PAMELA: Scrapping the Giant Airbus A380 Static Test Article

Airbus A380 MSN 5000 structural fatigue test article used in the Process for Advanced Management of End of-Life-Aircraft (PAMELA) Project (Image: Eurospot; “PAMELA” A380 MSN 5000 awaits scrapping)

If you thought lengthy acronyms were the sole domain of the US military, think again. Europe likes them too, as demonstrated by a project named PAMELA which seeks to dispose of retired passenger aircraft in the most environmentally friendly way possible. To that end, PAMELA stands for Process for Advanced Management of End of-Life-Aircraft Project, and the unfortunate specimen seen here is the giant Airbus A380 static test article, MSN 5000.

The PAMELA Project was launched in 2006 by Airbus at Tarbes Airport in the south of France. Supported by the European Commission (and later in partnership with the waste management company SITA, Sogerma Services, EADS CCR and the Prefecture des Hautes-Pyrenees), the goal is to recycle redundant plane parts while striving to protect the environment.

That means cutting down on the number of abandoned jetliners languishing in boneyards and those strangely atmospheric airplane graveyards that often haunt the more neglected corners of airfields. Airbus estimates that the 19 year period between 2004 and 2023 will see 4,000 airliners retired from active service.

At a rate of more than 200 aircraft per year, that’s a significant number of redundant hulks awaiting the breaker – and doesn’t take account of the hundreds more already in line. But while PAMELA seeks to process these planes swiftly, the emphasis is very much on recycling as many parts as possible.

Airbus A380 MSN 5000 PAMELA structural test article (Image: A380_TLS_A350; MSN 5000, the Airbus A380 structural test article)

Aside from shredding their gutted fuselages and wings, Aviation Week pointed out that “the EUR2.4 million project aims to set best practice in this field while demonstrating that 85 percent to 95 percent of aircraft components can be recycled, reused or recovered.”

It’s strange to see the abandoned carcass of a giant Airbus A380 – one of the most modern and high tech passenger jets in existence – being broken up for scrap. The airframe above was the full scale A380 static test article, numbered MSN 5000. It was never intended to fly (unlike other A380 prototypes). Instead the giant rig was tested to destruction in a bid to evaluate how the A380 airframe would tolerate the stresses of flight throughout its service lifespan.

Airbus A350 PAMELA structural test article (Image: A380_TLS_A350; Airbus A350 structural test article)

Unlike Boeing – which has retired the static fatigue test versions of some of its most famous jetliners to a rather unusual aircraft graveyard at Paine Field, Washington – the abandoned Airbus test fleet looks set to be dismantled sooner rather than later. Above, another PAMELA aircraft, the Airbus A350 static test airframe, also awaits scrapping. This aircraft type has now gone into service, with 45 produced at the time of writing.

If you’re fascinated by the melancholy sight of abandoned aircraft and have a love of acronyms, read up on the process of RTP (or reduced to produce), by which the British RAF is recycling its withdrawn Panavia Tornado GR4 airframes as they go out of service.

 
 
 

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