When I was young my father opened a ship equipment shop. He purchased the broken airliners wheel and resell to the ship operators as anti-crash barrier on ship or in the pier like in the picture.

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How does the other parts in airliners be used after life cycle?


Various parts of the airliners face different fates once it has been decided to breakup the aircraft. Most of the parts are reused in one way or the another. The dismantling of the aircraft starts after removal of hazardous liquids and radioactive components.

  • Engines- Usually, the aircraft and engines will be at different stages of their lives. The engines are removed and sold for operating in other aircraft. In case the engine life is also considered over, either its components will be used for spare parts or it too will be scrapped for materials.

Engine removal

Source: jalopnik.com

  • Avionics- The avionics components are usually valuable and are removed for use in other aircraft. Since they are line replaceable units anyway, this should pose no problem.

Stripped 747-400 Cokpit

Stripped down cockpit of 747-400; Image from aviationweek.com

  • Interior- The interior of the aircraft, like the seats, entertainment systems are stripped and sold off. Items in the galley (like coffee makers), the air-conditioning systems also face the same fate.

747-400 cabin

Stripped cabin of 747-400; Image from aviationweek.com

  • Some items like the APU, actuators, landing gear, pipings, etc, if they have life are removed and sold for use in other aircraft (after appropriate checks and certification).

  • In case the aircraft has removable winglets, they are removed as well, for re-use.

  • Any hazardous materials like composites, depleted Uranium (used as counterweights in 747s, 727s etc.) are removed and disposed off.

  • The aircraft (structure) is then cut to pieces and metal parts are melted and reforged for reuse in industries, with unusable parts finding its way to landfill.

Cut-down aircraft

Source: tarmacaerosave.aero

The following figure from ICAO report Aircraft End-of-Life: Scrapping and Recycling shows how the materials are reused.

Aircraft material re-use

Image from What's new in aircraft materials recycling? ICAO workshop presentation

In general, stripping down and recycling of aircraft involves millions of dollars and is highly efficient, with over 90% reuse of materials being quoted. It remains to bee seen what happens to material reclamation as more and more aircraft components are made from composites.

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    $\begingroup$ Ad depleted Uranium: Why did they use Uranium for counterweights? $\endgroup$ – Dmitrii Pisarenko Oct 4 '15 at 19:05
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    $\begingroup$ @DmitriPisarenko: I wondered the same. I would guess it's because uranium is one of the densest materials we can get. $\endgroup$ – El'endia Starman Oct 4 '15 at 19:11
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    $\begingroup$ Question is why did they use counterweights at all? According to pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML0321/ML032180089.pdf each 747 had "between 692 and 1059 pounds of DU" in the tail section and there's a handwritten note saying "they thought about it for the wings but chose not to." Seems like unnecessary extra mass. A 747 should be able to fly perfectly well without that mass, and if it were really necessary it should be achievable by redistributing equipment. Ryanair briefly had a policy of closing the first and last few rows of seating to improve aircraft trim, but only for takeoff and landing $\endgroup$ – Level River St Oct 4 '15 at 20:27
  • $\begingroup$ Since each aircraft is custom ordered & fitted for the the airline it's sold to, the manufacturer fits ballast to balance the plane based on the customer's specs. I would imagine that there are only so many places the galley can go, and that they can't be moved too much just to balance the entire craft. If you have more 1st/biz class seats, they probably weigh less than economy class, thus something has to be done to balance it out. It's highly unlikely that they'd move fuel tanks, hydraulic pumps/reservoirs/piping, APUs, etc just to balance things out. $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Oct 5 '15 at 16:13

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