Airbus Pursues Sustainable Aircraft Recycling in China

The Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport site for the Airbus Lifecycle Services Centre.
Credit: Airbus

Airbus and Tarmac Aerosave have announced plans to develop what they say will be the first sustainable aircraft lifecycle service center in China. The two companies signed a memorandum of understanding on Jan. 18 to establish the Airbus Lifecycle Services Centre at Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport.

The 690,000 m2 center will offer a range of services including aircraft parking and storage, maintenance, upgrades, conversions, dismantling and recycling services for various aircraft types. Tarmac Aerosave will bring its aircraft dismantling expertise to the joint venture (JV) while Airbus subsidiary Satair will focus on acquiring aging aircraft, as well as trading and distributing the resulting used parts.

“This unique center will support the expansion of Airbus’ aviation services while enabling the implementation of China’s ‘Green Industry’ strategy,” says Klaus Roewe, senior vice president, Airbus Customer Services. “Aircraft phase-out in China is forecast to grow exponentially over the next 20 years. Airbus is committed to investing in the region and this one-stop-shop—a first in China and outside of Europe—will see Airbus well positioned on the Chinese aircraft ‘second life’ services market.”

While there are other established aircraft recyclers in China, such as Aircraft Recycling International Limited, a spokesperson for Airbus says the JV will be the only operation in the country covering the full range of aircraft and engine lifecycle services, including conversions, dismantling, recycling, disposal and used serviceable material (USM) distribution. The spokesperson notes that Tarmac Aerosave recycles more than 90% of the aircraft, so its expertise in eco-efficient operations will contribute to the center’s sustainability.

The JV will primarily target lessors, as well as airlines and MRO brokers. Airbus says it will pursue customers in both the China and the Asia-Pacific region, as well as global customers.

Aircraft disassemblers from outside China have previously faced challenges in selling USM to customers in the country. According to the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association (AFRA), Chinese regulations require parts to be removed by a Chinese certificated repair station and overhauled by a CCAR 145 repair station before they can be reinstalled on a Chinese registered aircraft. AFRA has been working with the Aviation Suppliers Association on a possible solution to satisfy the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) and open the Chinese used parts market to the global marketplace.

A spokesperson for Airbus shared the JV’s plans for tackling this issue: “The dismantling activity of the Airbus Lifecycle Services Centre will be performed by a future legal entity affiliated to Airbus (subject to approvals and all details remain to be defined) and incorporated in Chengdu. This future legal entity will apply for its local CCAR 145 accreditation from CAAC for the parking, storage and maintenance activities of the ALS Centre as well as for the dismantler accreditation.”

Airbus and Tarmac Aerosave plan to sign a formal agreement to establish and frame the industrial cooperation in mid-2022. The center’s entry into service is scheduled for the end of 2023, subject to relevant regulatory approvals.

Meanwhile, the partners plan to begin the site design and construction of hangars, warehouses, aircraft parking areas, taxiways and additional facilities starting this month until the second half of 2023. The companies will perform processes and resource preparation, such as personnel hiring and training, throughout this year, which will be “intensified in the course of 2023.”

The JV will not be the first partnership between the companies. Tarmac Aerosave is a subsidiary of Airbus, Safran and Suez, with Airbus holding a 33.6% share in the company. The companies extended their contract for aircraft storage, maintenance and recycling in March 2021.

Tarmac Aerosave currently has four aircraft storage, maintenance and recycling facilities throughout Europe. It holds EASA and FAA Part 145 certification.

Lindsay Bjerregaard

Lindsay Bjerregaard is managing editor for Aviation Week’s MRO portfolio. Her coverage focuses on MRO technology, workforce, and product and service news for, Aviation Week Marketplace and Inside MRO.