In a society where constant travel and fast communication make the world a smaller place, airplanes have become a crucial component to our lives. From small private planes to jumbo commercial jets, the private and public sector alike rely on aircraft daily. Like all other methods of transportation, though, they do reach an end to their usefulness at some point and have to be decommissioned. What happens to all of these planes when decommissioned from flying?
Many airplanes that have been decommissioned end up in a type of airplane graveyard. These large tracts of desert land filled with old planes have a variety of uses. Some are designed as a place to acquire secondhand spare parts to be used in the repair of flying airplanes. Even planes without parts can be used as well. Many times filmmakers and demolition experts will purchase entire decommissioned airplanes from these graveyards to use in movie scenes that require explosions or devastation filming. Another use for these old airplanes is for military and weapons testing. “The Boneyard”, which is located outside of Tucson, Arizona is one of the largest of these airplane graveyards in the whole world. With about 2,600 acres total, it is used primarily for decommissioned military planes. This location even holds online auctions to sell parts and whole planes from time to time.
Another option for a plane that has been decommissioned is for it to be sold to a private owner, company, or municipality. These private parties may purchase for a variety of reasons. Some creative people have purchased and turned old airplanes into homes, guest living quarters, storage units, or even tornado and bomb shelters. A company in Sweden even went so far as to turn a decommissioned 747 jet into a hotel! Retired airplanes can also be found on display in historical museums, on military bases, or as landscaping or decorative art pieces for businesses and organizations. Some planes are restored cosmetically and used to educate tourists and historical enthusiasts on their past glory.
Like many other used products in our society, many decommissioned airplanes will be scrapped and the pieces recycled. Typically this process begins by removing any fuel and fluid left in the airplane. Once this is complete, useable parts will be removed and either resold, reconditioned, or overhauled, based on their condition. The metal shell of the plane is then cut apart and sold to a scrap yard.