Graveyards, Hotels, & Bars - The Truth Behind Aircraft Retirement

planes spend their life safely transporting people across the globe, but what happens after the last flight?

We talked about what puts perfectly good airplanes out of service, forever, but what happens to them once they’re grounded? Like everything else in aviation, it depends. The primary factors relate to the specific aircraft and the life left on the components and the activity of the remaining fleet - who has any use for the parts? Let’s say a high-time Pilatus PC-12/45 had a hangar collapse on the tail and it ripped the aft section of the plane in half. So we have a dramatic case of physical deprecation with some functional depreciation to seal the deal: the insurance company '“totals” the plane. However, in this case there is an active need for PC-12/45 parts and components so everything from the prop, engine, avionics and interior pieces can be sold to serve the remainder of the active fleet.

Let’s say the same scenario happens to a 1968 Beechcraft Queen Air. Odds are, it’s going to cost you (or your insurer) money to get rid of these parts. The avionics are obsolete, the engines have been out of production for over 30 years and it will cost more to harvest the metal than you could possibly gain from its sale. This means it’s going to the salvage yard. You may be familiar with aircraft “boneyards” where hundreds of aircraft are left sitting in the desert, their final resting place. Unfortunately, without some diligent planning retiring an airplane can be surprisingly expensive.

It isn’t all doom and gloom, occasionally, there are more innovative solutions for the hull like turning it into a cocktail bar, a house, or using it on a movie set!

El Avion

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica


747 Wing House

Malibu, California


Jumbo Stay Hotel

Stockholm Arlanda Airport


727 Fuselage Home

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica


If you own an older aircraft you may have wondered about what possibilities lie beyond the sky for your airplane. Clearly, the sky is not the limit, however, you may not be interested in opening a hotel in your retrofit Lear 35! If you think your aircraft may be approaching retirement it is probably a great time to speak with an expert that can help plan the next steps, because if there is one consistency in aviation - surprises are rarely good. Our team of aircraft appraisers can be a great resource for really getting into the numbers to truly understand the economics impacting your specific aircraft.