How aircraft retire

Every product, every machine wears out. It becomes unusable. We experience this situation in vehicles in everyday life. Abandoned vehicles can be seen piled up on large tracts of land. Aircraft will eventually face the same fate. In this article, you can read about how the disposal of aircraft can be done.

The lifespan of an aircraft

The lifespan of a modern passenger aircraft is about 25-30 years. This is not a definite year. Life expectancy depends mainly on the number of pressurization cycles inside the plane. For example, a Boeing 747 can withstand about 35,000 times of pressure. It reaches that level after a lifespan of nearly 30 years or 135,000-165,000 flight hours. We must first explain what compression is in an airplane to understand this.

We know that there is an atmospheric layer around the Earth. Oxygen, which makes up about 21% of the Earth’s atmosphere, is essential for the functioning of all our cells. Although the oxygen content is constant up to 200 km above sea level, the partial pressure of oxygen also decreases as the atmospheric pressure gradually decreases.

How Atmospheric Pressure Changes With Altitude –

As a result, we do not get enough oxygen when we go up. At 16,000 feet, atmospheric pressure drops to less than half that sea level. At altitudes of up to 41,000 feet, the air pressure is less than 1/3 of that at sea.

At an altitude of 25,000 feet, a person can consciously stand for about three minutes on average. But at 41,000 feet, that time is reduced to 10 seconds. Then there is the possibility of death very soon. Therefore, it is essential to create an artificial atmospheric pressure inside the aircraft. This is done using a tongue-in-cheek air compressor powered by an aircraft engine, which exerts a high pressure inside and outside the plane. Then all the covers, including the fuselage, are stressed.

How to maintain air pressure in the cabin according to the altitude of the aircraft –

Usually, the pressure inside an airplane does not reach as high as the atmospheric pressure at sea level. Although the pressure in the cabin gradually increases with the aircraft’s altitude, the pressure difference between the outside and the inside should always be kept below 0.62 bar (1 bar = atmospheric pressure at sea level). If the pressure changes too much, the aircraft’s frame will not withstand it.

Special air pressure gauges and pressure relief valves are used to maintain this difference. By maintaining the above pressure difference, the cabin is kept at an altitude of about 8,000 feet above sea level at the height of 41,000 feet.

In this way, even if an aircraft is pressurized with proper regulation, the aircraft frame will weaken due to prolonged stress. This is common to any metal, known as metal elastic fatigue in physics. Because a hardened metal can break at any moment, the aircraft frame maker sets several pressures that it can withstand. The number of such expirations is called the expiration date of an aircraft.

Aloha Airlines’ 1969 Boeing 737 crashed into the air in 1988, unable to withstand cabin wall pressure –

Demand for used aircraft

However, an airline does not wait until an aircraft’s entire life, or perhaps even half, is completed. Instead, most aircraft are sold within 10-15 years. Therefore, it is not common to see other airlines buying suitable quality aircraft with a significant amount of air time left over from the leading airlines where there is also a market demand for used aircraft.

For example, passenger aircraft in North America and Europe have an average lifespan of about 14 years after production. This period is as low as 6-7 years in China and the Middle East. It is a well-known fact that all airlines buy and sell used aircraft. One of the reasons for this is that the leading airlines are turning to new products to compete as manufacturers launch new technological aircraft year after year.

Boeing 747 owned by Qantas Airlines of Australia –

There are several reasons why second-tier airlines are turning to used aircraft. The main reason for this is that used aircraft can be purchased at any time. If any airline orders the latest Boeing 737 at the moment, they will have to wait in a long queue. They will not get the plane they called for another 6-8 years. This is the quickest way to navigate a used aircraft. In addition, the low cost and complete upgrade make it possible for airlines to switch to a used aircraft.

Partitioning of aircraft

The body part, including the frame of an aircraft, may become obsolete over time, but other factors may remain intact. Therefore, at about half the plane’s life, the present value of their components is considered separately, and the value of the entire aircraft as a single component is studied. The airlines will not hesitate to pursue that course of action if they get more value from the sale of shares.

Aircraft Frame (Fuselage) –

It should be noted here that the prices of aircraft parts are very high. As a result, the aircraft stock market will reach $ 6 billion by 2022. Companies such as Aircraft End-of-Life Solutions, AerSale Inc, and Tarmac Aerosave are Europe and US-based leading aircraft parts companies.

In addition, there are other companies involved in the business, but few companies sell counterfeit shares. It is reported that about 2% of the total shares traded in the aircraft market are fake and substandard.

350,000 detachable shares

A modern passenger aircraft consists of about 350,000 detachable parts. The number of factors that can be used depends on the plane’s age and aircraft type. For example, a slightly newer Airbus A320 can have 1,200 usable parts. The most valuable of these are the engines, which make up about 75-80% of the total value of the aircraft. However, this does not mean that other stocks are profitable. For example, a used Boeing 737 costs about $ 650,000 for a wingtip alone.

The winglet of an airplane is this vertical part of the wing –

The final accommodation of the dead aircraft

Except for the parts that can be used, almost all the other factors can be sold or used only as metal parts for some other purpose. This is because most planes are made of sheet metal. These metals are recycled and reused. There are also plastic parts and liquids, apart from metals, so high technology must separate them. The total frame value of a Boeing 747 is about $ 43,000.

It is estimated that around 11,000 aircraft worldwide will retire in the next 10 years. Except for a minimal amount of these used for particular purposes, almost all other valuable parts, including engines, must be stored for metal separation or decomposition. Large tracts of land are being used for this purpose. There is nothing wrong with calling these ‘aircraft cemeteries.’

Mohawe Airport –

Over the years, large numbers of celestial giants have been seen quietly spending time in such cemeteries (Graveyard / Boneyard). World-famous cemeteries are found in the southwestern United States. The largest depot for obsolete passenger aircraft is the Mojave Air and Space Port in the Mojave Desert, California. About 1000 aircraft belonging to various airlines were seen here.

The Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona is the largest warplane cemetery in the world. More than 4,000 fighter jets, including F-16 fighter jets, fighter helicopters, and Lockheed C-5s. In Europe, too, there are cemeteries designed to house discarded aircraft, but they are not so large. Kemble in the United Kingdom and Tarbes in France are examples of cemeteries.

Disposal of US warplanes at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base –

Aircraft parked in cemeteries are not abandoned unattended. Once an airplane arrives here, they are first cleaned. That is, to remove the salts that remain in them. Then the decay is prevented before the crucial parts are reserved. Davis Monthan-Tucson Air Force Base also paints a special white paint on all aircraft. It is said that this action is taken to prevent the damage caused by the intense sun.

The aircraft wheels are also fitted with thermal insulation covers to prevent them from exploding in the face of heat. These cemeteries are large chains or deserts, so all the chains are tied together to withstand the strong winds. All liquids, including fuel, will be removed, and work will continue to maintain the aircraft’s condition until all reserved parts are reserved.

Benefits of Disposable Aircraft

Once the majority of the aircraft have been dismantled, they will be disassembled and eventually priced at metal, but only a handful of aircraft will receive special privileges. Some of the rare aircraft are on display in museums. In addition to aircraft used during World War II, even more recently designed Concorde aircraft have been preserved in this way in museums.

Drake’s Luxury Private Jet –

World-renowned hip-hop singer Drake uses his 23-year-old Boeing 767, a Canadian airline, as his personal jet. It looks like a sack that encloses with a drawstring. Roman Abramovich, the owner of the Chelsea football team and a well-known billionaire, has also upgraded and used a similar Boeing 767 with state-of-the-art luxury facilities.

LOT-EK, a New York-based architectural firm, plans to build a library in Mexico with about 200 cabinets from Boeing 727 and 737 aircraft, eliminating the idea that aircraft can only be used for aviation. A Boeing 747 can turn into a hotel at Arlanda Airport in Sweden. It is said that there are about 25 rooms here. A McDonald’s restaurant was built on a Douglas DC-3 aircraft in Taupo, New Zealand.

Jalisco Library designed by LOT-EK –

A Boeing 747 belonging to Malaysia Airlines has been anchored 20 meters off the coast of Bahrain. This creates a favorable environment for aquatic life from this disused aircraft. It has been open for scuba diving since 2019 and is known as the most extensive underwater theme park in the world.

In addition to the massive design of restaurants and hotels, large aircraft parts can also make furniture from metal parts. Motor, California, manufactures even the most oversized office furniture from aircraft parts.

McDonald’s Restaurant on a Flight in New Zealand –

Getting the most out of discarded aircraft is also a big step forward in environmental protection. According to the AFRA (Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association), the world body involved, 70% of modern aircraft parts can be recycled and reused. They are working to increase it to 95%.

Cover image Credit – Mojave Air & Space Port in California