Noses of a Boeing 747 and 727 – Photo: Caleb Howell | Flickr CC
This guest post was written by Andrew Vane (@pipelinedrew) for AirlineReporter.
Recently I saw that someone posted pictures of old Northwest 727s and DC-10s in North Carolina and I became curious. This is my home turf and I was not aware of any tri-holers “enjoying” their retirement years nearby.
I quickly started looking up Google Earth images and was able to confirm that, sure enough, there was what was left of some vintage aircraft stored in an out-of-the-way airfield somewhere in my home state. Now, how to get out there to see them.
Laurinburg-Maxton Airport (KMEB) is nestled in the pine barrens of the south-central part of North Carolina, off of US Highway 74 about halfway between Charlotte and Wilmington. Originally a U.S. Army Air base for glider training during World War II, this small airport currently is the home to the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team, has a nice local Fixed Base Operator (FBO) for civil air service, and also holds something not often seen in the eastern U.S.; a commercial airliner salvage yard.
When you normally think of aircraft storage, the first airports that come to mind are Victorville, California and Tucson, Arizona. Now add KMEB to that list.
A retired Southern Air Boeing 747-200F gets one last chance to almost fly — even without any engines.
From the videos description on YouTube: “This 747 is sitting in a boneyard in Mojave, CA awaiting scrapping. On May 23rd, 2012 the area experienced extreme winds of 70+ miles per hour due to a low pressure zone. Without the weight of its engines, the slightly tail heavy 747 tries to take to the skies one last time. The next day the plane was found to have also rotated about 45 degrees from its original position. The same wind storm damaged many rooftops, cut power and sent huge clouds of sand and dust billowing into the sky. Mojave will occasionally experience this type of wind storm due to geography.”
Olivier Bonnassies with Flight International, did a wonderful write-up on newer airliners finding their way into the scrap heap.
Recently an 11 year old Boeing 737-600, a two year old Boeing 737-800 and an Airbus A318 were sent to the scrap pile. It is nothing new when an old and worn airliner makes its way to the scrap pile, but these were both newer, 737 Next Generation aircraft. It seems in this economy, some airplanes are worth more parted out than they are flying.
“We were surprised by the amount of bidders, mainly tear-down companies,” says International Bureau of Aviation’s commercial director, who handled the sale of the 737-600 commercial. The Boeing 737-600 is a pretty rare aircraft with only 68 currently in service. This means its parts are going to be worth more than a widely used aircraft like the Boeing 737-700.
The Airbus A318 is in a similar situation. There are only 72 A318’s in operation. Even though there are many common parts between the Boeing 737 Next Generation and Airbus A320 family, there aren’t many that have already been scrapped off for parts and with the A318 and 737-600 being the smallest in the family, they are some of the least economical per seat to fly.
Another problem is airlines are having harder times getting financing on used aircraft. Airlines don’t have the cash to buy new aircraft nor the financial ability to lease older ones. With many airlines choosing to keep airplanes longer, it makes a parted out aircraft worth more. It is believed that as many as 1,800 parts will be re-used out of the Boeing 737-600 including the interior cabin.