The role of predictive maintenance in the aircraft end-of-life (EOL) and disassembly process was explored at this week’s Predictive Aircraft Maintenance (PAM) Conference.
Lee Carey, vice president of asset management at EirTrade Aviation – the platinum sponsor of PAM 2023 – said that being able to predict the value of an asset at end of life by monitoring it throughout its operational life is vital for the economics of the aviation sector and for owners, operators and lessors.
Founded in 2010 by chief executive Ken Fitzgibbon, EirTrade Aviation is headquarted in Dublin, Ireland, and is a complete end-of-life solution provider.
The aviation industry is increasingly recognising the importance of addressing environmental concerns in the end-of-life phase of aircraft.
However, Carey highlighted that in an industry constantly under environmental scrutiny, it is imperative that innovative solutions and sustainable options are explored when disassembling aircraft.
“Aviation is such a visible industry that comes under a lot of pressure regarding its environmental output on a global scale, perhaps more than many other industries.”
By prioritising environmentally conscious practices in the aircraft end-of-life sector, the aviation industry can play an active role in further enhancing its overall sustainability and reducing its ecological footprint.
Carey explained that EirTrade Aviation employs a systematic approach to the disassembly of aircraft, ensuring efficiency and adherence to contractual agreements. “The initial phase involves a comprehensive review of contracts, including commercial terms, the harvest list, and the order of priority for disassembly. Any potential conflicts on the harvest list are carefully examined to streamline the process.”
Upon the aircraft’s arrival at the facilities, Carey explained that attention is given to securing and parking the aircraft, taking into consideration any maintenance tasks that may be required. The aircraft is then configured, with specific tasks such as lowering flaps and the ram air turbine. Additionally, essential services like water and toilet services are attended to during this phase.
“Fluid removal is a critical step in the disassembly process,” Lee explained. “This paves the way for the subsequent stage, which involves the careful harvesting of materials.”
Components are categorised based on pre-ascribed zones, and each removed part is tagged with an identification tag or removal tag. “Visual inspections are conducted, and the details are recorded both on the harvest list and the ERP system,” Lee said. “To prevent cross-contamination, materials are segregated from other projects.”
Next comes the packaging phase which involves the creation of customised crates for the harvested components, with each box or crate clearly identified, referencing the harvest list and ERP system for easy tracking and organisation.
A final walkthrough of the aircraft ensures that “no crucial steps or components are overlooked.” A declaration is then signed, permitting the destruction of the remaining aircraft, marking the conclusion of the disassembly process.
Lee then explained that the subsequent stage involves recycling, where “the aircraft structure is cut or crushed, and materials are segregated for proper disposal or reuse. Following the disassembly, the site undergoes a thorough cleaning and inspection process, ensuring the removal of any debris findings.”
EirTrade Aviation was awarded an Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association (AFRA) accreditation in 2021, which Carey explained demonstrates to the market the company’s proactive approach to disassembling aircraft in a safe and sustainable manner.
The AFRA Best Management Practice for Management of Used Aircraft Parts and Assemblies and for Recycling of Aircraft Materials (BMP) stands as a pivotal industry guide for the disassembly of aircraft.
Carey explained that it is recognised as the leading standard, providing a comprehensive framework for dismantling aircraft in a manner that prioritises safety, efficiency, and environmental friendliness.
The BMP has been developed through the collective experience of industry members, signifying a collaborative effort to enhance the management of end-of-life aircraft.
One notable aspect of the BMP is its focus on environmental and sustainable performance. “By adhering to these practices, the BMP facilitates a significant improvement in the overall handling of end-of-life aircraft, ensuring that the aviation sector operates in a manner that aligns with environmental responsibility,” Lee said. As a guide for the recycling of aircraft materials, the BMP represents the final step in the aircraft recycling process.
Emphasising safety and sustainability, the BMP promotes the responsible management of the circularity of components and aircraft within the aviation sector. Lee explained that by incorporating these best practices, the BMP serves as a crucial resource for industry professionals, contributing to a more conscientious and environmentally conscious approach to the entire life cycle of aircraft components.
Lee then concluded to explain the many benefits of aircraft disassembly, including the reduction of waste generated from the disassembly process. By carefully dismantling aircraft and strategically managing materials, the industry can minimise its environmental footprint and promote responsible waste disposal practices.
The responsible disposal of hazardous materials, including HAZMAT liquids and other materials, “is another key benefit of aircraft disassembly”, Lee said. This ensures that potentially harmful substances are handled in an environmentally conscious manner, safeguarding both human health and the surrounding ecosystem.
Furthermore, aircraft disassembly facilitates the optimal utilisation of resources by ensuring that “all recyclable materials are efficiently recycled and repurposed” which in turn increases the supply of USM (Used Serviceable Material).
“This ensures that the components of the aircraft are re-used to support other aircraft, it reduces the cost of aircraft maintenance, it reduces the need to produce new aircraft parts, it provides greater flexibility in terms of engine build standards, and it eases supply chain constraints,” Lee explained.