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(CNN) If you’re in the market for a pair of lightly used wide-body jets, you’d better head to Scotland quickly and bid – before the two Boeing 787-8s formerly flying Norwegian Air Shuttle are stripped for parts.
Both aircraft are no more than 10 years old, as they were delivered on June And August 2013. With the exception of a a test Boeing scrapped in 2018, these are the first Dreamliners to be retired, and the dismantling, which began in early March, is taking place at Prestwick Airport near Glasgow, Scotland.
“It’s done in tandem and it could probably take three to four months,” says Ken Fitzgibbon, CEO of EirTrade, the Dublin-based airline trading firm that runs the process. “The dismantling process is like a production line, but it’s reverse engineered, and ultimately we aim to recycle about 95% of the aircraft.”
EirTrade has previous experience in the disposal of small wide-body aircraft, having worked on retired A380s from Singapore Airlines and Air France that were also about a decade old.
says Lee Carey, vice president of asset management at Eirtrade, who points out that maintenance costs are one reason why planes are running out of steam. “They’ve been going for their inspection for 12 years, which is the largest maintenance event that will happen on these aircraft.”
As many other 787s still flying en route to this historic maintenance event, demand for parts will skyrocket, making the operation economically viable.
“The engines on these particular planes were removed two weeks ago,” Carey says. “We then began the fuel removal process to make sure any hazardous fuels are removed and disposed of properly.”
After that, the plane was towed into a hangar for disassembly. The dismantling team has a “harvest list” of the materials they want – basically that’s where most of the value is. When components are removed, they are sent for overhaul or overhaul, to bring them back into shape: “Then, they will be sold to airlines, maintenance companies, equipment manufacturers or charter companies around the world to support the rest of the global 787 fleet.”
victims of the epidemic
The planes arrived at their current location at Prestwick Airport in Scotland for storage again in the summer of 2019, after making the trans-Atlantic routes for the Norwegian, via charter companies, for nearly six years. They were part of a group of 35 Boeing 787s grounded due to problems with its engine blades, which were prematurely cracking or wearing out.
But even after a solution was found, the planes never entered service again, and then the epidemic engulfed them.
In 2020, the Norwegian has been struggling to survive and foot to go bankrupt. The longer the 787s remain on the ground, the more expensive it will be to get them flying again, due to the maintenance work required. As a result, it was no longer airworthy.
“Prestwick is a really terrible place to store aircraft, because it’s cold and wet and rainy and damp,” says Conor Diver, senior analyst at aviation analytics firm Cirium. “Not somewhere you were planning on keeping them for that long. Maybe they were just planning on fixing it up, but then other events happened.”
It is likely that the condition of the aircraft played a large role in the fact that no airline offered to purchase it.
“The maintenance on a modern widebody is very expensive,” adds the diver. “If you are late and in poor condition, the costs of bringing it into serviceable condition will be prohibitive, probably. The parts may then be worth more than the aircraft.”
The average value of a Boeing 787-8 of similar age $30 million, but given the condition they were in, those planes were worth less and possibly closer to $20 million, according to Diver. So dumping them for parts and starting a used component market for the 787 became a more attractive option.
Earlier this year, a 10-year-old Boeing 747 in VIP configuration canceled With only 16 flights on the clock after failing to find a buyer. Several Airbus A380s of similar age have already been used recycled. Now, the 787s have entered the circus: Is this the start of an alarming trend of wide-body aircraft being retired too soon?
“Never say never, but it could be an isolated incident,” Diver says. “Normally we expect an aircraft to remain in service for at least 20 to 25 years.”
“If they’re in good shape and haven’t been sitting there for three years, it’s very likely that somebody will want them.”
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