Earth is calling... AELS

Recycling planes for a circular economy


Four large planes at the Twente Airport at the Technology Base are currently disassembled and recycled by  AELS, Aircraft End-of-Life Solutions from Enschede. One of these planes is a Boeing 747-400. By recycling AELS contributes to a circular economy. Most people think of emissions and sound reduction when discussing sustainability in the aviation industry but forget about the actions that need to be taken at the end of a plane’s lifespan.

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In short

  • Kerosene, hydraulic fluids and batteries in planes must be recycled appropriately.
  • AELS recycles every part of the plane properly. If needed, parts are repaired and/or revised and offered for sale after re-certification. The remaining carcass is recycled after being cut in pieces.

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How is a plane recycled?

The aircraft is fully disassembled, says Derk-Jan van Heerden. Removed parts, if necessary, are repaired and/or revised by other companies and then offered for sale after re-certification. The remaining carcass is recycled in collaboration with another company after being cut in pieces. 


The aviation industry has agreed to take care of proper recycling of worn-out airplanes. “Such planes contain kerosene, hydraulic fluids and of course batteries. Leaving a plane just like that, with all resulting consequences is irresponsible. Dismantling planes is a sustainable issue.”

For the big players

The profitable part of the business is selling parts. Van Heerden: “It can be cheaper for airlines to order parts via us than repairing broken parts because it reduces the time the plane needs to be grounded. Additionally, repairing can be more expensive than our parts.”


Van Heerden and his company (twelve permanent employees and twenty temporary ones) largely relocated to Twente, financially supported by Oost NL. Oost NL is a development company aimed at strengthening the regional economy in the east of the Netherlands.

AELS – Great example for circular economy in Twente

Even the largest airplanes with two aisles, the so-called widebody’s, can land at Airport Twente. Van Heerden: “We are the only company in Europe offering a one-stop-shop for widebody’s.” AELS moved away from its location at the air force base in Woensdrecht (Noord-Brabant) but keeps its office and storage in Zoetermeer. 


The number of planes we dismantle per year must grow from five to twelve in the next ten years. Since its start in 2005, AELS dismantled twelve planes on their own, and dozens on commission. Four new planes have been added in the past two months. “We’re unique in our industry because we take care of dismantling all planes, not just those with sufficient sellable parts. Most companies only dismantle the latter. Our clients pay for our services when there is not much to sell.”

Date: 4 December 2018 |

Source of tekst: NRC Nieuws |