Ireland Since Covid-19, Tarmac has been handling planes that have fallen from the sky

14:05  02 june  2020
14:05  02 june  2020 Source:   lejdd.fr

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Avec la crise, Tarmac, le spécialiste français du stockage et du démantèlement, fait le plein d'appareils. Courts ou longs-courriers, nombreux sont ceux qui ne redécolleront jamais. © Christian Bellavia / Divergence for the JDD

With the crisis, Tarmac, the French specialist in storage and dismantling, is stocking up on aircraft. Short or long-haul, many people will never take off again.

On the long runway of the small Tarbes-Lourdes-Pyrénées airport in Ossun, landings have never been so numerous. Since March, every week, planes from all over the world have landed at the foot of the Pyrenees to await the resumption of traffic. The spectacle of these sixty planes nailed to the ground, including several A380s, is as unique as it is impressive. The Tarmac hangars, which line the crowded runways, are also full. In a few days, about fifteen additional planes, coming from the four corners of the planet, will join them. On the other side of the Pyrenees, the Spanish site of the French SME, in Teruel, in the neighboring Aragonese province, will also soon be full. Finally, on the former military base of Francazal, in the Toulouse suburbs, the third unit of Tarmac also had to "push the walls" to meet the demand of owners of aircraft and that of Airbus. The manufacturer's new aircraft storage capacity has reached its limits. And its customers do not rush to come to Toulouse to receive their order, when they have not purely canceled them. In total, 240 aircraft, both new and old, are thus at Tarmac awaiting the reopening of the sky, or even their dismantling.

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,200 planes dismantled

Of the 26,000 airliners identified in the world, 16,600 no longer fly today. Car parks have been improvised in disused airports, in Australian or American deserts, far from humidity and above all from salty air which accelerates corrosion. In "normal" period, 20% of the planes stored do not fly. At the end of the unprecedented crisis in air transport, this rate should climb sharply. The activity of dismantling aircraft should explode. It is precisely the expertise that ensures Tarmac world renown. The company doesn't just store planes. It also makes spare parts.

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Its creation dates back to a dozen years with a project nicely baptized Pamela, associating the aircraft manufacturer Airbus, the engine manufacturer Safran and the specialist Suez Environnement recycling. Together, they decided to provide end-of-life solutions for aircraft. They started from the observation that 85% to 90% of their weight is recyclable and that hundreds of parts are recoverable. Their resale is the subject of a dynamic and even extremely juicy market. The price of certain engine parts can soar and reach six-figure amounts. The three partners therefore created Tarmac. The Hong Kong company Cathay Pacific was the first to entrust it with end-of-life aircraft. Since then, the SME, which employs 370 people, has dismantled 200, mainly on its Tarbais site.

A meticulous inventory

This week again, the shrill noise of the wire saw, which slices the cabins into rounds, cuts down the wings and planes the cockpits, resounded on the tarmac. This cutting takes place after four weeks spent emptying the cockpit and cabin. When many operators are content to recover copper and titanium and crush the rest with a mechanical shovel, Tarmac sorts oxygen cylinders, life vests, portholes, electronic circuits, cables, fire extinguishers, neon lights, motor shaft ... Recycling specialists then come to the site to collect the containers provided for each material. Only a thousand pieces are kept for re-use, at the cost of five weeks of meticulous inventory. All are listed in specific and voluminous documentation which retraces their flight time, their maintenance history. "For each aircraft, there are six pallets of paper archives," says Grégory Beyneix, the group's director of operations. The work is even more precise for the dismantling of the engines. There, it is not 1,000 but 3,000 pieces that can be sold, sometimes at a high price. As with aircraft, Tarmac has developed a storage and maintenance activity for reactors. If no Boeing 737 Max is parked in Tarbes, we find in its hangars several engines of the cursed Boeing plane in sleep, shipped in giant caissons, by road, in the Hautes-Pyrénées.

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It takes two to four days to return it to full service


Aircraft storage is almost less complicated. At each arrival, the procedure is run in. A general inspection is accompanied by dozens of photos of the interior and exterior, to identify any damage. The aircraft owner, or the company, then sends their experts to make sure it is in good hands. The maintenance protocol is as precise as a flight plan. Drained of its fluids, covered at all the openings to avoid the intrusion of birds, the plane will only be woken up for regular lubrication of its flight controls, and, every two weeks, a quarter rotation turn of his landing gear. Once a month, its motors will be started and pushed to 50% of their maximum power. "It takes two to four days to return it to full service and it is ready to resume service," says Grégory Beyneix. Until now, its residents spent an average of 180 days on its site. Since March, these statistics don't mean much anymore.

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