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How Finnair recycles its old aircraft

When an aircraft reaches the end of its design service goal, Finnair makes sure that as many of its parts as possible are reused or recycled.

With sustainability so vital to Finnair’s business, that means teaming up with responsible partners to help dismantle older planes and make the best use of their components, either as spare parts on other aircraft or as recycled materials for other industries.

The latest Finnair aircraft to start its afterlife is an Airbus A319-112. This 21-year-old aircraft, part of the A32S fleet, has undertaken a massive 32,710 flights, totalling some 55,367 hours. Having reached its service goal, it’s fair to say that it has been a good servant.

The Finnair logos were covered with blue paint, as we had some blue paint that we needed to get rid of.

The aircraft has been flown by Finnair pilots to an airfield in the Cotswold, in western England, where it will be carefully taken apart by our expert partners. 90 percent of the plane can be reused or recycled, meaning its parts will help to maintain other aircraft, while other materials such as aluminum will be available for use in various industries.

Miika Haatio, Director of Fleet Management at Finnair, explains:

“The fuselage of an aircraft can only withstand a certain amount of pressurization cycles, after which it must be taken out of service according to aviation authority requirements. The plane has around two thousand interchangeable parts, many of which still have a lot of life left in them even if the fuselage is retired. These can be removed and reinstalled on flying aircraft after inspection.”

The good news is that all major parts can find a new life elsewhere.

“Almost all aircraft equipment such as engines, landing gear, computers, actuators, pumps, batteries and valves can be reused. In addition, all structural parts removed from the fuselage, such as doors, hatches and control surfaces, can be easily installed on other aircraft. The recyclability of the aircraft and its components is always considered during the manufacturing phase.”

Safety is, of course, paramount, with all equipment inspected by specialist workshops before reinstallation. Part manufacturers specify what kind of inspections need to be completed, with some equipment undergoing extensive repairs before being ready for reuse.

“After the parts have been inspected and repaired, most of them can be installed directly back on other Finnair aircraft or sold to other airlines,” says Miika.

The aim, he says, is to make the best use of all parts and materials when the aircraft is dismantled. Hazardous materials such as fuel and hydraulic fluid are disposed of in a safe manner, with some sold off to be used in other industries. All plastics are separated from electrical wiring so that everything can be easily recycled.

“Finnair’s decommissioning decisions always take into account sustainability and responsibility with a view to achieve the best economic outcome.”

Photos: Mikko Pylkkö


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