How (not) to dispose of your old jet aircraft

When some old airline seats of Ryanair were found on waste ground in Scotland, some people thought that there had been a crash, others (perhaps!) that Ryanair were making space for standing passengers. The truth was different.


In the Sunday Times of 29 August there was a report entitled

Grounded: the jet fly-tippers

The report followed the discovery, at the Methil docks (on the east coast of Scotland) of the battered interior furnishings of a Boeing 737-200. It did not take too long to identify these as from an aircraft that had once belonged to Ryanair. A more detailed investigation revealed that Ryanair had, in 2004, sold it to Autodirect Aviation, who later sold it to Diversified Aero services, in Miami. This company then contracted two British firms to dismantle it: we can then suppose that either they, or some subcontractor (or sub-subcontractor, or ...) then fell back on the age-old practice of fly-tipping as the cheapest way to make money.

The article then pointed out that whereas we, the general public, have to follow all sorts of regulations when we want to dispose of our old fridges, computers, cars and various household goods, there are currently few regulations for the disposal of jets. This has allowed the airlines to use an international network of leasing companies, holding corporations, after-market suppliers and independent dismantlers, so as to avoid any legal responsibility for the disposal of their old aircraft.

Looking to the future, the article does say that both Boeing and Airbus are working to make the next generation of aircraft more environment-friendly, in the sense that a greater percentage of the aircraft can be recycled. However, one problem is that the newer aircraft, such as the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, will use new carbon fibre composites. Whilst these are incredibly strong and light, they are practically indestructible, do not disintegrate in the environment and are incredibly difficult to recycle. A problem for future generations (as if we have not already left future generations with enough problems!).

In the meantime, it is estimated that over the next 20 years there will be thousands of aircraft going out of service. If even a small percentage of these get the same method of disposal as the Ryanair Boeing then there might be a lot of third-world countries whose residents furnish their homes with old airline seats and cushions. The rest of these old aircraft might then be heading for landfill, aka a big hole in the ground somewhere.

It does make me wonder whether these new, strong and light materials are, or will be, also found in other domains (road, rail or sea transport, for instance).

10:31 Posted in Potpourri | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: ryanair, airbus, boeing, recycling, environment | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook

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