When a plane lands in your living room!

A piece of sky… This is the poetic name of a young startup devoted to upcycling, created by two French people in 2017. The idea is simple: remove certain parts from end-of-life aircraft and use them to create furniture and designer objects. An inspiring project that epitomises the concept of an innovative circular economy.

There is a wealth of potential out there: every year, around 600 aircraft worldwide reach the end of their service life, raising the issue of how to manage and recycle them. There was a time when old planes would be left to rot in the far-flung corners of airports, or sent for scrapping, but those days are gone – manufacturers now need to think in terms of the circular economy.

12,000 aircraft around the world will require dismantling within the next twenty years.



A flying (new) start

Building on this observation, two engineers had the bright idea of turning some parts of old Airbus aircraft into pieces of furniture and designer accessories. A wing given a new life as a bookshelf… Aircraft windows transformed into dressing tables… Engines turned into round coffee tables? A true brainwave! In 2017, they created their startup, incubated in the Airbus Bizlab and poetically named A piece of sky, with the goal of recycling end-of-life industrial parts based on the concept of the circular economy.

This collective project brings together artisans, designers and manufacturers who are eager to combine their passion for design and aviation, and share them with as many like-minded people as possible. Just two years after the concept was launched, the first collection produced by A piece of sky is preparing for take-off, with 22 pieces in the pre-market phase since April 2019. The first deliveries are scheduled for 2020.

Anticipating end of life

The question of how to deal with end-of-life aircraft is now addressed much earlier on, right from the design phase, which must also take into account end-of-cycle issues. The design and materials are chosen with an eye to ensuring the various pieces of the jigsaw are easy to remove when the time comes to dismantle the whole. The alloys used also need to be recyclable. Finally, aircraft manufacturers are anticipating future tighter regulations in this field. In this vein, the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association (AFRA), created in 2006, aims to exchange good practices for aircraft disassembly, which are setting the industry standard.

How to handle end-of-life aircraft? There’s little doubt that this is an issue of growing importance, an innovation driver in its own right, alongside the question of how to reduce emissions in the design phase.


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