Aircraft Recycling

Going green and growing

Zemanovic and his crew follow a continuous improvement philosophy and perform careful analysis and keep detailed records about the aircraft and engines that they part out, demolish, and recycle. They currently meet the AFRA standards and recycle up to 90 to 92 percent of an airframe and 99 percent of jet engines. Recyclers like Zemanovic feel that an even higher rate can be achieved when materials that are used in aircraft interiors and furnishing can be disposed of safely and at a profit. According to press releases many major OEMs, researchers, and recyclers are working on this challenging problem.

Aircraft Demolition’s processes are proprietary, however a typical demolition job would include preparing the aircraft by removing serviceable parts, stripping out wiring, hazardous materials, and fluids. Next they crush the fuselage and haul it away to be shredded and recycled. They can do this at any work site with a few AMTs and in an amazingly short amount of time.

According to Zemanovic, “We can demolish a B737 size aircraft in hours and a B747 size aircraft in a few days including total cleanup to prevent any potential foreign object damage.” Part removal and identification for resale requires additional time. They can perform their services for any customer in any location from Saudi Arabia to Victorville, CA. Most of their jobs are in the Southwest around the major aircraft storage facilities.

Aircraft Demolition also buys and recycles military and civilian aircraft engines that are delivered to the secure Burnsville, MN, facilities for teardown. Some of the engines recycled are PW F100, PW JT8D, GE J79, and larger engines like Rolls-Royce RB211 jet engines.

According to Zemanovic, “Our aviation experience improves our engine recycling efficiency and profitability as well. It takes our experienced crews about four days to disassemble these large engines and segregate the valuable components and materials.” The Aircraft Demolition crew uses a highly sophisticated handheld (X-ray) instrument to identify metal composition including precious metals.

We know that AMTs enjoy building and assembling shiny new aircraft. I wanted to know how Aircraft Demolition’s crew felt about disassembling, demolishing, and recycling aircraft. Zemanovic says, “We love our work and feel great about what we do. Aircraft Demolition is filling an important business need, creating jobs, reducing our environmental impact, and returning valuable resources to the market. The United States has more out-of-service aircraft than any other country. Many are leased aircraft and owners and operators are paying storages fees year after year. Many of these aircraft will never fly again. We can recycle these aircraft and put the materials back in the market cheaper and with a smaller environmental impact than mining and processing new materials. Because Aircraft Demolition is AFRA accredited, owners can be assured parts and accessories are kept off the black market. Just five years ago, we started at 68 percent recyclability and have been steadily rising toward our goal of 95 percent. We love recycling and hope one day to achieve 100 percent recycling with airframes.”

New perspective on aging aircraft

In the recent past the term “aging aircraft” was commonly defined by calendar years and operating hours. In the current economic climate, aircraft age also has a direct correlation to the economic value of the aircraft. Investors, aircraft leasers, owners, and operators are using sophisticated models to analyze the relative value of an aircraft. They must calculate debt and equity ratios and determine the current and depreciating value of an aircraft.

In a recent press release from Aviation Fleet Management, editor Mary-Anne Baldwin stated, “This subject of aircraft depreciation is perhaps more relevant now than ever. Aircraft retirement age is dropping as Next Gen aircraft enter the market. The typical depreciation period is 25 years; however, most aircraft do not fly for that long. Indeed, it is now typical for low-cost airlines to run a fleet with an average age of five years.”

Additionally, in an International Bureau of Aviation press release, experts suggested that “several factors have come into play with regards to aircraft economic life recently. There is an increasing trend toward operating leases that allow the lessees to return aircraft long before their economic life expires. More aircraft are being parted out for spares at a young age — a few as early as two years old and more in the five- to 10-year age range have been seen recently.” It appears that the service life of our aircraft is being shortened at an accelerating pace and for a variety of reasons.

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