What happens to old aeroplanes? © Getty Images

What happens to old aeroplanes?

When airplanes can no longer take to the skies, they are retired to the boneyard.

Asked by: Richard Shaw, Bromley

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Many aeroplanes end up in so called ‘boneyards’ like this one at Victorville in California. On the edge of the Mojave desert, the arid environment is ideal for storing aircraft long term with minimal corrosion. Located at Southern California Logistics Airport, the Victorville facility has five hundred parking spaces for old planes.

The boneyards of the world are increasingly filling with Boeing 747 jets as demand for jumbos dwindles. Newer models like the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 787 fly longer hauls more efficiently. Increasingly, super jumbos are only required on routes across remote regions with fewer airfields and where four engines are a safer option.

Boeing is scaling production back to only one 747-800 each month. If that reflects the wider decline in demand for big planes, then the Victorville facility had best free up plenty more parking spaces in its famous boneyard. The new airline economics are forcing the iconic beasts of the skies into retirement.


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