Maximizing Profitability: Unlocking the Value of Aviation Scrap Metal

The aviation industry is advantageous for many reasons. It also happens to be one that many people have yet to explore when it comes to scrap metal. Along with the different components of aircraft that are recyclable, there is also incredible value you can find in these structures and we don’t want you to miss out on the potential rewards you could reap.

Ultimately, there is a lot to know about aviation scrap metal. This includes the different types of materials you can scrap from an aircraft and why those materials are so valuable. But we’re going to fill you in on everything you need to know so you don’t lose out on this opportunity. 

We’re here today to run through all of these topics and more so you can decide if recycling your aviation scrap metal is something to take on in the future.

Understanding Aviation Scrap

To maximize profitability, you must first understand what aviation scrap metal is. It essentially involves disassembling and scrapping an aircraft that is no longer in use. The parts of the aircraft are then repurposed and used for either spare parts or scrap.

Types of materials

You can salvage many different types of scrap metal from aircraft. 

One example is steel, which is an alloy of iron and carbon and is very fracture-resistant. Another example is brass, which is an alloy of copper and is used for many different electrical, mechanical, and chemical properties, and carbon steel. 

Additional materials include: 

  • Alloy steel
  • Aluminum alloy
  • Fiber-reinforced composites
  • Stainless steel

Recycling Aviation Scrap: Maximizing Profitability

It may be surprising to know that aviation scrap metal can be much more valuable and, therefore, more profitable than automobile scrap metal. 

Here are a few reasons why.

  1. Precious metals are often used

We mentioned a little bit about the various materials that go into building aircraft. You should note, however, that precious metals are also often used. This is because they are both durable and resistant materials that provide value. These are in aircraft turbine vanes, heat exchangers, and fuel nozzles.

These materials are not commonly found on automobiles unless it’s an exotic racing car you’re dealing with. In fact, you can scrap a used jet engine for up to $15,000 worth of precious metals in today’s market. Major payday!

  1. Aircraft contain more exotic alloys and compounds than vehicles do

Another reason aviation scrap metal is so valuable is because of the volume of exotic alloys and compounds they contain. Silver cadmium is an example of this, a material often found in switches and relays, along with mercury and chromium (located in the gauges of an aircraft). You can also find platinum thermocouples.

  1. More circuit boards than vehicles

In a modern-day automobile, you’ll find gold-bearing printed circuit boards in places like the GPS unit, the sound system, and a few other locations. On the other hand, you’ll find many more gold-bearing printed circuit boards in an aircraft. 

And they’re just about anywhere (but not in regular vehicles)! 

You’ll find them in the following:

  • Communication devices
  • Altimeters
  • Navigation systems
  • Displays
  • Computers

If you’ve ever seen a dismantled airplane cockpit, you know you can find numerous electronic components there. These can be scrapped and will likely provide significant value to the individual scrapping.

Repurposing and Innovative Applications

Upon deciding to use it for scrap, a recycling company comes in to help deal with the aircraft. 

This is where it’s vital to have a professional on your side, as it can mean a big difference in the value you get out of the aircraft. Not to mention whether or not the process is done right.

There is potential to turn the waste materials into new raw materials. This includes complex alloys. Industrial companies will then use these materials to manufacture new products. 

For example, it’s possible to take temperature-resistant superalloys that contain titanium and nickel and repurpose them in the aerospace sector. However, if you cannot repurpose materials, they are often incinerated.

Best Practices and Challenges in Aviation Scrap Management

While there are many different event construction practices and components in various aircraft, there are some best practices to follow regarding aviation scrap metal management.

Two-step process

Many steps come into play with aviation scrap metal management. However, you can generally break down the process into two parts: dismantling and demolishing. 

Dismantling consists of a crew of aviation mechanics who will go in and remove the valuable parts to be recycled. Then, they sort and tag them to take them where they need to go. During this time, the aircraft is still considered certified.

The demolishing part of the process also involves a crew of aviation mechanics. They will use standard building demo equipment to take apart the rest of the aircraft and dispose of it. The aircraft will lose its certification during this phase of the process, and the aviation regulations will no longer apply.

Environmental considerations

As an aircraft is going through the two-step process of dismantling and demolishing, it can pose a risk from an environmental point of view. 

This is because aircraft contain many hazardous materials requiring conscientious handling during both parts of the process. 

You must follow national occupational health and safety laws to minimize the risk of releasing these materials into the environment. 

This includes materials such as hydraulic oil, wastewater remaining fuel in the tanks, and other fluids to drain before the process begins. 

The entire process should involve an expert identifying what parts of the aircraft can be reused and recycled. Not to mention how much value will likely be recovered based on what’s available and usable.

Deeming parts airworthy

Once a crew disassembles the parts from an aircraft, they must maintain their “airworthiness.” A maintenance organization must approve them before they can re-enter service for another plane. 

This is why it’s essential to ensure you adequately record the life history of the part you’re refurbishing. In addition, you must follow all regulations during this process to reuse the part to be successful.

Taking caution with certain parts

If certain parts are not to be returned to service in the aviation industry, they will need to be disposed of in a controlled manner. 

This includes: 

  • Parts with non-repairable defects
  • Elements outside the specifications in an approved design
  • Parts that do not conform to the necessary specifications
  • Parts that would need further processing that would make them ineligible for certification

Additional parts in this category include those modified in a non-reversible way, principal structural elements removed from a high-cycle aircraft, or life-limited parts that have reached their life limits or have incomplete records.

If a scrap metal company is disposing of these types of parts, they should mutilate them before disposal. That way, no one can use them any further. 

The best ways to mutilate the parts include: 

  • Grinding
  • Burning
  • Melting
  • Cutting a hole
  • Removing a central lug or another important feature
  • Sawing into small pieces
  • Permanently distorting the parts

Main challenges

Of course, running into challenges regarding aviation scrap metal management is possible. Constant changes in how aircraft are constructed result in added flexibility. In the past, it was common to make aircraft from aluminum, a material that’s easy to recycle. 

These days, lightweight fiber-reinforced composites are common material choices for aircraft construction. This has called for a pivot in the way aircraft are recycled.

There will come a point when these materials will need demolition and then later processed on a much larger scale.

Newer aircraft are making it more difficult to recycle. Carbon fiber, for example, is a material that isn’t commercially active in the salvage market. However, it may require less energy and is less expensive because of it. 

However, few facilities can recycle it on a commercial basis. In addition, nickel and cobalt are expensive alloys on aircraft engines that require highly specialized facilities. Nevertheless, there’s still much to discover in these areas and the newer materials used for today’s aircraft.

Why Choose Scrap Gators?

Now that you know a lot more about aviation scrap metal and the value it can provide, you’re likely interested in learning more about how to recycle your scrap metal and ensure you get the most out of it. Scrap Gators is your go-to source for commercial scrap metal in Florida

As a family-owned business with over 100 years of scrap metal recycling history, we have the knowledge and experience to help you get the most value out of all different kinds of scrap metal. In addition, we take pride in our excellent customer service and are committed to environmental sustainability.

So, if you’re ready to get the best advice and assistance regarding your aviation scrap metal needs, our team is prepared! So, give us a call today.  

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