Aircraft Recycling

Going green and growing

Aircraft builders and assemblers must have a tremendous sense of personal satisfaction, and rightly so. To watch new aircraft roll out of the paint hangar knowing that it will have a 20- to 30-year service life is cause for celebration. Today aircraft manufacturing is accelerating and the numbers and kinds of aircraft being produced are amazing. But, what happens to these aircraft when they lose their economic value, or reach the end of their service life? Many are transferred to locations in Tucson, AZ; Victorville, CA; and Roswell, NM, where some are temporarily parked awaiting recall to service and others are demolished and recycled.

Aircraft recycling is going “green” and appears to be a growth industry. Some manufacturers, owners, and operators are assuming end to end responsibility for their products and want to mitigate their environmental impact by re-claiming serviceable components and scarce materials. They and other concerned professionals formed an association to further their goal of environmental stewardship and product responsibility.

The Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association (AFRA)

AFRA is an international nonprofit association that “promotes environmental best practices, regulatory excellence, and sustainable developments in the fields of aircraft disassembly, salvaging, and recycling aircraft parts and materials. AFRA was founded in 2005 when 11 companies joined forces to develop an industry code of conduct and a set of best practices for dismantling and recycling aircraft materials. Today AFRA has 40 members from 10 countries including OEMs, aircraft dissemblers, parts distributors, aircraft insurers and appraisers, materials recyclers, and technology developers.

AFRA also provides members with an accreditation process and its best management practice guides. The accreditation lets potential customers know that a certified company is following best management and environmentally responsible processes to manage the end-of-life disassembly and disposable of airframes and engines.

According to AFRA, “About 12,500 aircraft will reach their end-of-life in the next 20 years. The disposal of these aircraft is why many aviation companies have launched environmental programs to address this problem. To date, AFRA members have dismantled more than 9,000 aircraft, with 7,000 from the commercial sector and 2,000 from the military.” One of the accredited companies is Aircraft Demolition located in Burnsville, MN. It is a leader in this industry and the only company that has the disassembly of aircraft, powerplants, and other aerospace materials and the recycling of aerospace materials certifications from AFRA.

Aircraft Demolition

Aircraft Demolition was founded by Tim Zemanovic in 2008. He is the quintessential hard-working Midwestern businessman. He is also an A&P technician with more than 25 years of maintenance experience with AAR Inc., United, and Northwest Airlines. His favorite specialty was heavy structural repair.

One of the things that concerned him during his career at the airlines was the lack of their recycling efforts. He feels that being environmentally responsible and taking a “green” approach to business is both practical and profitable. This philosophy is evident throughout his demolition business practices. His successful entry into the aircraft demolition and recycling business resulted from a relative with a nonferrous recycling business who told him that he needed some new sources of nonferrous materials. Zemanovic contacted some acquaintances at the airlines and soon Aircraft Demolition was in operation.

According to Zemanovic, most other recycling companies are staffed by people from the recycling industry (“scrappers”) and lack the aviation technical expertise. His extensive experience in the majors helped him develop a business model similar to a traditional aviation company. They have facility audits and training programs, follow AFRA best practices, and keep abundant documentation. Rather than being certified like a typical ISO 1400 company, the company is certified by AFRA. Aircraft Demolition employs 11 A&Ps that have on average 20 years of aviation experience; a competitive advantage in the aircraft disassembly business.

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