There comes a point where the maintenance of an aircraft is simply not worth the cost. Instead of spending tens of thousands of dollars replacing an engine component or flight instrument, many aircraft owners and operators choose to turn the aircraft over to salvagers.
Although the instruments and parts lose their working value, they still hold a monetary value due to the materials they are made from. Unlike cars, aircraft are subject to harsh conditions that require specialized metals that can withstand high temperatures, pressures, and corrosion. Exotic alloys such as silver cadmium is used in switches and relays, mercury and chromium in gauges, and platinum in thermocouples. It would be hard to find these materials in various other mechanisms and the price to purchase these materials is significantly greater. Along with exotic alloys, gold is used in to make the circuit boards of an aircraft. It is estimated that a modern jet engine contains more than $15,000 worth of precious metals.
An aircraft cannot be dismantled and stripped at an MRO but needs to be taken to a specific site where the proper precautions can be taken. While the FAA governs all aspects of airworthy aircraft, the Environmental Protection Agency regulates the scrapping and salvaging of an aircraft. Scrappers with specialized knowledge should be consulted rather than simply abandoning the aircraft. With their expert knowledge, scrappers can assess the value of materials and give a fair price for the purchase of the aircraft. Finding a trusted scrapper can be difficult, however the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association (AFRA) is an international aircraft disassembly and salvaging association. With members such as Boeing Company, Embraer, and Rolls-Royce, AFRA is a safe and responsible way to scrap your aircraft.
Hazardous materials need to be handled with care in order to avoid any environmental damage through runoff. If the aircraft is equipped with a bathroom, the biological waste needs to be addressed using specific measures to prevent any human risk.
The owner of an aircraft can be held accountable if the aircraft is left unattended to corrode and break down. Owners may find themselves inundated with parking fees and state issued fines if they incorrectly abandon their aircraft. After all, this is littering to the highest degree.
All in all, an aircraft is an expensive asset even if it is no longer flying in the air. The scrapping process is not only a money maker, but also encourages the recycling of valuable materials that would otherwise go to waste and cause damage to the environment.
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