It is estimated that roughly 600 airplanes are disassembled and dismantled annually, driving a global commercial airline recycling market that is projected to reach £5.8 billion by 2027.

Now hopes have been raised that Glasgow Prestwick Airport could reap the potential benefits of a future as an aviation ‘boneyard’ for commercial aircraft to be disassembled, dismantled and recycled. 

It comes following the news that two Boeing 787 Dreamliners are to be scrapped for spare parts at the airport. Both planes operated for Norwegian Air Shuttle and have been in storage since 2019. 

Dublin-based global aviation asset management and trading company EirTrade Aviation will manage the disassembly and consignment of the world’s first two B787-8s to be retired from commercial service. 

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First flown commercially in 2011, the 787-8 or Dreamliner, remains Boeing’s flagship widebody aircraft and, to date, has never been retired from commercial service.

The two 10-year-old aircraft will be disassembled simultaneously off-site, with parts expected to be available later this year. The disassembly process is expected to take around three months in total.

Lee Carey, Vice President of Asset Management at EirTrade Aviation, said that the dismantling of the Boeing 787 Dreamliners will help serve as “a blueprint” for similar projects, and anticipates that it will be the first of many for Prestwick Airport.

The Herald: Two Boeing 787 Dreamliners will be scrapped at Prestwick in 'world first'Two Boeing 787 Dreamliners will be scrapped at Prestwick in 'world first' (Image: Getty Images)

He told The Herald: “This is the very first disassembly of these two commercial Boeing 787-8 ‘Dreamliner’ aircraft, and we are pleased to be working with our partners Storm Aviation and Chevron Technical Services in Prestwick. Together we are establishing the right processes and building a blueprint for further teardowns of this aircraft type in the future.

“Programmes of this nature rely on professional teamwork and close coordination of skilled mechanics, technicians, repair specialists and asset managers. This generates a real buzz in the facility, encourages pride in a job well done, and attracts young people to consider a career in the wider world of aircraft maintenance.  Importantly, how the aircraft parts are removed, stored, repaired or recycled is paramount to a sustainable business.

“We anticipate that this is the start of a business relationship that will flourish as we induct further 787-8 aircraft in the future.”

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Siobhian Brown, MSP for Ayr, said the dismantling project will help strengthen Prestwick Airport’s role as a leader in the aerospace industry.

She told The Herald: “As the MSP for the area, I am delighted to hear of the contract awarded to Storm Aviation and Chevron Technical Services at Prestwick Airport. The companies are both dedicated to decommissioning aircraft in an environmentally, sustainable way which will be integral to meet our Net Zero 2045 ambition. Prestwick Airport is a leader in the aerospace industry with global companies choosing to base themselves here. This contract being awarded strengthens it further and it is fantastic news for the local and national economy.” 

Major aircraft aircraft decommissioning facilities are located across the world in countries such as Spain, France, the Netherlands, Australia and the USA, which is home to the world’s largest largest boneyard in Davis-Monthan, Arizona, with over 4,000 aircraft.

Europe’s leading boneyard is to be found in the UK at Cotswold Airport (formerly Kemble Airfield) in Gloucestershire, where around 30-40 aircraft are said to be dismantled each year.

On average, a commercial aircraft has as many as 1,000 parts that can be recycled, with the most valuable being the engine, landing gear, avionics and electronics. Once these are removed, overhauled, tested and recertified, they can be repurposed back into aviation.