I am browsing the planespotters.net database, and I see plenty of planes in their twenties. Delta, for example, has 117 MD-88 with an average age of 25 years.

While other planes are scrapped with no apparent reason when they are not even 10 years old: when Malev went bust, all its B736s were scrapped, 6 planes that were around 8 years old. https://www.planespotters.net/production-list/search?fleet=Malev-Hungarian-Airlines&manufacturer=Boeing&subtype=737-600&fleetStatus=historic

This is not the only example, there are plenty of aircrafts not older than 15 years that are scrapped, while other planes are still flying in the late twenties.

What are the reasons?


In general, the retirement age of aircraft is around 25 years and most of the aircraft fleet in operation is well over 15 years old.

Aircraft retirement

Source: airfinancejournal.com

There are various reasons for scrapping the aircrafts rather than selling them to other airlines (or other buyers, in general).

  • Availability of Buyers- People should be ready to buy the aircraft on offer. In this case, the aircrafts were probably offered for sale at a time when tn the economy was in a bad shape and the airlines would've found it difficult to sell them.
  • Condition of the aircraft- Though the aircraft may be new, it has to be seen if it is properly maintained. In case the aircraft are not maintained properly or had the parts been cannibalized for spares, it would be difficult to find buyers as it takes a lot of money to put the aircraft back into operation.
  • Sum of Parts- In some cases, the sum of parts of the aircraft may be more valuable than the aircraft itself. Cost of operating an aircraft is quite high and the aircraft parts like engines etc are quite valuable. It would've made more economic sense to scrap the aircraft and sell the parts rather than (trying to) sell the aircraft itself.
  • $\begingroup$ Makes sense - who wants to invest that much capital to scrap it after 10 years. They aren't camera hobbyists who need to have the latest and greatest, they're business owners who need to maximize ROI. $\endgroup$
    – corsiKa
    Sep 12 '15 at 6:27
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Wow, textbook normal distribution! $\endgroup$ Sep 12 '15 at 14:37
  • $\begingroup$ Just a bit of right skew. $\endgroup$
    – bjb568
    Sep 12 '15 at 17:10

What it boils down to is, does the value of all its parts greater than the value of keeping the aircraft whole and trying to sell or lease it. With your mentioned B736s and I'll add Frontier Airlines A318s which also went to be parted out and scrapped, their parts were far more valuable on the parts market than the owners could get in terms of sales prices or leasing prices. Those types in particular are less economical than many other types, and there is a great demand for spare parts, such that when the airlines went belly up, or decided they no longer wanted the type, the lessors couldn't find anyone who was willing to pay enough to make it worth it, and they decided to scrap them and make their money back from the value of the parts.


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