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Recycle Here: Plastic - Paper – AIRCRAFT!

Aircraft recycling is a long-established industry but one which has only recently gained more credibility as the number of aircraft being disassembled has increased significantly.

The COVID-driven reduction in demand on commercial aviation, and the general focus on cost reduction, has increased to an unseen level the amount of parked/stored aircraft.

As commercial operators worldwide upgrade their fleets to more efficient aircraft models to reduce their ever-increasing fuel bills and maintenance costs, as well as to decrease their environmental impact, there has been a surge in the adoption of new generation equipment (A320NEO family, B737 MAX family, A350, B787, etc.), mainly by higher tier commercial operators. This has made previous generation aircraft (A320CEO, B737NG, A330, B767, etc.) less valuable and therefore more likely to be accessible to lower tier operators as well as to end up in the recycler´s yard.

A huge percentage of aircraft parts can be recycled. The obvious ones are the components regularly required by the active fleet, like engines, landing gears, avionics, pneumatics and hydraulics. However, retiring aircraft can also offer numerous other items like flight controls, radomes, air inlets, seats, to name a very small few.

All items intended for aircraft use will be repaired or overhauled and then recertified before being put back on the market. Additionally, there are the items (components or structures) that can be upcycled and transformed into useful or decorative features (like tables, chairs, etc.). All other materials remaining like metals, composites and plastics are separated and handled to raw material recycling companies.

One company joining the aircraft recycling business is Orion Technik, the new name of Aeroequipo, a company celebrating their 30th anniversary this year, which is now opening an aircraft recycling facility at Porto Airport (OPO) in partnership with NewPort Maintenance Centre, to complement its existing component business. They believe the current market momentum makes it ripe for new entrants, especially companies that can provide added services associated with the lifecycle of the removed components, such as repair/recertification, storage, logistics and procurement.

The facility is becoming operational and starting to accept customers. “We have a Cessna Citation 7 and an Airbus A319 already in our commitment pipeline”, says José Macieira, the facility’s COO. “We plan to be in our initial cruise speed of two aircraft per month before the end of the summer and grow from there”.

“Providing a very competitive price, being able to repair & recertify some of the removed components and offering engine & component storage allows us to add more value to our customers, who are normally leasing companies, aircraft financiers or global parts companies.” More aircraft available for recycling means more components are available to enter the second-hand market and this is good news for operators looking to find alternative sources of spares outside the OEMs.

Due to the current shortage of equipment, the business jet recycling market is not expected to grow in the near future, however it is expected to increase in the medium term as the market supply catches up with demand.


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