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Ageing-airliner census

Compiled by Martin Fendt/Jennifer Pite/LONDON

THIS SURVEY SHOWS THAT there has been a growth in the number of aging jet-powered aircraft in service (aged 15 years or older), from 5,204 in 1994 to 5,671 in 1995 - an increase of 467. The figures for turboprops are 2,509 and 2,063, respectively, indicating a decrease of 446 units. The net growth (turboprops and jets) for 1995 is 21 aircraft compared to 1994. Although the figures quoted include all aircraft in service, some may have been parked temporarily.

In the last nine months, according to data supplied by aviation consultancy and aviation-information supplier Airclaims, up to 400 jet airliners have been either retired or parked. Of these, at least 61% (245 aircraft) are either Stage 1 or Stage 2 noise-compliant, while only 39% (158 aircraft) meet Stage 3 requirements. By far the largest number of withdrawals for any particular type is the Boeing 727. This year there have been 100 examples removed from active duty, according to Airclaims. This represents one-quarter of the recently grounded jet fleet.

With even greater penalties worldwide for non-compliance, many operators are being forced to retire many of their noisy types even though, they may be structurally sound. In recognition of this, UPS Airlines is undertaking a major programme with Dee Howard to re-engine 727-100s with Rolls-Royce Tay turbofans. Forty-four have been delivered, with orders for another seven conversions.

Other noise-reducing measures are being undertaken by operators such as Delta Air Lines, which is introducing FedEx hushkits to its 727-200s. The McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30 is another example earmarked by carriers (eg, Northwest Airlines) for hushkitting. The European noise restrictions on Stage 2 aircraft come into force in 2002. Stage 2 aircraft now flown into the UK include Boeing 707s and 727s, and Douglas DC-8s.

Although noise seems to be the main factor determining retirement (statistically), there are other reasons accounting for an aircraft's retirement. Around 39% of aircraft parked this year are Stage 3 compliant. For example, there are 19 Airbus Industrie A310s in storage, according to Airclaims.

Faced with the prospect of increasingly expensive leasing and reduced supply rates for preferred new-build aircraft, second-tier carriers around the world are turning their attention to the fleet of used, but nonetheless competitive airframes. In the light of this, the DC-10-30 series will now be used to exemplify reasons for airlines choosing to opt for "brand used", rather than "brand-new", aircraft.

Forecasts predict that the DC-10-30 could well be employed up to the year 2010. It possesses an inherently robust and maintenance-friendly airframe, it is powered by reliable General Electric CF6-50 turbofans, its rental rates are low, and it is still able to operate profitably when subjected to the tight margins and low yields typical for "long/thin" charter operations. In fact, the DC-10 compares extremely favourably to the Boeing 747-100/-200 in terms of fatigue and corrosion corrective-action, particularly as the aircraft ages.

The abundance worldwide of experienced flight crew and engineering personnel significantly reduces the start-up and continuous training costs for the ad hoc operator, when compared to new-technology designs. This is particularly the case for the DC-10 because many of its sales were to leading international carriers. Many of these "blue-chip" airlines (American Airlines, Canadian, Thai International and Varig) have already, or are in the process of, replacing their DC-10s. One hindrance to earlier -30s (about one-quarter of the fleet) is that CFM-50C/C1 engines do not meet US Federal Aviation Rules FAR 36 Stage 3 restrictions for noise emissions.

It is not unreasonable to assume that a DC-10-30 could see active service for 28 years from new. On this basis, the last serving aircraft would retire around the year 2009. The calculated breakdown of the type and numbers in service today is outlined below as follows:


Aerospatiale/BAe (BAC)


Despite low utilisation, compared with other longer-haul jet airliners, the 13 Western supersonic airliners in service - of 18 built - meet the criterion of 15 years' calendar age (built before 1980). The lead two Concordes have logged just over one-fifth of the equivalent two Boeing 747 high-time/cycle values - 20.85% and 21.59%, respectively. (The designs were first flown within a month of each other in early 1969.)




Six variants of the original European wide body qualify: B1, B2-100/200, C4-200 (all GE powered), with the initial P&W-engine B4-120 models now 15 years in service. According to Airclaims, more than 107 aircraft older than 15 years are still in the fleet, 16 of which are at least 20 years old.



Altogether, 417 of the classic wide body design built more than 15 years ago remain in the fleet, including more than 72 built over 25 years ago, according to Airclaims. The large and varied fleet of old (over 15 years) airframes includes the following types: 747 100/100 Combi/100F/100PC, SP, SR, -200B/200 Combi/200C, 200F/200SF. Numerous engine/airframe combinations exist, particularly for the -200 series (P&W JT9D, GE CF6, and R-R RB.211-524)



The first Soviet widebody airliner just qualifies for this survey with 15 years of operation (service entry: 1979). The high-time aircraft is a 1983 build, and the high cycle is 1984. There are seven current examples built before 1980.


L-1011 TriStar

Some 154 Series -1, longer-range -100, "hot-and-high" -200 TriStars and the extended range -500 remain from those built before 1980, says Airclaims. All TriStars are powered by three R-R RB.211 engines. The youngest TriStar is now 11 years old.

McDonnell Douglas


Some 295 of the DC-10s built before 1980 are still in the fleet, according to Airclaims. Three basic models and nine variants (-10/10CF/10F, -30/30CF/30F, alternative GE CF6 or P&W JT9D engines.




One example of this type is registered as being in service. It has been in storage for several years and it is not known whether it will fly again. The aircraft was built in 1962.



A total of 151 commercially operated Boeing 707s manufactured before 1979 are still current. The various versions include: (-120, -120B, -220, -320, -320B, -320C, -320F and -320C all-cargo and -420) with P&W JT3D or JT4A or R-R Conway engines. A single 1968 aircraft is stored.



Most of the basic-model Il-62s have now been withdrawn from service, but the Il-62M will remain until noise regulations ground it. The type is still the leader in average utilisation for Soviet aircraft, although the 1,237h achieved in 1994 shows a 30% drop on 1990 figures. The original model entered service in 1967 and was powered by the Kuznetzov NK-8 and subsequent variants by larger Soloviev D-30-KU-engines. The type was built to rival second-generation Western jets. There are 96 pre-1980 examples current, 12 of which are more than 25 years old.

McDonnell Douglas


There are more than 40 passenger, cargo, or mixed-traffic variants, some now represented by unique specimens, within the pre-1970 Series 20, 30, 50 and stretched 60 models with P&W JT3D or R-R Conway power. Some 110 examples of the 1966-72 Srs 60s re-engined with CFM56s as Srs 70 aircraft are among the 276 current aircraft (238 of which were built in 1970 or earlier). 556 examples were originally built. Up to 50 are believed to be in storage.




Marketing identity for two medium-/short-haul versions of the 707 (-020 and -020B), all manufactured before 1968. Only two from 154 examples built remain current, according to Airclaims. The -720 is powered by three optional variants of the P&W JT3D.



Seventeen versions (basic -100/100C/ 100F/100QC/200/200F and Advanced -200 series, plus "hush-kitted" and re-engined variants) each originally powered by three P&W JT8Ds. Some 373 pre-1969 aircraft are among the 1,258 pre-1980 machines (including 505 727-200 Advanced) still current, according to Airclaims.


McDonnell Douglas


This is a new entrant to the ageing airliner census. According to Airclaims, 12 aircraft were built in 1980. Originally known as the DC-9 Super 80, it was designed to offer increased capacity, higher weights, greater range, improved fuel consumption, and lower noise (Stage 3). These improvements were achieved partly by increasing the wing area and installing the re-fanned JT8D-209 turbofan. In addition, the cockpit displays and avionics suite were updated from the original DC-9. The initial version entered service as the MD-81, to be followed by the MD-82, MD-83, and MD-87 (shortened fuselage).



When the Tu-154 entered service in 1971, it transpired that structural improvements would be needed for it to attain its required service life of 30,000h. Although most of the early models have now been withdrawn, inspections have revealed that it should exceed its design life expectancy by 50%. The -154 is a Boeing 727-lookalike, developed in three versions (Tu-154, -154A and -154B). Powered by three Kuznetzov NK-8-2 engines, -A and -B with more power and -B with higher weights and larger cabin. According to Airclaims, 375 pre-1980 examples are still current.


Aerospatiale (Sud)


Six versions: III, VI-R, 10B, 10R, 11R and 12 - with R-R Avon or P&W JT8D power. Of a total of 279 delivered, there are still 24 in commercial service, 16 of which were built before 1969, according to Airclaims. The youngest serving Caravelle is now 23 years old.

British Aerospace


Eight versions (Srs 200, 300, 400, 475 and 500, plus a very few with side cargo doors) powered by two R-R Spey engines. Some 93 pre-1980 examples are current, says Airclaims. Many One-Elevens are in corporate operation, particularly in North America. Rombac of Romania makes One-Elevens under licence



Smallest of the Boeing family, but the most prolific of jet airliners, with more than 2,700 built by the end of 1994. Eight versions (-100, -200, -200 Advanced, -200C, -200C Advanced, -200F, -200QC, -200QC Advanced), powered by P&W JT8D-9 or -15 engines. Some 594 pre-1980 aircraft are current (Airclaims). This figure includes up to 53 in storage.

McDonnell Douglas DC-9

Five basic models, (Srs 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50) with various P&W JT8D engines, in 20 passenger, all-freight (F), quick-change (CF) and mixed-traffic (RC). 765 pre-1980 DC-9s are still current, according to Airclaims. Many of the first 20 DC-9s built in 1965-6 may also still be active. A total of 353 aircraft built before 1969 remain and, of these, up to 50 aircraft may be in storage, plus a further 50 1969-78 examples, according to Airclaims. No DC-9 is less than ten years old.



Of the 852 -134s built, 353 pre-1980 examples remain in service. Of these, 140 have exceeded the design hours flown, yet few problems have been found, and the type is expected to stay in service for another ten years, despite poor operating economics. Three versions exist: the Tu-134 and the 2.1m-longer-134A, powered by two 66.7kN (15,000lb)-thrust Soloviev D-30 turbofans and the Tu-134B, with improved engines and revised interior.. It is approximately equivalent to Western McDonnell Douglas DC-9 and BAC One-Eleven designs, and export sales were supplied mainly to East European customers.




Six versions (Mks 1000, -C, 2000, 3000, -C, -M, 4000 and 6000) powered by R-R Spey 555-15, short-body having an optional freight door. Some 17 of more than 20 in storage are pre-1979 aircraft, all Mk 1000s. A total of 104 pre-1980 F28s are current, says Airclaims. A total of 241 of the type was originally built.



Large numbers remain in service with CIS airlines, although some are being purchased for corporate use. The -40 was the first Soviet jetliner to receive Western certification. The type entered service in 1968 and was envisaged as the Soviet Li-2 "DC-3ski"-replacement regional-jet airliner, designed to fly from grass airfields and powered by three 14.7kN Ivchenko AI-25s. The freight version has a large side-cargo-door. A total of 526 pre-1980 examples remain in service.



This tri-jet aircraft is a progression from the Yak-40 design described above. Over 15m longer than its older brother, and with a new wing and 64kN Loratev D-36 turbofan engines, this airliner entered service in 1980 but was withdrawn in 1982 after some difficulties were encountered. The type was re-introduced in 1984. According to Airclaims, there are 14 production aircraft in service aged 15 years or older (this figure includes three pre-production models). Now regarded as one of the best and most economic of Soviet designs, the Yak-42 is expected to gain US Federal Aviation Authority certification by the end of 1995.




With older military -76s with low hours and cycles being converted to civil use, the numbers of Il-76s in airline use are likely to grow. There are now 35 pre-1980 examples in service. Average utilisation was just 729h in 1994, down by some 30% on 1990/1 figures.




There are three versions: the -18V, the more powerful -18E, and the heavier, longer-range -18D, with additional freight versions of V and D models. Powered by four 2,983kW or 3,169kW Ivchenko AI-20 turboprops. 71 pre-1980 examples remain.




More than 55 examples of five versions of two L-188 (Models A, AF, C, CF and PF) built for US domestic and international markets still being flown are all at least 30 years old, according to Airclaims. Powered by Allison 501-D13 or -D15.




The recent fall in passenger numbers has seen utilisation of the An-24 fall by 30% in 1994, to just 805h. Some CIS military An-24s are being civilianised, but these are mainly outside Russia. There are five models of this "Friendship-ski", including B, RT, RV, and T variants, all powered by two Ivchenko AI-24 engines, some with an auxiliary turbojet for improved performance and engine starting. Variants include passenger, mixed passenger/freight, convertible, all-freight, and executive. There are 524 pre-1980 examples in service.

BAe (Avro)/Hindustan


Seven versions (Srs 1, 1A, 2, 2SCD, 2A, 2ASCD, and 2B), with optional large cargo door available for new-build and retrofit. Some 65 of the 102 current aircraft manufactured in 1980 or earlier are Hindustan licence-built examples, powered by two R-R Dart engines. Some 46 aircraft still current are at least 25 years old (Airclaims).

BAe (Vickers)


World's first turbine-powered airliner in fare-paying passenger service (July 1950). Five versions, from three basic models (Series 700, 800 and 810), all powered by four R-R Dart turboprops, are still in service. All 21 current airframes were manufactured before 1969, according to Airclaims.

De Havilland Canada/Bombardier

Dash 7

A recent entrant to the census is the four-engined Dash 7, a so-called "quiet short-take-off-and-landing" short/medium-range 50-seat aircraft which entered service in February 1978. Powered by four 835kW P&WAC PT6A-50s. Of 113 built, some 25 current examples are at least 15 years old, says Airclaims.

Fairchild Hiller


Numerous models of the US licence-built version of the Fokker F27, including cargo variant, although Airclaims points out that records are scant. A total of 41 examples all built before 1969 is current, according to Airclaims. Powered by two R-R Darts.



Four versions, plus cargo/mixed-traffic variant, powered by two R-R Dart Mk 523-7 engines. Many of the first 20 F27s are still active, according to ARS. A total of 140 F27s built 25 or more years ago is still in service, and 222 of the current fleet are older than 15 years, according to Airclaims.

General Dynamics (Convair)


A conversion of the piston-powered CV-340/440, with two Allison 501-D13 turboprops by Pacific Airmotive of Burbank. Larger tail fin for single-engine operations. Modified systems and new instrument panel. All current airframes are at least 25 years old (Airclaims).

CV-600 and 640

Turboprop conversions of Convair 240 and 340/440, respectively, powered by two R-R Dart 10 Mk 524s. Nine examples of the CV-600 and 16 of the CV-640 are current (all older than 25 years), according to Airclaims.

Handley Page

Dart Herald

Three models, including military versions, are powered by two R-R Dart engines. According to Airclaims, there are 14 aircraft still current. These were all manufactured before 1969.



Almost 85 examples of numerous versions of this Japanese design, including mixed-traffic and all-cargo models, are current, all built more than 20 years ago, says Airclaims. Powered by two R-R Dart Mk 542 turboprops.



Originally the SD3-30, this 30-seat utility derivative of the Skyvan is powered by two 862kW P&WAC PT6A-45As. Single basic airline model. There are 32 examples which are 15 years or older, and one machine which is 20 years old.




This aircraft is a development of the An-10 with redesigned rear fuselage and tail unit. Powered by four 2,983kW Ivchenko AI-20K turboprops. Civil numbers of this aircraft may be increased because of conversions from the military version. Up to 300 could become available if necessary. Average use in 1994 at 426h fell by 36% compared to 1993 figures. A total of 144 pre-1980 examples remain current.


This was the first Soviet load-hauler which boasts a pressurised hold. The aircraft is powered by two 2,103kW Ivchenko AI-24VTs and an auxiliary 8.8kN RU-19A-300 power unit is available for take-off/cruise. The An-26 is gaining in popularity, with airlines buying military surplus aircraft, particularly since modifications have permitted an increase in payload from 4.5t to 6.3t. About 465 pre-1980 examples are current. The An-26 entered service in 1969.


Model L-100

Commercial Hercules - two commercial versions (Model 382E and -G marketed as L-100-20 and -30) of C-130 military transport. Powered by four Allison 501-D22/D22As.



Developed for the RAF as a strategic transport, but was withdrawn after ten years. Marshall of Cambridge resurrected the type by making certain modifications. Two modified aircraft are in use, with HeavyLift.