Practical info: what happens to scrapped planes?

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When an airplane reaches the end of its operational life or that it is no longer economically viable to operate, it is removed from service and scrapped, a process known as dismantling. Here’s what happens when an aircraft is scrapped:

  1. Disassembly: The aircraft is transported to specialized facilities for dismantling. There, the process begins with the removal of all reusable parts, such as engines, instruments, cabin equipment and valuable items that can be recycled or resold on the second-hand spare parts market.

  2. Separation of materials: After the reusable parts are removed, the aircraft is disassembled into smaller sections, such as the wings, fuselage and tail. The different materials, such as aluminum, titanium, glass, rubber and composites, are separated for recycling or proper disposal.

  3. Recycling: Recyclable materials are sent to processing plants where they are melted down, crushed or reprocessed for reuse in various industries, including aeronautics. This helps reduce the need for new raw materials and minimize environmental impact.

  4. Safe Destruction: Parts of the aircraft that cannot be recycled are disposed of in accordance with strict environmental regulations to ensure safe and environmentally responsible disposal.

  5. Spare parts storage: Certain parts of the aircraft, in good condition, may be kept as spare parts to support in-service aircraft of the same model.

  6. Collectibles: In some cases, historic or iconic aircraft parts may be kept for display in museums or private collections.

  7. Certification: Aircraft dismantling is a strictly regulated process, requiring appropriate certification to ensure that all steps are performed safely and in accordance with aviation standards.

Dismantling aircraft is an important step for the sustainability of the aviation industry, as it recovers valuable materials, minimizes waste and extends the useful life of spare parts. It also contributes to the responsible management of aviation waste and the preservation of the environment.

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