Why do the civil aviation authorities of Turkey (15 years civil, 25 years cargo) and United Arab Emirates (20 years) limit the age of aircraft flying over their territory? I think if an old plane receives good maintenance and doesn't have too many cycles, it's still a safe plane.

For reference, see this news article of a leased Kabo 747-200 that is being refused clearance by the UAE because it is older than 20 years.(German/English)

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    $\begingroup$ Also interesting in the article linked: "As quoted above, the provision of article 19(i) does not refer to the date of manufacture for aircrafts already registered in Turkey under any circumstances whatsoever. It only refers to the first registration date to the Turkish Civil Aircraft Registry that makes difficult to realize the aim of the provision if the interest is airworthiness itself." $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 20:04
  • $\begingroup$ Pure speculation here, but I wonder if it's not co-incidence that the refused plane cited in the article is a charter plane for the Hajj, and both UAE and Turkey are on popular routes for Hajj pilgrims. I wonder if there's a history of unscrupulous or under-qualified operators chartering old, poorly maintained planes for lucrative Hajj trips, which then needed to make disruptive emergency landings? $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 1, 2015 at 14:07
  • $\begingroup$ Apparently they easily turn the blind eye on it when it suits them. A lot of cargo is supplied to UAE in An-124; I've seen up to 3 of them parked in Abu Dhabi at a time. All of them are significantly older than 20 years. $\endgroup$
    – Zeus
    Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 0:28

2 Answers 2


Sounds like a market protectionist move by the nations. i.e. The airlines of UAE and Turkey are relatively new. At least their current expansion to a scale that is competitive with the major international airlines is relatively recent. Their airports have also undergone fairly recent expansions to capitalize on their geographical location as hubs between N. America / EU to Asia-Pacific nations.

I suppose they give their own airlines a competitive advantage by restricting older aircraft. The US / European carriers can only allocate the fraction of their fleet that is new to flights to Turkey / UAE which constrains their activities.

The average fleet age of some airlines in 2013:

  • Delta 16 years
  • United 13 years
  • American + US 13 years
  • Lufthansa 13 years

Now compare with

  • Turkish 8 years
  • Emirates 6 years

Basically, international trade treaties have made it difficult for nations to overtly engage in protectionist measures. So bureaucrats figure out indirect means under the guise of technology, quality etc. that are ostensibly not favoring domestic industry but are effectively a discriminatory measure.

Take the numbers with a pinch of salt because airline fleets are continuously upgraded so the average age of a fleet can change pretty rapidly.

Caveat: The average fleet age may not be representative of the equipment flying international sectors.

PS. I don't think the regulation has much to do with real safety because safety is concerned with many other factors outside of aircraft age. The safety aspects are better regulated by adopting the FAA safety watch-list based on national assessments.

At best, this sounds safety theater. Not safety.


I don't believe there's been a stated reason, but we can surmise several

Newer aircraft have newer, more efficient engines meaning typically lower noise and less pollution.

Newer aircraft are typically better maintained. Obviously this isn't always true, and some older aircraft can be very well maintained, but it's easier to just put a blanket cut-off policy in place, rather than waste time on a case-by-case basis. It also gives the perception to the public that a safety policy has been put in place.

Even if they aren't better maintained, newer aircraft are less likely to have developed faults. Again, there is no guarantee, but it provides a lower risk profile.

And as stated in another answer, there is possibly a degree of protectionism - local airlines in that part of the world tend to be fairly young with modern fleets, whereas some of the larger carriers elsewhere have older fleets. I'm not convinced this would be an effective tactic, however, as the likes of Lufthansa, British Airways etc have enough new planes to service routes to the UAE etc

And finally, older aircraft tend to be snapped up by less.... Conscientious... Airlines. Age limits are a good way to force these types of low-cost, potentially 'iffy' airlines out of contention if you don't want them flying your people in and out of your airlines.

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    $\begingroup$ The idea that new aircraft are "less likely to have developed faults" is demonstrably false (Square windows seemed like a great idea, as did lithium battery cells) $\endgroup$
    – voretaq7
    Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 17:05
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    $\begingroup$ I don't disagree, but whether an idea is true or false doesn't generally prevent policy makers from basing decisions on it... $\endgroup$
    – Jon Story
    Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 17:28
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    $\begingroup$ Stop hanging out with the United States Congress Jon! :) $\endgroup$
    – voretaq7
    Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 17:59
  • $\begingroup$ Isn't a new (coming out of the factory) aircraft of the same type/model safer than older ones (because the new one has less wear and tear) ? Are there any data that refute that? $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 1, 2015 at 8:11
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    $\begingroup$ Actually, the older one is more safe. It has been burnt-in - that is, any early-life failure modes have been shown to be absent (it's still flying) or, if they failed non-catastrophically, have been fixed. Check out Reliability Theory for more info. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 1, 2015 at 9:37

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