Aircraft Graveyards – what is realistically going to happen to the aircraft?

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Established Member
Aug 24, 2011
Many of us would have seen the recent 60 Minutes report on the retirement of a 767 to Victorville. QF (like every other airline in the world) are retiring older, less fuel efficient aircraft like the 747 and 767 and replacing them with newer, modern, fuel efficient aircraft. The report said the planes are kept in ‘storage’ while airlines work out what to do with them and/or sell them.

The report showed dozens and dozens of old 747s lined up in rows. I couldn’t help thinking that these aircraft would be impossible to sell given no-one wants them and Boeing are struggling to even sell brand new ones. Who is honestly going to buy a 20+ year old, inefficient plane that no-one wants and has been sitting in a desert for years? Are they kept here because these airlines have nowhere else to dump them? The airlines may wish to sell off for spare parts but again, if there are 100 747s lined up and someone wants a spar engine, there will be so much competition that they’ll almost give them away.

Is it more an aircraft dump than a storage facility?
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Established Member
Feb 22, 2011
Who is honestly going to buy a 20+ year old, inefficient plane that no-one wants and has been sitting in a desert for years?
Eventually... scrap metal dealers. But storage costs are low, and leaving them parked for a while before scrapping doesn't hurt eventual scrap value (it may even improve it, if metal prices rise and/or recovery technologies somehow get better).

Aircraft coming out of storage and back into use is not completely unheard of, BA for example parked a few 747s in the desert during the post-2008 downturn and then returned them to service a couple of years later. Of course QF's withdrawals are of a different nature - but given Westjet is picking up at least four of QF's 767s, then it's possible that if they want to expand their 767 fleet further then picking up other ex-QF airframes might offer commonality benefits.
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Senior Member
Apr 15, 2009
AFAIK, there are 3 different "levels" for storage

1. Storage on behalf of an airline, these are planes which are surplus to requirement for now, but if / when conditions change it'll be brought back into service by the airline.

2. Storage whilst a buyer can be found, these are planes which are still serviceable and thus can be sold to another airline.

3. To be scrapped, these are the ones which are broken up for parts.

For the most part, options 1 and 2, the planes are expected to fly again and thus are kept in a condition where they could fly again (eg engines are run up every month and basic systems are checked, covers are installed to protect sensitive equipment etc...)

Why would an airline chose to use an older plane rather than buy a new one? Well price would come into it. An older plane might be more expensive to fly, but that cost can easily be offset against a cheaper purchase price. Often freighters come from this pool, with freighters often been converted pax planes.
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