Recycling 99% of Finnair’s aircraft scrap could be recycled: This is what it looked like in demolition work

Is the moment of accounting for a slightly larger recycling project. Finnair scrapped last spring for the first time in Finland end-of-life passenger aircraft.

The machine contained more than 40 tons of usable parts and valuable raw materials that were not only suitable for incineration or landfill.

Figures for that project are now available, which have been calculated by Kuusakoski Recycling and Finnair, which recycled the aircraft.

Read more: A new experiment in Finland: Finnair’s Airbus is dismantled and crushed into fist-sized pieces

In the first place the machine was able to be recycled more than 99%, which both companies consider a good figure, especially in terms of responsibility. The largest batch recorded was, of course, aircraft aluminum, which accumulated 15 tons.

Kuusakoski’s customer manager Sanna-Mari Nevala states that alloy aluminum ingots were cast from this aluminum scrap, which then ended up in Europe for various customers during the summer.

One one of them is the German company KSM Castings Group, which says it makes aluminum components for the automotive industry. According to the company, the recycled aluminum of this Airbus ends up in, for example, Mercedes-Benz automatic transmissions.

“Aerospace aluminum could have been smelted as such, but we would not have had a demand for this quality. Aerospace aluminum is high-alloy, it is not pure aluminum, such as beverage cans, ”says Nevala.

Here the series shows the recycling of the machine in practice. The story continues after the pictures.

This picture was taken last spring, when the aircraft was still in Finnair’s hall, where unloading had begun.

Some of the seats were reused, some were not.

The machine was taken out of the hall, where its actual chopping began.

The engines were recovered before scrapping.

The wings were removed to allow the machine body to be transported on a pallet.

The side stabilizer was also allowed to leave.

The machine began to be ready for transport when all that was left was a tubular body.

All that was left of the wing was a stub.

The trail shortened before transport.

The frames of the three-seater bench stand out from the scrap.

The machine had miles of wires from which copper was later separated.

Aluminum manufacturing from primary raw materials consumes a lot of energy and thus generates a lot of CO2 emissions. Aluminum made from recycled aluminum consumes significantly less energy and is therefore worth recycling.

In Kuusakoski, it has been calculated that the recycling of aluminum from the machine saved CO2 emissions by a total of 55 passenger cars per year, when comparing how much would have produced the same amount for the first time.

About Airbus 1.5 tonnes of stainless steel, 1.2 tonnes of titanium and 400 kg of copper were also recovered. Titanium is present in many machine support structures, such as at the base of the blades and in the engine mounts to the blade. From Kuusakoski, it becomes an alloying element of steel.

According to Nevala, in the handling of the Kuusakoski hammer crusher, the machine was reduced to fist-sized pieces, which were then separated into different fractions by means of a wind separator, magnet and eddy current separator, for example on the basis of magnetism.

The process also generated residual waste, ie reject, from which the remaining metal materials were still recovered. The rest of the reject became recycled fuel.

In the end, there was only 290 pounds of waste that was only worthy of a landfill.

To Finnair the situation was new. At the same time, air traffic around the world was and is in big trouble, and the company had co-operation negotiations. The planes have largely not flown.

“It was an interesting new thing that brought us a positive spirit. Of course, it is always miserable to see when planes are scrapped, but the fleet is renewed, ”Finnair’s project manager Timo Rossi says.

Finnair is still calculating the final bill on how profitable and useful the project was. The aircraft was an Airbus A319, which had flown a total of almost 33,000 flights since 1999.

Profitable it was at least because the project resulted in a large stock of spare parts that it could use on the company’s other Airbus aircraft. Nearly 2,000 spare parts were recovered, including both engines.

In the next few years, a few more Airbus A319s will come to the end of their flight hours, leaving the company to decide what and where to do with them. The first Airbus was scrapped in England.

“We don’t know yet what will happen to the machines, but now at least we know there is such an option. When the machine leaves the fleet, this scrapping in Finland can be one option, ”says Rossi.

“As such, the project at least paid for itself by getting an increased spare parts inventory. We kind of got free parts in stock. Now we don’t have to buy them from other markets, we can take them from our own warehouse. ”

The downfall caused by the pandemic is indicated by the fact that scrapping the plane saved many Finnair employees from being laid off. The project took a total of about 8,000 man-hours and employed dozens of people.

Remains of the fuselage of the Airbus A319 on its last trip.

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