All machines have an operational shelf life, after which they become increasingly hard to maintain. This is especially true among airplanes, as Tadas Goberis elaborates in his August 12, 2014 article for Airline Fleet Management magazine:
Restore, convert or scrap – these are the main options for aircraft owners wishing to squeeze the last drop of juice from their ageing assets. However, none of these options guarantees sufficient profit. Moreover, it seems that there’s no clear point at which an aircraft becomes entirely unworthy of investment.
The majority of commercial aircraft have a lifecycle of 20 to 30 years, depending on their type and operational condition. Some passenger aircraft exhaust their potential early because of increased maintenance costs, a need for refurbishment and upgrades, or diminishing performance.
Properly disposing of spent aircraft is an issue among stakeholders in Australia’s aviation industry and even among people in the recycling business. An increasing demand for air travel worldwide has the potential to sap more flight hours out of existing airframes, and fans of Australian aviation will have heard stories about fresh RAAF Spitfires supposedly buried outside Oakey, Queensland after World War II to avoid a date with the demilitarisation scrap heap. If you have some aircraft parts that can be reprocessed for other uses, credible scrap metal merchants like Global Resources can pay you for them.
According to Goberis, some airline firms give well-flown passenger aeroplanes a “second life” by converting them into cargo transports. However, undertaking the conversion in the first place already needs further market research and checking the entire airframe for stress. If a firm decides to temporarily put the plane in storage pending demand resurgence, it may have to pay around $375,000 a year doing it.
While scrapping is usually the ultimate option for a plane that has been labelled non-airworthy, it does serve two purposes. The first one involves stripping the entire aircraft of important components such as the landing gear, avionics, and auxiliary power units. These can be refurbished as spare parts or resold as aftermarket parts, but Goberis says the latter depends on whether the aircraft type is still in use.
Trusted scrap metal buyers like Global Resources can fit into the second purpose by doing away with the remains of the aircraft, now a “non-recoverable waste.” Goberis states that a recycled aeroplane will have potentially recyclable materials like aluminium, titanium, and plastics. However, if the plane’s engines are no longer usable, they must be cleaned of fuel and oil.
Disposing an aeroplane that has seen better days may be profitable to aviation firms seeking to downsize. A scrap metal company can help with that option.
(Source: Finding The Balance: When to Restore, Convert, or Scrap, Airline Fleet Management, 12 August 2014)