Tag Archives: 757

Unbuilding The Perfect Aircraft Beast

Back on Easter 2002, I was still living in Phoenix, working for Mesa Air Group.  And instead of having brunch and attending an Easter egg hunt like normal people do, I went along on a road trip with some of my fellow aviation geeks. We decided to visit some aircraft boneyards.

For the uninitiated, these boneyards serve as the final resting place of aircraft that no one wants anymore. Because of the dry heat, companies strip and cover the engine cowlings, sometimes slap some paint to hide the original owner (but nine times out of 10 you can still see the airline’s livery) and leave the aircraft to roast in the sun.

Our first stop was Phoenix Goodyear Airport, where we spotted a slew of old U.S. Postal Service Boeing 727s and even an old United Airlines 777. But we hit the motherlode when we drove south to see Pinal Airpark/Marana Army Airfield. On the military side, there are nearly 4500 aircraft scrapped by the military. And on the commercial side, run by Marana Aerospace Solutions, it was like a who’s who of aircraft, with everything from 747s right down to 737s and A320s.

I recently received a press release from Marana Aerospace Solutions announcing that it had been chosen to provide “comprehensive end-of-life services” for a pair of retired Boeing 757s. Marana offers a broad range of maintenance, and component services for Boeing, Airbus, McDonnell Douglas, Bombardier and Embraer aircraft, as well as painting, storage and end-of-life solutions to some of the world’s largest commercial airlines, aircraft leasing companies, and government agencies.

Colin Buxton is the vice president of sales & marketing for the company, and a former colleague when we both worked at Rolls-Royce North America. When we chatted, he was attending the annual Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association convention in Las Vegas. He said the 757s would be the seventh aircraft type to be dismantled in the last 12 months at the 1,200 acre facility.

“We have multiple customers for our end-of-life of facility.  In the last 12 months, we’ve handled 747s, MD-11s, A320s, 737s and even a CRJ-200,” said Buxton.  “Under the contract, we’re required to remove specific parts from an aircraft.  That can be a big job, with a 747 taking four to six weeks.”

In the end, you’re left with an aircraft hull that’s chopped up and turned into beer cans, said Buxton. “Typically, we have two to three aircraft in process at any time. We employ 35 workers whose main job focus on end-of-life activities,” he said.  “We also do heavy maintenance and storage.  It’s not as big a business as heavy and line maintenance, but it’s good for us.

Current projections predict there will be 500 aircraft parted out each year, said Buxton. “Boeing and Airbus have built around 1,000 aircraft a year. With a 25-year average life for aircraft, it’s inevitable that some of these will end up in Marana,” he said. “If you’re just pulling apart an aircraft, you don’t need much finesse to do it.”

Random Aviation Photo

Back in June 2008, I attended an airports conference in New Orleans.  It was my first trip back to the Big Easy since Hurricane Katrina.  I had some time to kill at the gate, so I took some random shots. Mexico’s Aladia was a low-cost charter carrier that went out of business in October 2008. Below is an Aladia Boeing 757.