How are Airplanes Recycled?

As airlines are endeavoring to become more eco-friendly, they are turning to the process of harvesting parts from decommissioned aircraft in the interest of increasing reuse. With the average lifespan of a commercial jet spanning twenty-five years,12,000 aircraft are currently estimated to reach the end of their service life within the next two decades. Due to the exponentially increasing amount of aircraft, not only will recycled components become significantly more advantageous, but also cost efficient.

When starting the aircraft recycling process, aircraft recyclers will first remove various components and materials ranging from carbon fiber composites, textiles, fluids, electronic devices, passenger seats, landing gear, wires, front tires, and other various items. Notably, the most valuable parts which can be recycled are the aircraft engines, landing gear, and easily refurbishable items. When up for resale, engines and landing gear can be sold for upwards of a few million dollars, a significantly lower cost as compared to standard retail prices. Once all internal parts have been removed and all that remains is the aircraft shell, it is subsequently demolished to extract numerous types of metals. The recycled materials are then sent off and streamlined to designated sorting locations for their eventual reuse.

With refurbishing used avionics comes the need for scrutinized restoration and testing. After being dismantled, the parts sent to be refurbished will have to be overseen by an aviation engineer. As many aviation companies lack the proper equipment, knowledge, or permits to perform the key tasks necessary for the refurbishing process, aviation experts that are capable of such tasks are few and limited. When taking advantage of the services provided by a qualified company, an aviation engineer will inspect key components for the structural integrity and overall performance of parts.

Commonly, when reconstructing recycled parts from aircraft, much of the materials received are used to produce new TVs, circuit boards, and computers. In contrast, recovered components such as trays, galley carts, and overhead bins can be refurbished and reinserted into a new aircraft, cutting down on costs and serving a better purpose for the environment. For its benefits, recycling aircraft parts contributes to the ecosystem by reducing how much waste culminates in landfills. Additionally, recycling provides more eco-friendly waste disposal to limit and regulate any contaminants released into the air, soil, or water. As a whole, the recycling process directly corresponds with the reduction of the amount of natural resources and energy needed to construct new parts.

Although recycling materials from decommissioned aircraft may prove beneficial for those seeking used parts, not everything can be excavated and reused. Items such as carpets, insulation, seat cushions, floorboards, and other components or materials typically prove to be strenuously time consuming to take apart, inevitably being sent to a landfill. In addition to the aforementioned materials, aluminum, stainless steel, and titanium lengthen the aircraft recycling process despite being reusable metals.  

While recycling decommissioned aircraft can prove both profitable and valuable for those looking for particular aircraft components, there are some non-recyclable items that require normal replacement. If there are new, used, obsolete, or hard-to-find parts you are searching for, don’t hesitate to contact us at Aerospace Buying. We are a leading distributor of aircraft parts, offering our customers competitive pricing and rapid lead-times on all we carry for their time and money savings. To ensure the quality of our offered items, we subject everything to rigorous testing, inspection, and cross-referencing prior to shipment. Due to our unwavering efforts in maintaining an inventory of high quality components, we operate with AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015, and FAA AC 00-56B certification and accreditation. Get started today with a personalized quote for your comparisons when you fill out and submit an Instant RFQ form as provided on our website.

  1. Posted on May 20, 2021
  2. aviation

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