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Recycling Old Aircraft Parts

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You may think that reusing old aircraft parts is a bad idea, but if it is done correctly there is no reason why plane parts can’t be recycled for a new purpose. Recycling parts instead of throwing them away not only helps to cut costs but it is also better for the environment, as it keeps these parts out of landfills. Beyond this, though, aircraft parts are being put to use in some very creative ways. Here are just a few ways that plane parts can be reused.

Stripping the Aircraft
Airplanes can typically be used for 20 to 30 years, but after they are retired they can cause many problems. Around 600 aircraft per year are “retired,” and that means that something has to be done with them. Some may be stored to be used as reserve aircraft or they may be used for training or in safety tests. However, most are scavenged for the thousands of parts that make up the craft, in a process that can take up to 2 months to complete. Over 85% of the aircraft can be recycled. Used aircraft parts of all sizes and purposes can very often be used in new planes, but don’t worry – these parts are checked to ensure they can be used again safely. Engines and landing gear may be reused in another plane to help keep the costs of building a new plane down. Wires, electronics, and other parts can be broken down and used to make circuit boards and televisions. Aluminum makes up a large part of an airplane, and this is a material that is easily recycled for use in other products (including items that aren’t airplane-related).
Once the aircraft has been stripped of all reusable and recyclable parts, the shell can still be quite useful: an example is the Boeing 737 that was sunk into the ocean to help create an artificial reef. Efforts are also underway to convert old airplanes into “supertrains” that can run on tracks that are suspended high off of the ground.

The Art of Aircraft Parts

For those who love the aviation industry, enjoy having a piece of history, or just like a good conversation piece, there are plenty of options out there. Artists, antique dealers, and furniture makers have found creative ways to reuse aircraft parts that would otherwise go to waste.
Reusing airplane parts as home decor is a way to appreciate the craftsmanship and the skill that was used to create the materials originally. Old gauges can be used for table-top sculptures; propellers can be used to make coffee tables, ceiling fans, or bar stools; old seats can be crafted to make brand new (yet retro-looking) chairs for your living room; and even engine parts can be polished and put to good use. Entire houses have been made from old planes, and there are even hotels made from old planes that are increasingly becoming popular. If a home made from a plane sounds like it may be a bit out of your price range, you can get a purse or wallet made from the fabric of an old airplane seat or a luggage tag made from the skin of an old plane. These items are becoming easier to get, too – they are available on sites such as Etsy and you can even find a whole store dedicated to such things in the Seattle-Tacoma airport.

Aircraft recycling is a fairly new industry, but an important one as more and more airplanes retire. Recycling can help to keep the costs of building new craft down (as well as saving a lot of energy and effort), keeps tons and tons of material out of landfills, and makes use of parts that are still functioning properly. The industry of using old airplane parts for more artistic purposes is growing as well, and it is a way for everyone to have their own little piece of aviation history.

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