Following news in November 2020 that Singapore Airlines would be removing seven Airbus A380s from its fleet, for a total of 12 aircraft remaining post-COVID, we now have confirmation that the process has begun with the first two aircraft due to meet their fate this month.
Unusually, however, these two jets won’t be relocated overseas for storage, but will be scrapped here in Singapore instead.
9V-SKG and 9V-SKH, the 19th and 21st Airbus A380s built (out of 251 for 14 different airlines worldwide), have been relocated to the Changi Exhibition Centre, adjacent to the airport, the usual site of the Singapore Airshow.
Singapore Airlines and the A380
Singapore Airlines was the launch customer for the Airbus A380, operating its first service with the superjumbo on 25th October 2007.
The airline has flown 24 of the type in total over the years, but its first five were returned in 2017/18 at the expiry of their leases, with one-for-one replacement by the most recent five deliveries.
SIA therefore became the first airline to retire some of its A380s.
The first two of the returned aircraft (9V-SKA and -SKB) were scrapped in 2018, followed by a third one more recently (9V-SKE), while the other two (-SKC and -SKD) are stored in France.
These latest two A380s to be scrapped (-SKG and -SKH) will join the only non-SIA Airbus A380 to have met a similar fate so far – a former Air France superjumbo.
What will happen?
9V-SKG and 9V-SKH will be dismantled, alongside a Boeing 777-200 (9V-SQJ), which has been stored at Changi for over three years following a failed sale attempt.
The job of dismantling the jets will fall to SIA’s majority-owned subsidiary SIA Engineering Company (SIAEC).
“Usable parts from the A380s that are parted out will be retained as spare parts to maintain SIA’s operating A380 fleet.”Singapore Airlines, to FlightGlobal
Singapore Airlines told FlightGlobal that the dismantling work on the three aircraft will take around two months to complete.
About the A380s
Here’s a bit of history for this pair of A380s.
- First Flew: 8th November 2008
- Delivered: 4th June 2009
- Last SIA flight: 25th March 2020, as SQ286 from Auckland to Singapore
- Total hours: 51,391
- Total flights: 6,540
- First Flew: 10th December 2008
- Delivered: 28th May 2009
- Last SIA flight: 22nd March 2020, as SQ286 from Auckland to Singapore
- Total hours: 50,284
- Total flights: 6,368
Airline intelligence provider ch-aviation lists both aircraft with an estimated market value of US$34.4 million, a far cry from the most recent list price for a new A380 of around US$450 million (though airlines usually receive substantial discounts).
Both aircraft are owned by Singapore Airlines.
Most of the aircraft’s remaining value is likely to be in its four Rolls Royce Trent 900 engines, which cost around US$25m each when new, but then depreciate based on usage and remaining life.
These can be potentially retained as spares for SIA’s remaining A380s, or sold.
About the 777
Here’s what we know about the Boeing 777-200 also being dismantled.
- First Flew: 30th May 2002
- Delivered: 7th June 2002
- Last SIA flight: 2nd August 2018, as SQ835 from Shanghai to Singapore
- Total hours: 61,688
- Total flights: 15,796
On 30th May 2016, 9V-SQJ’s tail was damaged by the right wing of Boeing 777-300 9V-SYL, which collided with it on the ground in Singapore during towing. The aircraft was out of action for a couple of months as a result.
Singapore Airlines was selling 9V-SQJ for US$6.5 million in 2018. Its part-out value is now likely to be significantly less.
SIA’s A380 fleet
Good news for A380 fans is that Singapore Airlines remains committed to its future fleet of 12 superjumbos, with the airline telling Mainly Miles in October 2021:
“The A380 will still have a role in our fleet, especially in the recovery when we could potentially see greater demand on key slot-restricted routes.”
Crucially, all 12 aircraft will be refitted with the latest cabin products, first introduced in 2017.
Here’s how the current fleet breakdown looks:
Singapore Airlines A380 Fleet
(6th October 2021)
We understand all six Version 1 aircraft (9V-SKF to -SKK) and one Version 2 aircraft (9V-SKP) will be leaving the fleet.
That will leave only 9V-SKL and 9V-SKR to receive their cabin modifications, with that work currently being completed on 9V-SKQ.
According to ch-aviation, all 19 of SIA’s Airbus A380s are owned by the airline, with the exception of 9V-SKK (which is one of the seven leaving the fleet) and 9V-SKL, -SKN and -SKS, which will remain in service.
In August 2021 Singapore Airlines launched ‘The Upcycling Project’, promising parts and materials from its retired aircraft to both Singapore-based organisations and global retail brands.
“These parts can be upcycled and repurposed to create unique retail products and art pieces, and will also be used to support educational institutions, artists, and persons with disabilities.”Singapore Airlines
While many of the parts stripped from these three aircraft will be able to be used as spares to maintain the operating fleet, SIA confirmed to FlightGlobal that some elements will be part of ‘The Upcycling Project’ too.
“Parts and materials it deems suitable for the project include the jets’ fuselage, cabin windows, overhead compartments, aircraft seats, life vests, soft furnishings and linens, and galley equipment such as carts and racks.”FlightGlobal
You might therefore find you can get hold of some interesting art pieces that used to belong to these retired jets in the months ahead, with SIA saying that “more information on the sale of the finished products will be announced closer to their launch dates”.
Think coffee tables made from wing flaps, wall clocks from cockpit windows and sideboards from overhead lockers, or whatever else SIA and its partner artists will envisage!
Only recently we were lamenting the loss of 2006 Business Class and 2007 Suites from the Singapore Airlines network, and it would be fantastic to see elements of these repurposed into #AvGeek keepsakes.
It’s difficult to imagine anyone has room for an older A380 Suite or Business Class seat at home, but it will be interesting to see whether any artistic flair can be put on some of the smaller seat parts!
Sad but inevitable probably sums up this news. With no second hand market for retired Airbus A380s, it seems likely that all seven of SIA’s recent retirements from the fleet will meet a similar fate, or at best join some others in long-term storage.
Despite the ungraceful end these jets will receive, it’s impressive that SIAEC has the ability to undertake this complex work here in Singapore, with the currently unused Changi Exhibition Centre providing the perfect space for the job.
There will also be the airline’s upcycling project to look forward to, and we expect to see many varied and interesting sections of these planes formed into artistic pieces or keepsakes for many enthusiasts to enjoy.
Singapore Airlines has also committed to retaining 12 of its newest superjumbos for a return to the fleet, decked out with the latest Suites and Business Class products, so we haven’t seen the last of the A380s just yet.
(Cover Photo: Plane’s Portrait Aviation Media / Sng Wei Jie)