Flight Plan

Where an aircraft goes to rest

| Updated on September 05, 2021

IMAGE CREDIT: ISTOCK.COM   -  Getty Images/iStockphoto

Ever heard of an aircraft boneyard? It is where aircraft are allowed to take a break or rest in peace.

The world’s largest aircraft boneyard is based in Tucson, Arizona in the US. On its 2,600-acre land, over $30 billion worth of aircraft are parked before they can either be redeployed or scrapped. An aircraft’s life is about 30 years before metal fatigue sets in. An A320, on an average, is retired after 1.2 lakh hours of flying, while a B747 after about 1.35 lakh hours of flying.

But these aircraft boneyards are not just scrapyards. Aircraft temporarily taken off the runway are kept in a manner where they can be preserved for a longer time so that the components are not affected by natural elements such as wind, heat or rain. The engines and windows are covered tightly with white, reflective materials. When an aircraft arrives at a boneyard, it is first washed completely to get rid of the exterior of any salt that may cause corrosion. Then the technicians drain the fuel tank and flush it with lubricant. The tires are covered in Mylar to prevent the sun from cutting through the rubber. Each aircraft has around 3.5 lakh individual components such as engine, wiring and electronics, and they are harvested for parts in other aircraft.

At the same time, the aircraft that need to be redeployed are kept in some readiness and maintained well. The ones that are to be scrapped are shredded into pieces and recycled, while the rest is melted.

When Covid-19 pandemic hit the world, airlines sent their aircraft to the boneyards which were sealed and preserved so that they could be redeployed. According to some estimates, 17,000 aircraft were placed in storage in these boneyards across the globe. Some of the locations include Arizona, Victorville, New Mexico, California, Teruel Airport in Spain, Alice Springs Airport in Australia and Twente Airport in The Netherlands.

(Source: Flexport (Brittany Lyte); airplanesboneyards.com)

Published on September 05, 2021

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