Aircraft Recycling Set To Boom


As one part of the market declines, the shift inevitably benefits another sector and the aircraft recycling business is apparently ready to boom. There are now more than 6,000 flyable airliners in storage around the world compared to about 2,500 before the pandemic and UAE publication The National News is reporting that many of them will be carved up for parts. “We expect jet recycling market to increase as the number of aircraft and parts available for tear-down significantly increased during the pandemic,” Michael Wette, head of transport and services at Oliver Wyman in India, the Middle East and Africa, told the publication.

The pandemic lull in aviation activity has prompted many airlines to juggle their fleets in favor of more modern and efficient airframes but there are plenty of older aircraft flying and used parts are sought after for keeping them in the air. “Customers remove high value parts such as landing gear, thrust reversers and auxiliary power units and components such as avionics, slides, seats and galleys,” Steven Taylor, senior vice president of sales and marketing at aircraft recycling company eCube Solutions, told the publication. After all the high-value parts are stripped, most of the rest of the aircraft can be recycled in one way or another. Carbon fiber is among the least recyclable materials.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. While on Vietnam War active duty at Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson I bought my first home ever on E. Irvington Rd. facing the miles long north fence of MASDC [now 309th AMARG].
    Guests would ask “how can you stand looking through your picture window out at an aircraft junkyard?” and I would bemusedly correct them.
    I would have paid extra if necessary for that front row seat on the world’s largest movable feast outdoor airplane museum. The first couple years there, I watched early models of the B-52 slowly shrink and sink into the caliche. Their majestic wings would sag lower and lower as everything from massive vertical stabilizers to little Marman clamps [designed and manufactured by Zeppo Marx] plus pylons and landing gear were cannibalized to keep the H models flying [saving millions vs new replacements if even available from Boeing] until the remaining skeletal scraps were hauled off to the perimeter smelters as they had been since just after World War II.
    Instantly, new rows of transports and tankers would appear…sometimes fighters.
    Many of our retiring 431XXX TSgts and up were immediately hired just “up the street” [I-10] in Marana by Evergreen as they transitioned from running a secret CIA aircraft mod shop to creating an airliner repair facility and massive civilian boneyard with similar variety and artistic/historic appeal.

  2. Is there still an aircraft disassembly operation in Shelton WA? Decades ago I drove past it and saw 727s.

    Components like pumps and engines are often re-useable, perhaps after overhauling them.

    Parts that are out of production are even more valuable.

    And as with B-52s, decades ago USAF was cannibalizing old 707-320Cs for tail structure and the newer yaw damper system to improve some of its KC-135 tankers. That pushed the price of used 707-320Cs up.

  3. “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure”.

    Following the adoption of one of the arms reduction treaties (START, I believe) between the US and the Soviet Union, it became necessary for the US to reduce their nuclear delivery systems. One method we chose was to take the older B-52s and “amputate” their tails with a giant gillotine like machine. Once the tail was severed, it was towed just far enough away and left so that Soviet spy satellites overflying the storage yard could look down and verify the planes had been destroyed. It was sad to see those once proud birds lying in pieces like carcasses bleaching in the sun.