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How to dismantle a  737

Just 'Google' it! That won't help you much in this case.

You do it the same way you would eat an elephant; slowly, one piece at a time...

There are not many 737's that have had their wings removed. It is well believed the aircraft was never designed to have the wings removed. Some say it is impossible, Most advise cutting the wings off.


If you want to dismantle a 100 seat passenger aircraft, at an active international airport, outside in the elements with no specialised equipment, with a few mates, you have to be a little crazy. You and your crazy team will need a passion, can do attitude, innovation and the ability to improvise when faced with an 'impossible' challenge. A mechanical aptitude and patience will also help.

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First up is the paperwork and safety. Get that squared away first, it takes longer than you imagine...

Then get a big crane and,,, no that won't work, you can't poke things high up in the air at an airport.
Get a few of your volunteers together and brainstorm, one of the best pieces of advice from a volunteer was to stand the aircraft on stools, then a truck can reverse under and lift the fuselage. No crane required! Remember to remove the wings before you head out onto the road!

There is much to do before wing removal. Pluck the tail feathers first, this removes a lot of aft weight and lessens the chance of the aircraft sitting on its rear end!

The top of the vertical stabiliser (tail) is over 11 metres from the ground. Best use a TLC manufactured man-cage on your hydraulic telehandler.
The first tail we removed took us almost three days. The second tail took half a day. Things go much better with a little experience. Once the fairings are removed you can see the tail is held in place by 4 'easily' removable pins.

The horizontal stabilisers (back wings) are also held in place by pins, a little more complicated as they are able to move. Remember to disconnect all hydraulic and electrical connections!


An incredible exercise in geometry sits in the wing near the fuselage. The Inboard Flaps. These extend out during take-off and landing, hang down over a metre in a 350kmh wind then slide neatly away and look like just part of the aerodynamic wing surface. Driven by gearboxes and lead screws this marvelous piece of engineering will take lots of gentle persuasion to remove. It must be kept parallel and square or it will lock up and refuse to budge. We have lots of respect for the (heavy) Inboard Flap.

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There is still more to do before wing removal. Those engines are pretty big and heavy, they must be removed before the wings. The engine cowlings are pretty straight forward, they're light and can be manhandled.
The actual engine is close to the ground, heavy and has the wing above it so any sort of overhead lift is impossible. Supporting it from the bottom is out as there are many fragile parts that would be easily damaged. Engine replacement is common in the life of an aircraft and Boeing have thought about this. Installed in the wing are three lifting points. To these you can attach a block-and-tackle and lower the engine into a trolly and roll it out!

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Next Problem. The wheels are attached to the wing and to the fuselage. Easy solution take the undercarriage gear off first. They are big, heavy, attached to one of the world biggest shock absorbers and fit precisely in position. They roll around a lot too!
Next comes possibly the largest single piece on the aircraft, the landing beam. This chunk of cast aluminium reaches from the fuselage to the wing to support the landing gear. It too is a precision pinned fit and difficult to handle.

Now we are getting near to the wing removal. The wings are wet, meaning fuel is stored in them, not in a fuel tank in them, they are the fuel tank. The wings are a pretty important part of any aircraft, not just acting as a fuel tank, they also carry the engines, flight surfaces, electrical gear, fuel pumps and lots of ancillary equipment. You can imagine such an important component has a few bolts holding it on, 431 to be exact. Now this is where your problems get a little more difficult.

With the exception of a few major bolts (about 20) all of the nuts are round, that is there is not a hexagon to put your spanner on. Also, they are covered in sealant, stops the fuel leaking out (never a good look). Then, some of them have a cap over the top of the nut with more sealant on them. This sealant is incredibly tough, you can grab a big chunk with a pair of pliers and pull and pull until all that comes away is a tiny piece! When you do eventually get through the sealant and have removed the nut you can start to hammer the bolt out. it's a press fit through the wing.

Did I mention all of this has to be done from the INSIDE of the wing? Entry to the wing is through an oval hole about  400mm x 200mm in the centre fuselage fuel tank. Hope you drained the fuel. Being in a confined space trying to swing hammers and spanners is not a job you would volunteer for. There are just three of us who can claim to have lived in a 737 wing for hours at a time.

With just a few major bolts remaining the wing needs to be supported. Without a crane or heavy lifting gear. We manufactured our own lifting jig which used the aircraft fuselage as support. Steaded at the wing tip by the telehandler the wing can eventually be persuaded to leave the main body behind. Not an exercise for the feint hearted but extremely satisfying.

Repeat on the other side...

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