Home > General > How a 747 jumbo jet is reduced to scrap metal in under three days after its last trip… to the aircraft graveyard

How a 747 jumbo jet is reduced to scrap metal in under three days after its last trip… to the aircraft graveyard

When a mighty Boeing 747 jumbo jet has reached the end of its natural life, its final destination may be Cotswold Airport – the biggest graveyard for aeroplanes in the UK.

Once there, the salvage team takes just under three days to reduce a 230-tonne commercial airliner to scrap metal.

The first step involves removing 130 tonnes of equipment, such as landing gear and navigation/communication avionics (which can fetch six-figure sums), before the earth excavator takes over.

Former aircraft engineer Mark Gregory and his crew at Air Salvage International near Cirencester, Gloucestershire, oversee the demolition process.

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A Boeing 747 jumbo jet at the demolition plant at Cotswold AirportA Boeing 747 jumbo jet at the demolition plant at Cotswold Airport
The first step involves removing 130 tonnes of equipment, such as landing gear and navigation/communication avionics (which can fetch six-figure sums), before the earth excavator takes overThe first step involves removing 130 tonnes of equipment, such as landing gear and navigation/communication avionics (which can fetch six-figure sums), before the earth excavator takes over
The jaws of the digger pierce the plane's body at the centre, near Cirencester, GloucestershireThe jaws of the digger pierce the plane’s body at the recycling centre, near Cirencester, Gloucestershire

The digger’s powerful jaws chew up the tail and work their way forward – through the wings, into the fuselage and the rest of the body.

Soon, all that is left of the £200million aircraft is a heap of twisted metal with only a few recognisable parts remaining.

Occasionally, 747 flightdecks are spared to be used as a shell in the construction of flight simulators.

The carcass of a jumbo has a scrap value of up to £35,000 – no longer pure enough to be used in new planes but it can live on as recycled aluminium.

The digger chews up the tail and works its way forward - through the wings, into the fuselage and the rest of the bodyThe digger chews up the tail and works its way forward – through the wings, into the fuselage and the rest of the body
The process to render the aircraft as scrap metal takes under three daysThe process to render the aircraft as scrap metal takes under three days
Once separated out, the fuselage metal is sent away, smelted down and re-used for items such as drink cans, biscuit tins, bicycle frames or alloy wheels on carsOnce separated out, the fuselage metal is sent away, smelted down and re-used for items such as drink cans, biscuit tins, bicycle frames or alloy wheels on cars
The carcass of a jumbo has a scrap value of up to £35,000 - no longer pure enough to be used in new planes but it can live on as recycled aluminiumThe carcass of a jumbo has a scrap value of up to £35,000 – no longer pure enough to be used in new planes but it can live on as recycled aluminium
Occasionally, 747 flightdecks are spared to be used as a shell in the construction of flight simulatorsOccasionally, 747 flightdecks are spared to be used as a shell in the construction of flight simulators

Once separated out, the fuselage metal is sent away, smelted down and re-used for items such as drink cans, biscuit tins, bicycle frames or alloy wheels on cars.

From the Cotswold plant, formerly known as Kemble Airport, flight components and engines go for testing to see if they can be saved for use in other aircraft.

The Boeing 747 made its first commercial flight in 1970 and is one of the most recognisable planes in the industry.

As with all commercial craft, the jumbo has to undergo regular checks to ensure its safety and efficiency.

According to Digital Trends, about every six years these airplanes undergo a complete overhaul on the inside and outside.

FLIGHT OF FANCY: FACTS ABOUT THE JUMBO

A British Airways Boeing 747 jumbo jet

PARTS

  • A 747-400 has 6million parts, half of which are fasteners.
  • It has 171 miles (274 km) of wiring and 5 miles (8 km) of tubing.
  • The plane consists of 147,000lb (66,150 kg) of high-strength aluminum.
  • It has 16 main landing gear tyres and two nose landing gear tyres.
  • The tail height is 63ft 8in (19.4 m), equivalent to a six-storey building.

WINGS

  • The 747-400 wing weighs 95,000lb (43,090 kg).
  • The wing measures 5,600 sq ft – an area large enough to hold 45 cars.

ENGINEERING AND TESTING

  • 75,000 engineering drawings were used to produce the first 747.
  • The first 747 completed more than 15,000 hours of wind-tunnel testing.

FLIGHT

  • The 747 fleet has logged more than 42 billion nautical miles (77.8 billion km), equivalent to 101,500 trips from the Earth to the moon and back.
  • The 747 fleet has flown 3.5 billion people – the equivalent of more than half of the world’s population.
  • A 747-400 typically takes off at 180mph, cruises at 565mph and lands at 160mph.
  • For a typical international flight, one 747 operator uses about 5.5 tons (5,000 kg) of food supplies and more than 50,000 in-flight service items.

INTERIOR

  • The Wright Brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C., could have been performed within the 150ft (45m) economy section of a 747-400.
  • There are 365 lights, gauges and switches in the new-technology 747-400 flight deck, reduced from 971 on earlier 747 models.                                                         Source: Boeing

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2176079/Boeing-going-gone-How-747-jumbo-jet-reduced-scrap-metal-days-trip–aircraft-graveyard.html#ixzz219MCIWsC

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  1. July 20, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    Quite surprised that the scrap value is only £35,000. Interesting read, cheers 🙂

    • July 20, 2012 at 3:33 pm

      Thank you so much Stuart for visiting my blog and posting comment. Keep visiting and give me your valuable feedback please. Thanks once again! 🙂

  2. July 24, 2012 at 11:49 pm

    I think recycling scrap metals to be used for other items is fascinating. When I drink a can of cola I think, “I wounder what this came from?”. I know I am a nerd because of this but oh well. Thank you for the article and the video and images so we can see how turning an aeroplane into scrap metal happens.

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