Exceeding the expectations: Finnair’s Airbus A319 had a 99.2% recovery rate
Earlier this year, Finnair and recycling partner Kuusakoski dismantled and recycled a 21-year old Airbus A319 aircraft that had reached the end of its economic life cycle. We originally estimated to be able to reuse and recycle about 90-95% of the aircraft. The final recovery rate was even higher than expected: only 0.8% of the aircraft ended up in disposal.
This was the first ever commercial passenger aircraft recycled in Finland.
What happened to the aircraft parts?
At the start, Finnair’s Maintenance team removed almost 2 000 parts and components. Some of them will be used elsewhere in Finnair’s narrow body fleet, some will be sold to external vendors. 38,5% of the aircraft will be reused. The project was profitable for Finnair for the aircraft parts alone.
”We’ll be able to have significant cost savings by not having to buy spare parts from external vendors,” rejoices Project Manager Timo Rossi from Finnair Maintenance. “We’ll also get savings from not having to ground planes that are waiting for a spare part.”
49.1% of the aircraft was recycled. Aluminium made up the bulk of the plane, amounting to approximately 15 tons. You might encounter this metal in future car models, since the automobile industry is one of the biggest users of recycled aluminum. The aluminium from the Finnair aircraft will end up in automatic models of Mercedes-Benz vehicles.
7.4% of the aircraft was recovered as energy. Kuusakoski manufactures fuel of energy-containing waste that is unsuitable for recycling.
4.2% of the aircraft is used in research. Kuusakoski is currently involved in a project that explores the utilization of composite. The materials of the Finnair aircraft will be used in this project.
A ray of light in a difficult time
The dismantling and recycling of the aircraft happened during the bleakest time of the pandemic when Finnair’s planes were grounded and thousands of employees were temporarily laid off.
”The recycling project brought us something positive to focus on during a difficult period, and we were happy to employ people in Finnair’s maintenance. It was great to see that we were able to do something like this. Our staff gained new skills and experience by, for example, doing the kinds of component removals that we haven’t done for a while at Finnair,” Timo Rossi tells.
So, what about the next steps? Does Finnair intend to recycle other aircraft in Finland?
”We make these decisions for one aircraft at a time. At the moment we are not planning to take any more aircraft out of use, so we haven’t made any decisions. But at least we now know that we have the skills and capabilities to do this again if we need to, having gone through the process once,” Timo Rossi sums up.