Finding A Market For Widebody Parts

Boeing 747 aircraft retired by the likes of Virgin Atlantic have presented buying opportunities for parts sales specialists.
Credit: Rob Finlayson

Talking recently to Inside MRO, several parts providers noted that the used parts market was experiencing its own supply challenges as fewer aircraft than expected had been retired and dismantled in the wake of the pandemic.

One reason for this has been new aircraft delivery delays, which have forced airlines to keep older aircraft for longer than anticipated, while a booming cargo market provides incentives to convert aircraft rather than scrap them.

Nonetheless, many airlines have proceeded with phase-out plans, providing buying opportunities for parts specialists.

One example is Virgin Atlantic, which has just appointed to manage the storage and marketing of its “large” stock of surplus Boeing 747-400, Airbus A340-600 and A330-200 material, which included engines, APUs and avionics.

All the aircraft were withdrawn from service around the onset of the pandemic in early 2020.

Their parts stock will transition across 90 days from Virgin Atlantic’s Cardiff stores to Bii’s warehousing facility close to London Gatwick.

After inspection by Bii, a small percentage of unserviceable material will require re-tagging, and this will be managed by Bii’s in-house repair management team through audited MRO shops worldwide.

“We were keen to find a partner that would prioritize our material and be in a position to pro-actively reach the market to gain revenue from the stock quickly,” said Martyn Haines, head of supply chain and commercial at Virgin Atlantic.

Cargo operators are a potential market for the 747 and A330 parts, although buyers for the A340 material may prove harder to find.

That said, UK operator European Cargo has been growing its fleet of A340-600s in recent years, adding two units in July to give it a total of nine.

Alex Derber

Alex Derber, a UK-based aviation journalist, is editor of the Engine Yearbook and a contributor to Aviation Week and Inside MRO.