The First Retired A380 Has Now Been Scrapped

The first retired A380 has found its way to the scrap heap, only slightly over a decade old. The scrapping process took 11 months to complete, with 90% of the aircraft components being recycled into existing A380s (as spare parts) or for new aircraft construction.

A380 scrapping
A careful platform was needed to bring the A380 into the hanger. Photo: AltéAd via Twitter

What are the details?

According to Airways Mag, the first A380 has completed its retirement process in Tarbes Lourdes Airport. The airplane, which previously flew for Singapore Airlines, had successfully operated for over 10 years for the carrier.

Singapore Airlines already had another A380 due to replace the aircraft and, with no one else willing to take the aircraft (only one A380 has successfully transitioned to the second hand market with Hi Fly), it was sent to be scrapped.

But this scrapping process is far more than just attacking the airframe with a hacksaw and gusto, rather a complicated ballet of engineering and careful extracting. So careful that it actually took the team at Tarnac Aerosave 11 months to remove all the recyclable components from the shell of the aircraft.

Using a process described as an “eco-responsible process of cold cutting, watering, drainage, and selective sorting”, they were able to save up to 90% of all the recyclable components in the frame, from wiring, hydraulics, wingtips and more. These were then sent as spare parts for other A380s or to be sold to completely different projects looking for specific needs.

The remaining items of the aircraft, particularly the empty fuselage, will be stored elsewhere on site.

Preparing for the future

However, you might have noticed that it took the team 11 months to retire one A380. What happens when airlines start to retire the type en masse?

“Although TARMAC Aerosave already has the capacity to store nearly 300 aircraft simultaneously, at its sites in Tarbes, Teruel and Toulouse-Francazal, the company must adapt to growing market demand. Anticipating the need to accommodate the Airbus A380, the size and weight of which requires specific handling, TARMAC Aerosave started work extending the Tarbes storage areas at the beginning of 2017. The first of these areas was delivered on 9 November 2017”

TARMAC Aerosave
The future of the A380 might be here. Photo: TARMAC Aerosave

The firm has already started preparing the second site to be able to do two Airbus A380s at the same time. However, with over 200 aircraft in the world currently flying and expected to be totally retired in the next 20-30 years, it will take the company at least a decade to process them all.

But this may not be necessary, as Airbus believes there is still a second hand market for the A380 aircraft. Where that might be, we are still not sure although the rumor is they might be turned into flying private mansions.

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