Aircraft Disposal: From State of the Art to Heap of Scrap

Image by Senior Airman Alan R. Wycheck

(Image via U.S. Federal Government, released into public domain)

Ever wondered what happens to a state of the art aircraft at the end of its useful service life?  For those that don’t go on to museums, fate is often dealt out by the unforgiving arms and jagged claws of mechanical diggers.  And while it’s a crying shame when it happens, it’s certainly an impressive sight to behold…

Image by Alan Radecki

(Image published under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic)

Along with the heavy machinary, “scrappers” now use hand-held gas saws to accomplish many of the “finer details”, as you can see in the video below where they literally slice through a massive airliner’s fuselage by hand. (Ironically, the most crude of instruments is enough to finish off aircraft that were once at the forefront of technology.  Even the Stealth Fighter isn’t immune.)

Below you can see the way the U.S. Air Force’s mighty B-52 Stratofortress‘ are disposed of – via the guillotine.  The B-52 may be the most impressive bomber ever to grace the skies, but it’s no match for this huge plate of metal, crashing down from above to sever the wings from the fuselage.  The latter is then chopped into several large chunks of twisted metal, allowing passing Russian spy satellites to survey the devastation and monitor the disposal of certain aircraft types to satisfy post-Cold War arms limitation treaties.

For further reading, be sure to check out Weburbanist’s article: 15 Radical Ways to Recycle Airplanes and Parts, as well as Airplane House and Boat Conversions by Dark Roasted Blend.  And don’t miss this great series as photographer Alan Radecki gets up close and personal to some not so fortunate aircraft.



  • Spleeny

    Ugh this is more disturbing that the video from my spleen transplant operation!


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