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    Posted 02 October 2006 - 06:22 AM

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    It was 38 years ago this weekend that the 747, the "jumbo jet", first rolled out of a factory in Everett, Washington State.

    It was famous for one thing - being big - and phrases like "the size of a jumbo" soon became commonplace. And it was big for a reason: Boeing, like everyone else, foresaw a surge in air travel in the 70s, and to meet a huge demand it helps to have a huge plane.

    For many people, the jumbo ruled the skies, but time is now up for the early 747s.

    The life span of most commercial aeroplanes is said to be around 30 years; and so, just as there was a 1970s explosion in aircraft production, now there's a big jump in the number of planes beyond use.

    What's to be done with them? Aircraft contain toxic materials, so dumping them at a far-off airfield or throwing them in the sea is clearly unacceptable. But that's just what has been happening, according to Bill Glover, Boeing's director of environmental performance for commercial aeroplanes.

    "There were some specific instances - I won't say they were widespread by any means - of bits of planes found in waterways. That obviously raised a flag for everyone concerned."

    Concerned by this and aware that getting rid of aeroplanes was only going to become more of an issue, Boeing set up the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association (Afra). It's a union of recycling companies with two airports - Chateauroux in central France and Evergreen Air Centre in Arizona.

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      Posted 02 October 2006 - 10:06 PM

      Boeing aircraft are incredibly sturdy. The US Air Force is still using a refuel tanker based on the original 707 aircraft. Former airline mechanics are among my peers at work. They tell me that mechanics must be careful when working on Airbus aircraft when the planes are "jacked up" in a hangar for maintenance. Boeing aircraft do not require the same delicate handling. The older planes also require a flight engineer in addition to the pilot and copilot. There are many serviceable planes, such as the Boeing 727, sitting on the ground in Airzona because it is no longer economically feasible to staff these planes. The events of 911 also influenced this. The Boeing 777 is my favorite US to UK plane. Twin engine aircraft are required by the FAA to stay within about 300 miles of emergency landing strips in the event an engine shuts down. The 747 does not face this restriction.
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