A plane is for a lifetime

Environmental End of service

Aeroplanes play a very significant part in air transport; but have you ever wondered what the life of these flying vehicles is like, where do planes go when they aren’t flying and what happens when they reach the end of their life?

In March this year, Delta Airlines and Grupo Aeromexico opened Latin America’s largest aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul centre, TechOps Mexico, equipped with advanced technologies to significantly reduce conventional energy consumption. Some of the environmentally-friendly practices adopted by the centre are a rainwater harvesting system to reduce billed water consumption and solar panels to generate clean energy for the maintenance centre. Similarly, Lufthansa recently installed LED lights into its A380 hangar to reduce consumption of electricity by 42%.

During the aircraft life-cycle, maintenance is vital both for safety reasons and in order to maintain or increase efficiency. For example, according to Lufthansa records, a clean engine that is freed from dust, pollen, sand or mud, is more thermally efficient and 1% more fuel efficient than a dirty engine.

Equally, end-of-life disposal in the air transport industry is now becoming increasingly environmentally-friendly. For example, Lufthansa Technik runs a ‘2nd Life’ programme in Tulsa, Oklahoma where from dismantled old Lufthansa aeroplanes, reusable parts are returned to the Lufthansa Technik pool while the remainder of the body is recycled. From the very beginning of airplanes’ life, the air transport industry is committed to recycling: Boeing and Kaiser Aluminium recently announced a collaborative recycling initiative whereby the former collects and recycles scrap alloys generated in the aircraft production process. Amongst the pioneers in the field was Airbus’ PAMELA-Life project which began in 2005 seeking to set new environmental standards for the industry on end-of-life processes. What’s more, various members of the air transport industry, from manufacturers to leasing and finance and air centres, have joined the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association that seeks to develop end-of-life solutions.

Overall, these remarkable examples illustrate the commitment of the air transport sector to take care of its vehicles during and post their life-cycle in environmentally-friendly ways.