Savings at the Jet Junkyard

For some planes, the salvage yard marks the start of the afterlife
Aircraft mechanic Mark Gregory set up shop in a decommissioned military airfield in the English countryside, where his crew "parts out" planes like this Boeing 737-700 Photograph by Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Mark Gregory sifts through the mangled remains of a seven-year-old Boeing 737-700. Traces of orange on the tail betray the plane’s prior life as a member of EasyJet’s fleet. His gray ponytail bobbing in the wind of the Cotswolds countryside, Gregory rests his hand on a cylindrical piece of metal the size of a hula hoop in the engine casing. The part, a thrust reverser, will fetch $1.5 million, he says. Need an auxiliary power unit? Gregory can get you one for $25,000. He’ll even track down an in-flight service cart for $230. “It’s kind of sad, but I’ve gotten used to it,” says the 50-year-old Englishman, as workers behind him tear into planes that would easily have another decade or two of service in their aluminum bones. “But the parts companies we’re dealing with like that we’re dismantling newer aircraft.”

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