An estimated 15-20 aircraft are being parted out—or dismantled and sold as parts—each month, and a new breed of surplus companies has emerged to take charge of that market, says Aerostrategy principal David Stewart.

Speaking at Aviation Week's MRO Middle East conference in Dubai yesterday, Stewart says the global maintenance, repair and overhaul market should be seeing the "kickback" of airline inventory restocking in 2011 and 2012, but it is being "buffered by the surplus [resulting from] parting out."

Like many other factors in MRO, the rate of parting out depends largely on fuel prices. With the price of oil hitting $100 a barrel at the end of January for the first time since 2008, it makes sense that disassembly work should peak.

The majority of airframes being disassembled and resold comprises mature types, such as Boeing 737 Classics, Bombardier CRJ-100s powered by CF34 engines and older Airbus A320s powered by CFM International CFM56-5A and IAE V2500-A1 engines. Most of this equipment is being broken down in the U.S., Stewart notes, though Europe is seeing a little bit of the work.

Third-party, specialized companies carry the aircraft through the parting-out process. "My sense is that airlines are selling planes, and they're being parted out by independent countries," Stewart says.

As this dismantling work is coming more into demand, he adds that the companies that specialize in it are getting smarter. He points to a new range of financially sophisticated management at surplus companies.

"They're getting much more astute in the way they manage their assets," Stewart notes, adding that one such strategy might be buying out an aircraft before its lease is up.