Leonardo grads table plan for aircraft graveyards

Graduate apprentices at aerospace company Leonardo have devised a plan to transform aircraft graveyards into green hubs for sustainable use of materials.

aircraft graveyards
(Credit: BBC World Service via CC)

The concept was developed for the Fuel Change Challenge, sponsored by Skills Development Scotland and the Scottish Funding Council, which has invited apprentices across the country to come up with workable business concepts to reduce carbon emissions and increase sustainable business opportunities.

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The Leonardo grad apprentices discovered that the pandemic has led to an acceleration in the retirement of older aircraft that would otherwise have remained in operation for several more years, offering an area rich for redevelopment into sustainable business opportunities. The young team includes Ross Pringle, Ethan Rae, Finlay Waddell, Natalie Crawford-Smith, Carly O’Hagan, Kirsty McCusker and Rebecca Lake. They took the initiative to gather input and feedback on their aircraft graveyards concept from senior management across several industry sectors, with their research revealing that aircraft decommissioning is a business that already generates billions of pounds each year.

“To allow end-of-life aircraft parts to be recycled or reused could contribute to the reduced carbon footprint of this industry worldwide,” said Ross.

Ross Pringle

“We wanted to develop ideas that will benefit Scotland and boost our economy and impact on how the world looks at the aerospace industry. It also means giving the wider supply chain and smaller SMEs the chance to adopt a financially viable business concept. I think we’ve all grown through this challenge, as it has asked us to look more closely at the issues of carbon footprint reduction and sustainability. One of the great things we found was all those we approached for their expertise were not only open to our ideas, they were very supportive of them.”

All 20 teams of apprentices that took part in the inaugural Fuel Change Challenge have now been given the go-ahead to develop their ideas after completing and appearing at an online showcase event.

“Leonardo engineering graduate apprentices typify the enthusiasm, creativity and ingenuity that has been evident in the first ever Fuel Change Challenge,” said David Reid, programme director at Fuel Change.

“Their sustainable and flexible design for a decommissioning facility at an airport to recycle material from old aircraft, is a brilliant example of the innovation being offered up by apprentices across the whole programme.”