Emirates Launches First-Of-Its-Kind Recycling Program For A380 Fleet


Once the envy of airlines worldwide, the Emirates Airline fleet of four-engine, double-decker Airbus A380s is now destined for a futuristic program of a very different kind. As part of a contract between Emirates and UAE-based Falcon Aircraft Recycling, the first retired A380 aircraft will be “upcycled and recycled,” according to Emirates. The program is aimed at limiting the environmental impact of the deconstruction process.

Legacy salvage and recycling programs zero in on only the high-value components, such as landing gear and engines, but that leaves massive amounts of materials to either choke landfill sites or end up parked with little chance of generating any value.

“We are delighted to partner with Falcon Aircraft Recycling on this first-of-its-kind project,” said Tim Clark, president of Emirates. “Through this initiative, our customers and fans can take home a piece of aviation history while saving valuable materials from landfill and contributing to a charitable cause through the Emirates Airline Foundation. It’s an elegant and fitting retirement solution for this iconic aircraft and our flagship.”

Andrew Tonks, director of Falcon Aircraft Recycling, added, “Approximately 190 [metric tons] of various metals, plastics, carbon fiber composites and other materials will be removed from the aircraft and passed on for recycling or repurposing via our upcycling program with Wings Craft. Our teams are currently busy with the breakdown and final concepts for the first batch of unique upcycled items. We look forward to unveiling more information on the retail items soon.”

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. Just sad to hear. If I did a long haul and an A380 was available I chose it even though price was always higher. It was just so comfortable for the passenger.

    I understand why the A380s were dropped from fleets but this change is reminiscent of Betamax losing the battle with VHS (for those of you old enough to remember).

    • The A380 is about 4x more expensive to operate per flight hour than a 777 ($25,000+/hr vs. $7,000/hr), requires the plane to be full, and has double the engine Mx. There’s a reason everbody is parking them in the desert.

      The only aircraft more expensive to operate than an A380 are US fighter jets.

      My main problem with the A380 is that it’s used by Middle Eastern airport hubs, resulting in EU passengers flying much further than point-to-point. I’m not a knee-jerk Green, but that wastes fuel and is inexcusably bad for the atmosphere.

    • I wouldn’t say it’s a no-brainier. It depends on the cost of labor for the recycling. It could be quite expensive.

  2. Why not sell the motors, avionics, and re-usable parts and send the rest to the recycler? Aluminum and even carbon fiber can be recycled.

    As far as turning it into collectable mementos, I have not heard a sillier idea (yet, today).

    • > carbon fiber can be recycled.

      That’s largely a myth since “carbon fiber” is usually carbon-resin, where the resin is like plastic. That’s the reason windmills largely aren’t recycled.

      (Carbon-carbon is carbon fibers in a matrix of carbon gas that has cooled, but that’s mainly used in leading edges and nosecones of aerospace applications like missiles.)

      I follow airplane composites closely, and IMO metal still has an edge on carbon-resin construction, maintenance and recycling, contrary to most opinions. Often carbon-resin or composites weigh more than metal in the final result, as NASA found out with their infamous fuel tank issues in the alternate Shuttle vehicle where the lightest vessel was made of aluminum.

      Also, carbon and aluminum joints cause galvanic corrosion, so titanium fasteners must be used, driving up the cost of mfg. The Dreamliner is 15% titanium by weight as a result.