Commercial airliners have limited lifespans. Ultimately, they must be retired from service, stored in "airplane boneyards" or graveyards, and finally dismantled and scrapped.
Airliner reclamation at the Pinal Airpark in Arizona
Jetliners eventually reach end-of-life due to airframe wear and/or obsolescence. Some jetliners are temporarily taken off flying status, and must be stored in a environment that is conducive to preservation. Others are kept for spare parts for flying aircraft.
To protect airliners during their storage from wind and sun damage, engines and windows are tightly covered with white, reflective materials. A sealed airliner can thus be stored safely, for years, until the time comes to return it to active duty, or salvage. Eventually, all airliners are removed permanently from service and must be "disposed" of.
Airliner "boneyards" in the deserts of the western United States serve several functions: temporary storage, maintenance, parts reclamation, and scrapping. Similar facilities exist around the world, in countries like the U.K., Spain, France, Wales, the Netherlands, Australia and other locales.
As anyone that flies, has ties to the aviation industry, or watches TV knows, the worldwide outbreak of the Corona Virus had a major negative impact on airlines and their fleets, worldwide. Hundreds of planes were put into temporary storage pending their return to active service as the pandemic subsided.
The Mojave Air and Space Port serves a variety of aviation and space industries. It is also a storage facility for commercial airliners, due to its vast area and dry desert conditions.
Large Boeing, Airbus, Lockheed, and McDonnell-Douglas aircraft of major airlines are stored at Mojave. Some aircraft reach the end of their useful lifetime and are scrapped at the Mojave aircraft boneyard, while others are refurbished and returned to active service.
The Southern California Logistics Airport (SCLA) is located in Victorville, California. Also known as Victorville Airport, it is home to many aviation related businesses, including Southern California Aviation, a large transitional facility for commercial aircraft.
The facility is located on the site of the former George Air Force Base, in active service from 1941 to 1992.
Southern California Logistics Airport includes a precision instrument runway of 15,050 feet and a secondary runway length of 9,138 feet to accommodate any aircraft flying today.
The Pinal Airpark is located in Marana, Arizona, just northwest of Tucson. It acts as a "boneyard" for civilian commercial aircraft as well as a site for airliner storage and reconfiguration. Old aircraft are stored there with the hope that the dry desert climate will prevent any form of corrosion in case the aircraft is pressed into service in the future.
Among the current tenants at the airpark is the Evergreen Aircraft Maintenance Facility. Now known as Marana Aerospace Solutions, the company offers more than 600 acres of secured ramp and storage area for all sizes of aircraft.
This facility in Phoenix, Arizona was originally constructed during World War II as a naval air facility known as NAF Litchfield Park, and later renamed Naval Air Station Litchfield Park.
Its primary role following the end of World War II was that of storage and preservation of obsolete or excess U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Coast Guard aircraft.
In 1965, the Defense Department decided to consolidate military aircraft storage at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson.
Following the closure of NAS Litchfield Park in 1967, the city of Phoenix purchased the airport for a general aviation facility. Today, the airport is home to several private companies offering aircraft maintenance, airliner storage, and commercial pilot training, and serves as a reliever airfield for Phoenix Sky Harbor.
Located in Roswell, New Mexico, this facility was originally known as Roswell Army International Airfield during World War II, and Walker Air Force Base in later years.
At the time of its closure in 1967, the facility was the largest air base of the Strategic Air Command (SAC). During its active duty years, Walker supported B-29 Superfortress, B-50, KC-97, B-36 Peacemakers, B-47 Stratojets, KC-135 tankers, and B-52 Stratofortresses.
The Roswell International Air Center was developed after the close of the base. Two runways are provided, one at 13,001 feet, the other extending 9,999 feet.
Today, various industry are located at the Air Center, including aircraft repair and refurbishing companies which store airliners onsite.
Continental ExpressJets in storage at Kingman Airport in the Arizona desert (staff photo)
the Kingman Airport & Industrial Park is located five miles north of Interstate 40 in Kingman, Arizona, and spans 4,000 acres. The industrial park is a vibrant commercial community, and home to more than 70 businesses in diverse fields, including the temporary storage of airliners. It employs over 2,100 people.
The airliners are stored by Kingman Airline Services, an FAA approved Part 145 repair station and storage facility. The company operates an active storage facility for commercial jet, turbo-prop and corporate aircraft.
When we last visited Kingman, dozens of airliners were parked, including those from American Eagle, Continental, DHL, SAS and other airlines.
In Eastern Spain, the Teruel Airport, located about 100 miles south of Zaragoza, was constructed as a storage and recycling facility for airliners. It also supports maintenance and servicing operations. Airliners in storage have included aircraft manufactured by Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier and other companies.
It is operated by TARMAC Aerosave, and is the largest airliner storage facility in Europe, designed to handle 250 large aircaft. For more information, visit www. TarmacAerosave.aero
Tarbes–Lourdes–Pyrénées Airport is located 9 km south-southwest of Tarbes and near Lourdes, both communes of the Hautes-Pyrénées département in France. The location is about 120 km from Airbus's Toulouse headquarters.
The airport mainly handles scheduled and charter flights from a variety of airlines across Europe. The airport has sufficient capabilities to handle large aircraft such as the Boeing 747 and the Airbus A380.
TarmacAerosave is an EASA and FAA Part 145 MRO company dedicated to aircraft storage, aircraft maintenance, recycling and CFM56 engine recycling in an entirely environmentally friendly manner.
Located at the heart of Europe and in the centre of France, Châteauroux-Centre Airport is an industrial airport specialized in freight, pilot training and aircraft maintenance.
The airport is used by both passenger and cargo planes. It also serves as a pilot training site for both commercial and military planes. Users of the facility include Airbus, Air France, British Airways, EasyJet, KLM, the French Air Force, Lufthansa and other airlines and air forces.
Châteauroux-Centre Airport is storing a number of airliners during the COVID-19 pandemic, including British Airways A380s. A total of over 40 airliners were reportedly stored at the airport as of the summer of 2020.
British Airways Airbus A380s in storage at the Chateauroux Airport
Air Salvage International (ASI) is one of Europe’s leading airliner storage and maintenance facilities. At Kemble-Cotswold Airport, its environmentally compliant fixed base, it has secure parking for in excess of 20 wide and up to 50 narrow-bodied commercial aircraft.
ASI is a market leader in delivering professional disassembly services to the global aviation industry with almost two decades of experience.
It is located at Cirencester, Gloucestershire, GL7 6BA, United Kingdom.
Parking is available at St. Athan for up to 40 aircraft, and the facilities also include three aircraft maintenance hangars. eCube Solutions employs over 100 staff at the St. Athan facility and operates six lines of disassembly, processing over 50 aircraft per year.
eCube Solutions was formed in 2011 and has been an accredited member of AFRA since December 2012.
A global player in the aviation services industry, eCube Solutions has developed expertise in delivering complete solutions, including aircraft parking and storage, care and maintenance, engine removal, parts storage, third-party logistics, customs management, carpentry and fabrication, disassembly and disposal and lease redelivery.
The company launched another facility in 2019, located at the Castellon Airport in Spain.
The Boumemouth Airport (IATA: BOH, ICAO: EGHH) is located 6.5 km north-northeast of Bournemouth in southern England.
The airport supports a variety of maintenance, repair and overhaul services (MRO), for different aircraft types, as well as fixed base operators (FBO), flight training and flying schools. Boeing 737s are being stored and recycled, among other aircraft types.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 30 British Airways airliners are being parked at the Bournemouth Airport. Virgin Atlantic Airbus A340s have also been parked there.
British Airways airliners in storage at the Bournemouth Airport in the UK in 2020
An aircraft storage and dismantling facility operated by EirTrade Aviation is located at Ireland West Airport Knock. Projects include parts reclamation and scrapping of four Air France Airbus A380 airliners.
EirTrade has a wide range of business services and solutions, including aircraft storage & disassembly, end-of-life asset management, global engine/aircraft/parts trading, QEC management, asset evaluation and more. The company's clients include the world's leading airlines, leasing companies and MROs.
Airframe disassembly managed by or carried out by EirTrade has been accomplished for the following aircraft types: A380, A340, A330, A321, A320, A319, B777, B757, B737/3/4/5, MD83, and ATR72-212A.
Ex-Air France A380 F-HPJB (MSN 40, first fight 02/06/2009) arrived at Knock on February 20, 2020.
The world's newest "airliner boneyard" at Alice Springs Airport in the Northern Territory of Australia was completed in 2013 and began operations in June of 2014.
Stage one of the multi-million dollar Asia Pacific Aircraft Storage (APAS) at Alice Springs covers about 10 hectares and includes two access roads, a maintenance shed, a hard-stand area for up to 25 planes and a pad on which parts can be removed or added to aircraft.
The boneyard is operated by Asia Pacific Aircraft Storage (APAS) which chose Alice Springs because its dry, arid climate is ideal for aircraft storage and preservation.
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