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Have you ever wondered how long does an aircraft live and where do the old airplanes end up?

Aviation is an extremely relevant sector of the economy, with an important growth trend. The life of an air carrier provides employment at every stage of its reality.

The life cycle of an aircraft can be divided into three main phases:

• Production of an aircraft
• Use in flight
• Dismantling or radiation



The production phase also includes research and engineering design of new solutions capable of responding to commercial and environmental protection needs, such as fuel savings, noise reduction, the use of the new high-tech materials.

This is a phase that normally takes a long time – even a decade!
Once the parts are designed and built, they are assembled and, usually, the main manufacturers use a single plant for the assembly phase.

Thus, Boeing assembles its aircraft at the Seattle plant, Airbus – in its centre in Toulouse and Embraer – in its base in Brazil.

The final phase is that of painting and assignment of livery. It can be done in these plants but, more frequently, it is carried out by airline companies that buy or charter a plane.

Once delivered to an airline company (both when it purchases an aircraft or acquires it with other leasing solutions), the aircraft is “baptised and is ready to fully enter into the fleet and start to fly.

But for how long? How do you know when the plane is “old”?

Three main parameters are used:

• Age, calculated starting from the year of construction and commissioning
• The cycles of take-off and landing, or the number of performed flights
• The cycles of pressurization and depressurization on the passages between take-off – flight – landing (which create wear of metallic materials)

The service life of a plane is about 30 years, based on the number of cycles lived.

However, a of 20/25 years old plane is no less secure than the one that, for example, is 5 years old because in order to have good operating performance it must correspond exactly to all of the requirements.
The maintenance of an aircraft is a guarantee of safety and the accurate control of EASA and ENAC ascertain compliance of these requirements.

An aircraft can be said to be old after having undergo an average of 60/70 thousand cycles.
At this point, the maintenance of the aircraft in service would be too expensive and anti-economic, as well as not having more technological construction criteria both in terms of economy and the passenger’s comfort.
Therefore, its life cycle ends.



In reality, the disused airplanes continue to be useful and constitute a sector in growth.

There are companies specializing in the dismantling of aircraft that recycle usable parts and metals. On the other hand, all of the parts that can be harmful to the environment, are treated according to specific legislation, until they are reduced to a simple waste.

One of the most important companies dedicated to the radiation of planes is the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group in Arizona, also known as AMARG.


But, of course, there are many companies of this type around the world and in Europe the best known is Air Salvage International while the only “aircraft cemetery” is located in Spain, at the foot of the Pyrenees.

These are the places where the aircraft remain until completely dismantled, in an environment with particular climate and conditions that do not damage the reusable parts and components.
That is why the airplane cemetery par excellence is located in the desert of Arizona, in United Stated, near Tucson.

It is a fascinating, extremely vast place and it is curious to know that even guided tours are organized to explore the area and see the models of the most bizarre civil and military aircraft.
There are more than 4,500 aircraft worth about $ 32 billion and many of these are old Boeing 747, airplanes with more than 500 seats, which are now not very competitive compared to the most recent aircraft models.

Did you know that you can recover up to 95% of the Airbus 320 parts?
Everything is recovered: from seats to screens, lights and electronic parts.

On the other hand, Boeing 747 are less competitive and recover a little over 50%.


But sometimes, an old plane can find a new life, a new function and be used for something very different than flying…

An example?

It can be used as a house, as it happened in Amsterdam and reported on an article in Dove. Or turn into a hotel…

If you happen to organize a trip to Costa Rica, do not miss the chance to stay at the Hotel Costa Verde which, in addition to the rooms on the ground, parts two rooms – the 727 Fuselage Home and a Cockpit Cottage – directly on board of a Boeing 727 places among the green branches of the trees and vegetation.

A very unique experience!!


That Aviation Italia: the broker with a passion for flights.

For any further information and flight price quotation, please contact us.

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