United Airlines officially retired its last models of the classic Boeing 747 last fall, almost 50 years after the first plane went into service in 1970. When airplanes get decommissioned, they end up in so-called boneyards, where they are taken apart. Some facilities will take out a plane’s engine and other valuable parts and then break down the plane for scrap metal and other materials. Your computer, TV, floor tiles and other everyday material could contain parts of planes that once flew high above us.
A few years ago, about 50 percent of a plane could be recycled but now, facilities like the aircraft disassembly center in Tupelo Mississippi can find a way to re-use about 85 percent of a commercial airplane. It takes a few weeks to break down a plane, and most facilities don’t have many ready and waiting. But in other dry places around the world, airplane boneyards can be filled with thousands of plane skeletons. Some of those could even be put back into service, especially if they have only been parked for three years or less, thanks to the dry desert conditions. The largest boneyard for military aircraft is at the Davis-Montham Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona. Obsolete planes started being deposited there right after World War II.
As part of their final farewell to the 747, United is offering a unique opportunity for people to use their frequent flyer miles to buy a visit to the Tupelo recycling facility.
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