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Being in such a niche market, I get asked frequently what IS aircraft salvage. Customers come to my shop and see airplanes in various states of disassembly, boxes of parts yet to be sifted through, and more airplanes outside-waiting to have their turn on the chopping block. I thought I would give you a quick breakdown to what aircraft salvage is to me-not just everyone in the industry.

In the vast world of aviation, where the sky is both a destination and a journey’s beginning, aircraft salvage emerges as a fascinating and often overlooked aspect. Beyond the glamour of flight lies a process that breathes new life into wrecked, derelict, and timed out airplanes, giving them a chance to soar once more.

And I am all the aircraft salvage.

Aircraft salvage is a comprehensive process that involves the recovery, repair, and repurposing/selling of unairworthy aircraft and it’s components. This industry plays a vital role in sustainable aviation practices, reducing waste, and contributing to the circular economy we call general aviation. The heavy iron part of our industry is a different, but the concept is somewhat the same.

  1. Types of Salvage:
    • Part-Out Salvage: Involves dismantling the aircraft to salvage valuable components like avionics, engines, props and landing gear.
    • Structural Salvage: Focuses on recovering intact airframes for potential restoration, often involving vintage or historic aircraft.  This is where I would try to resell or donate what I have barnstormed so it has a second life. I always try to give something a chance at second life before I part it out.
    • Scrap Metal Salvage: Targets the recycling of metals from aircraft, including aluminum, titanium, and steel.  At Fast, we don’t believe is the “s-word” aka scrapping. But this IS a part of our industry. I have made repurposing a big part of Fast’s success. It is not about how quickly we can part out and scrap, but it’s the time we take to do something with what is unairworthy.
  2. Environmental Considerations:
    • Salvage operations are conducted with strict adherence to safety and environmental regulations. We have to make sure to dispose of fuel and liquids properly.
    • Hazardous materials, such as fuel and fluids, are carefully handled to minimize ecological impact. We must store alot of our salvage outside, so it’s important that the aircraft is free of anything hazardous as we have friendly tortoises like Speedy at the Fast Aviation yard.
  3. Regulatory Compliance:
    • Aircraft salvage must comply with aviation regulations and guidelines to ensure safety standards are met. It is the most important to ensure that we inspect and really focus on what we are selling as airworthy parts, especially if the aircraft has been in an accident.
    • Collaboration with aviation authorities and environmental agencies is common during salvage operations. We store aircraft for the NTSB and FAA until they are released and sometimes sold at auction.

The Salvage Process:

Aircraft salvage is more than a technical process; it’s a dynamic industry that breathes new life into wrecked, derelict, and unairworthy airplanes and contributes to a more sustainable aviation future. Aircraft salvage is what keeps us all flying – it’s about preserving history, reducing environmental footprints, and giving wings a second chance to soar.

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