It's Not How Long Your Fuselage Is, It's How Often You Use It.

You've likely seen photos of airplane graveyards. You certainly have if you've read the blog before. These graveyards On the other hand, you've probably also looked out your window while taxing to or from a terminal before and seen - off the in distance at the Cargo terminals - a beat-up 747 that has to be at least thirty years old. What's with the disparity?

This is one of those things that isn't obvious, until you hear it, and then makes total sense: airplane age is not a function of time, but a function of pressurizations. This is rust-resistnt metal. Existing doesn't wear it out very quick. Neither does shooting through cold, thin air. Instead, being inflated and deflated over and over like a balloon is what causes the stress, both on the metal skin and the things that hold that metal to the frame and the other metal.

Planes flying short haul (think: NY/DC) have very short lives, taking perhaps 3-5 pressurizations a day. That 747 you saw? It might take 3-5 presurizations a week, so it can last, theoretically, over 50 times longer.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Back in the days when I used to work at United I'd log into the maintenance system and look up how many cycles certain older airplanes had - particularly the 722s and 732s that we had coming through the station.

That was back when the A319/320s were new to the fleet, though, and they'd sometimes depressurize on their own at altitude...