parts. What companies are heavily involved in conversion? What companies are involved in scrapping and redistribution of salvage parts? Do they sell to MROs or airlines or back to the manufacturers?

In addition, what becomes of the engines? I know they're often owned by the manufacturers, but now that these engines are mostly obsolete, what will become of them.

In addition, does anybody have an idea of what companies all the retired American, Delta, and United planes might be headed? Especially the 757s and the 767s?
 
shamrock137
Posts: 363
Joined: Mon Jul 25, 2005 7:10 am

Re: What happens to the retired aircraft?

Sun May 10, 2020 4:39 pm

curiousdodo wrote:
Hi airliners.net, I'm a university student working on a deep-dive of the aviation industry for a club project. I'm specifically looking at the airplane recycling business, and how COVID might impact it.

I generally understand that retired airplanes are either converted to freighters or scrapped for parts. What companies are heavily involved in conversion? What companies are involved in scrapping and redistribution of salvage parts? Do they sell to MROs or airlines or back to the manufacturers?

In addition, what becomes of the engines? I know they're often owned by the manufacturers, but now that these engines are mostly obsolete, what will become of them.

In addition, does anybody have an idea of what companies all the retired American, Delta, and United planes might be headed? Especially the 757s and the 767s?


Welcome! Good questions, unfortunately they are all really a big "it depends" for the answer.

What companies are heavily involved in conversion?

A few big ones are Bedek in Israel, Evergreen in Taiwan, ST Engineering in Singapore, a quick google will lead you to quite a few companies. I think even Boeing was converting 767's at one point.

What companies are involved in scrapping and redistribution of salvage parts?

Its usually a multiple step process. Some aircraft are moved to the desert simply for storage. For example, the E145 family seems to be a popular choice to park, then reactivate, then park the last few years. The airline can of course strip the aircraft before selling it, but this may change its scrap value. Some parts are "life limited" which means that have a date of manufacture, and an expiration date, or cycle limit, meaning that even though a part might be 2 years old, if its a high cycle part, it might not be worth much. Usually the companies doing the disassembling such as JetYard in Pinal, AZ strips the parts, then sells them to other parts distributors who may resell them.

In addition, what becomes of the engines? I know they're often owned by the manufacturers, but now that these engines are mostly obsolete, what will become of them.

If an aircraft is old enough to be retired, the engines would usually be owned by the airline. Similar to the rest of the aircraft though, if the engine manufacture still owns the engines, they would get to decide whats done with them, resold, salvaged for parts, or scrapped.

In addition, does anybody have an idea of what companies all the retired American, Delta, and United planes might be headed? Especially the 757s and the 767s?

Before the current COVID climate, many were headed to be freighters, 767's moreso then the 757's. Apart from one off charter operators like Titan, Omni etc, the demand for a used passenger 767 or 757 is pretty low. One famous use has been the conversion of 2 former AA 763's to the private aircraft of the US NFL team the New England Patriots. Thats the exception to the rule though, majority that old are scrapped.
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dennypayne
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Re: What happens to the retired aircraft?

Mon May 11, 2020 3:42 am

curiousdodo wrote:
In addition, does anybody have an idea of what companies all the retired American, Delta, and United planes might be headed? Especially the 757s and the 767s?


As shamrock137 notes, it depends. Whether it's which company is the highest bidder or whether there are contracts in place with various lessors with certain companies, I do not know.

I also don't know specific company names off the top of my head, but you will see planes from many major airlines being stored or scrapped at various boneyards - Victorville CA, Mojave CA, Marana AZ, Kingman AZ, Roswell NM, Blytheville AR, Tupelo MS, and Laurinburg NC are some of the major ones, but there are others. IIRC most 757's are going to Roswell or Victorville, but there are bound to be exceptions.
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Starlionblue
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Re: What happens to the retired aircraft?

Mon May 11, 2020 3:53 am

Some notes on retirement:
- If the aircraft is leased, it goes back to the lessor, and they decide what to do with it.
- Where the aircraft is "delivered" to depends. If it is sold to another operator, that operator might come and inspect it, then fly it out. If it is going to a storage or scrapping, I think most commonly the operator's own pilots fly it there.
- In many cases, before the aircraft is flown out, the titles are painted over. But not always.
- When an aircraft is due to be retired, a number of bits and pieces are often swapped out with other aircraft in the fleet to ensure that the oldest, most worn units go into retirement. For example, instruments are swapped out. Of course, if the part is leased from another company, e.g. engines or APU, you can't do that.

For scrapping of Airbus, Tarmac Aerosave at Tarbes airport in France does a fair bit of work.
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FredrikHAD
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Re: What happens to the retired aircraft?

Tue May 12, 2020 9:43 pm

Recently, Swedish airline BRA (I know, odd name) retired their last Avro RJs. Here is a farewell video showing a few of them on their last journey in that company’s colors.

The coke can joke is not true of course. I actually asked a metal expert about it once. The alloy in aircraft is much too hard and brittle to become soda cans. I imagine the aircraft aluminum is also very high quality so it has a relatively high scrap value.

There are lots of threads here talking about scrapping. Often the subject is brought up whenever there’s an accident. Also look at ASN and avherald.com. I often see that landing gears are a high value item often recovered if at all possible along with avionics and engines.

Good luck with your project!

/Fredrik

BTW, another standing joke here is abut the engines of the Avros. They can be recycled as high power hair dryers.
 
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rjsampson
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Re: What happens to the retired aircraft?

Fri May 15, 2020 5:43 am

I hate to be the guy to ask the "beer can" question. Some of my chemical engineer friends (not in the aviation industry) insist that scrapped "aviation grade" aluminium is never destined to hold beer. That said: A few have suggested otherwise. Is this just a euphamism?

This is a rather trite question but: Can anyone within some relevant part of the industry, suggest the probability that at least some parts of scrapped aircraft become beer cans? Far be it for me to ask personally: But a few people compelled me to do on a professional forum.
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fr8mech
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Re: What happens to the retired aircraft?

Fri May 15, 2020 6:12 am

rjsampson wrote:
I hate to be the guy to ask the "beer can" question. Some of my chemical engineer friends (not in the aviation industry) insist that scrapped "aviation grade" aluminium is never destined to hold beer. That said: A few have suggested otherwise. Is this just a euphamism?

This is a rather trite question but: Can anyone within some relevant part of the industry, suggest the probability that at least some parts of scrapped aircraft become beer cans? Far be it for me to ask personally: But a few people compelled me to do on a professional forum.


While I'm not in the relevant part of the industry, I can Google with the best of them.

According to Wiki, the aluminum used in aluminum cans is a 3xxx series alloy.

I know that on aircraft we primarily use 2xxx, specifically 2024, & 7xxx, specifically 7075.

Does this make a difference? I haven't the foggiest. My metallurgy training, such as it was, is 38 years in the past.
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