Photos: What happens to all those airliners when they retire? See a tear-down of a 747-400.


With Boeing and Airbus producing airliners at record rates, the numbers of airliners being withdrawn is also at a recent high.

In the Southwestern USA, Marana, Mojave, Goodyear, Victorville, Kingman and Roswell are all swollen with 80s and 90s vintage jets which have no future in the skies. Break-up rates at these places is comparatively slow, since there is no pressing need to re-use the space.

However, in the UK, with airfield space often at a premium, airliners get withdrawn, re-cycled and chopped up in a much smaller timeframe. One of the airfields gaining a reputation as a place to retire your airliner is Bruntingthorpe in the English Midlands. A sleepy airfield with no FBO, no commercial traffic and not even an ICAO code, it’s well off the beaten track. However, Aviation Week found a hive of activity here recently when it visited following the arrival of a 10-year old 737-700 for part-out.

Companies such as CASCO, GJD and Arrcam are all active in the parts dealing, dismantling and scrapping business. 

CASCO recently bought this 737-700 for a reported £12million ($19m) for the purposes of breaking down the aircraft for parts. The airline can recoup more money selling the aircraft than operating it for several more years before it might otherwise have retired. The dealer expects to recover their outlay just by selling the two CFM-56 engines, which already have buyers. Their team can remove both engines in a day.

After that, the cockpit avionics, APU, seats and numerous other high-value items will be removed and sold on.

Winglets fetch £400,000 each ($650k), and at half the price of a new one, are an attractive proposition for the many 737NGs out there without them.

Once all saleable parts are tagged and removed, the aircraft will be unceremoniously chopped into several pieces for the scrapman. This A300-600F had already been stripped bare and was due to face the axe in the next couple of days.

During our visit, there were a pair of 747-400s parked, which looked outwardly similar, but could not have been more different inside.

One was 3 weeks away from the “chop” whilst one was 3 days away. Here are the “before and after” pictures of the “death” of a 747.


First Class

Business Class



Landing Gear


Engines gone, the most valuable parts

Business Class

Economy cabin


Galley equipment gone

The “Grim Reaper” awaits. The final cut is just days away, and another airliner will cease to exist.

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