Picture: Ex-Fly Air A300 first aircraft in Airbus PAMELA recycling centre

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By Justin Wastnage in London

The first pictures have surfaced of the pioneering Airbus-led aircraft recycling facility in south west France that aims to end the culture of airframes abandoned in the world's deserts and airport runways.

The manufacturer launched its 15 month experimental process for advanced management of end-of-life of aircraft (Pamela) in February at Tarbes airport in the Pyrénées. The project, funded in part by the European Union, aims to study how best to salvage aircraft parts and the safe disposal of waste.

The EU has strict rules on the disposal of industrial waste, banning the disposal of any metals likely to contaminate the earth. As yet there are few ways aircraft operators can comply with the rules, which leads to retired aircraft belonging to European carriers either parked on runways corroding or retired to deserts outside the continent. The EU has said that once techniques are perfected, it may strengthen the existing regulatory framework to madate retired aircraft dismantling, recycling and disposal of dangerous materials.

On 24 February Pamela's first aircraft, a former Fly Air A300 arrived in Tarbes and will act as a test bed for recycling techniques. The team assembled has started stripping the wings of all internal cabling and rivets, which will be catalogued (pictured below).

pamela a300 w445
© Yannick Delamarre / French Frogs AirSlides


The Pamela facility is scheduled to start full operation in mid-2007, recycling up to 95% of around 10 aircraft of any type per year. The €3.3 million ($4 million) project is run by the Tarmac consortium, made up of Airbus, waste management business Sita, EADS Aviation Support, Sogerma Services and the local government of Hautes-Pyrénées.

Last week a Californian retiree unveiled a plan to use recycled Boeing 747 fuselage parts to build a $2 million oceanside house, but was warned by the US Federal Aviation Administration to mark the home in case pilots confuse it with a crash site.

External link:
Read more about the Airbus-led Pamela aircraft dismantling and recycling centre from the Airbus website