Did you read it right? Is it even a valid question? How do planes even retire? Like, what exactly happens to them?
Yes, this is actually true, airplanes do retire. Let’s see how, when, and why airplanes retire.
There are a few reasons why aircraft retire:
1) They have reached a fatigue stage wherein the age of the aircraft is a safety concern.
According to experts, on average, the life of aircraft is 15-20 years approximately.
However, it is not necessary that all aircraft reach this age limit before retiring.
2) The cost of aircraft parts as a whole is more than the actual aircraft operating cost for flying.
3) When the aircraft undergoes an accident or incident and is not in a condition to be repaired.
There are multiple reasons for aircraft retirement, above being the primary ones. Now, what happens to these aircraft once they retire?
The place where aircraft are flown post their retirements is called “Aircraft Graveyards,” yes, you read that correct similar to what we humans have.
There are many such aircraft graveyards around the world, but most famous among all of is the Mojave Desert in southern California. This place is full of retired planes; wherever you lay your sight on, you will find them.
For all Aviation enthusiasts, Mojave Desert is a “must visit.” On the flip side, being an aviator, it is a sorry sight to see so many aircraft grounded, which were once made to soar the skies.
Also, not all planes that end up at these graveyards are meant for retirement; some are temporarily parked here due to change in ownership, among many other reasons.
The whole dismantling and scrapping procedure is initiated once an aircraft arrives at the graveyard.
The engine is the most valuable component stripped off from a plane, which has its engines in perfect condition.
Then comes in navigation and radio equipment. Also, seats in the aircraft, flooring, and carpets are all equally re-usable.
A lot of other parts and components from an aircraft are still valuable and can get the owner a lot of money by selling or re-using them in other aircraft.
After all these re-usable parts are removed from a retired plane, the metal body is totally scrapped and sold. An interesting fact is that market for second-hand parts of an aircraft is booming. There is a high demand for used aircraft parts worldwide.
An Aircraft’s journey does not stop here; you will be surprised and amazed at the same time hearing this.
A few die-hard enthusiasts who have lived and loved aviation all through their life, buy these aircraft for various reasons other than flying them.
Some people buy the aircraft and store it in a museum for future generations to come and see these mighty planes, which once rocked the skies.
Few aircraft are converted into living hotels and restaurants at the best sight-seeing places in the world – I can bet that this is altogether a marvelous experience.
These people want aircraft to be still alive, even if they are not flying in the skies.
I have also heard people using metal scarp from the aircraft to make treasured personalized gift items.
All in all, an Aircraft’s journey is a next-level thing – aircraft are flying when they are airworthy, retired when they are not up to flying standards, re-used when they can be – by donating their components/parts to other aircraft.
And if nothing else, they are stored and valued for other interesting purposes.
We can definitely co-relate an aircraft’s journey with a living being – giving joy over their lifespan.
Until next time, and as always, “WE SPEAK AVIATION.”