Queen of the Skies bows out

on . Posted in Aircraft in Focus

The 16th of July. A day a lot of people were hoping wouldn’t be coming so soon. But the COVID-19 pandemic was unfortunately the final nail in the coffin for British Airway’s 747 fleet when staff were sent an email detailing the ‘immediate retirement’ of the type from service.

The company said: “It is with great sadness that we can confirm we are proposing to retire our entire 747 fleet with immediate effect.”
“It is unlikely our magnificent queen of the skies will ever operate commercial services for British Airways again due to the downturn in travel caused by the Covid-19 global pandemic.”



Shortly before the UK was locked down on 23rd March 2020, British Airways had already started putting aircraft in to storage – keeping a dozen flying for emergency cargo runs for NHS PPE (Protective masks and gowns etc). Placing aircraft in storage kept the running costs down and were stored in a way they could quickly be put back into service. A few 747s even had recently had their interiors refitted.

 At the time of the 747 retirement announcement, the current fleet status were as follows:
Stored at Heathrow: 9 (G-BYGF, G-CIVB, G-CIVD, G-CIVE, G-CIVH, G-CIVI, G-CIVK, G-CIVP, G-CIVY)
Stored at Cardiff: 14 (G-BNLY, G-BYGA, G-BYGB, G-BYGC, G-BYGD, G-BYGE, G-BYGG, G-CIVC, G-CIVF, G-CIVO, G-CIVU, G-CIVV, G-CIVW, G-CIVZ)
Stored at Teruel: 5 (G-CIVA, G-CIVR, G-CIVS, G-CIVT, G-CIVX)
Stored at Kemble:3 (G-CIVJ, G-CIVL, G-CIVN)

Affectionately known as ‘The Queen of the skies’  by crews and enthusiasts alike, the Boeing 747 has been around since 29th April 1988, entering service with BA a year later.
The aircraft was the center of attention last year when BA painted 3 B747’s in past liveries to celebrate BA100: 100 Years of British Airways.



G-BYGC: BOAC livery
‘Golf Charlie’ was the first 747 to roll out of the Dublin paint shed on the 19h February 2019 revealing its glamorous BOAC livery which the type wore between 1964 and 1974. It was flown back to Heathrow using flight number  ‘BA100’ and callsign SPEEDBIRD 100 before going back into service to New York a day later.


Later in the year, G-BYGC featured in the Royal International Air Tattoo, flying with the Red Arrows to mark BA100.



G-BNLY: Landor livery
9th March 2019 saw the second heritage livery delivered to heathrow, representing the stunning Landor livery which was in use across the BA fleet 1984-1997

G-CIVB: Negus livery
21st March 2019 saw the final heritage livery delivered to heathrow, this time representing the Negus livery which was in use across the BA fleet from the merge of BEA and BOAC in 1974 until the later Landor scheme was brought In as seen above.

The type only represents 10% of the BA fleet and with the 12 A380s slowly coming out of storage and the cutting edge, fuel efficient A350s and B787s being delivered, it should not come as too much of a surprise.



Update: Disposals

Following the announcement of the 747's retirement from service with British Airways, attention began to turn on where all the airframes would end up. Aircraft graveyards in the US, museums or the scrap man were all rumours floating around. I was in the fortunate position to live just a couple minutes from Cotswold Airport, Kemble where many of them ended up for storage. Officially, storage is the official term at present, but more than likely most, if not all 747s here will ended up being broken down for parts...



The below list is to be updated as they are each disposed of...

G-BNLY Withdrawn From Use: 23th March 2020
31st March 2020: Heathrow to Bournemouth | Storage
15th June 2020: Bournemouth to Cardiff | Storage
05th December 2020: Cardiff to Dunsfold | Preserved
G-BYGA Withdrawn From Use: 21st March 2020
23rd March 2020: Heathrow to Cardiff | Storage
08th September 2020: Cardiff to Kemble | Scrapping
G-BYGB Withdrawn From Use: 21st March 2020
21st March 2020: Heathrow to Cardiff | Storage
02nd September 2020: Cardiff to Kemble | Scrapping
G-BYGC Withdrawn From Use: 05th April 2020
20th June 2020: Heathrow to Cardiff | Storage
11th November 2020: Cardiff to St Athan | Preserved
G-BYGD Withdrawn From Use: 16th March 2020
16th March 2020: Heathrow to Cardiff | Storage
27th November 2020: Cardiff to St Athan | Scrapping
G-BYGE Withdrawn From Use: 23th March 2020
23rd March 2020: Heathrow to Cardiff | Storage
24th September 2020: Cardiff to Kemble | Scrapping
G-BYGF Withdrawn From Use: 09th April 2020
26th August 2020: Heathrow to Kemble | Scrapping
G-BYGG Withdrawn From Use: 02nd April 2020
03rd June 2020: Heathrow to Cardiff | Storage
23rd November 2020: Cardiff to St Athan | Scrapping
G-CIVA Withdrawn From Use: 28th March 2020
03rd April 2020: Heathrow tto Teruel | Scrapping
G-CIVB Withdrawn From Use: 06th April 2020
08th October 2020: Heathrow to Kemble | Preserved
G-CIVC Withdrawn From Use: 28th March 2020
31st March 2020: Heathrow to Bournemouth | Storage
09th June 2020: Bournemouth to Cardiff | Storage
06th November 2020: Cardiff to St Athan | Scrapping
GCIVE Withdrawn From Use: 24th March 2020
16th September 2020: Heathrow - St Athan | Scrapping
G-CIVF Withdrawn From Use: 06th April 2020
06th June 2020: Heathrow to Cardiff | Storage
25th October 2020: Cardiff to Newquay | Scrapping
G-CIVI Withdrawn From Use: 06th April 2020
09th September 2020: Heathrow - St Athan | Scrapping
G-CIVJ Withdrawn From Use: 06th April 2020
15th April 2020: Heathrow to Kemble | Scrapping
G-CIVK Withdrawn From Use: 18th March 2020
26th September 2020: Heathrow - St Athan | Scrapping
G-CIVL Withdrawn From Use: 26th March 2020
14th April 2020: Heathrow to Kemble | Scrapping
G-CIVN Withdrawn From Use: 26th March 2020
16th April 2020: Heathrow to Kemble
G-CIVO Withdrawn From Use: 03rd June 2020
03rd June 2020: Heathrow to Cardiff | Storage
11th September 2020: Cardiff to Kemble | Scrapping
G-CIVP Withdrawn From Use: 28th March 2020
31st March 2020: Heathrow to Bournemouth | Storage
28th May 2020: Bournemouth to Heathrow | Storage
21st September 2020: Heathrow to St Athan | Scrapping
G-CIVR Withdrawn From Use: 20th March 2020
03rd April 2020: Heathrow to Teruel | Scrapping
G-CIVS Withdrawn From Use: 29th March 2020
03rd April 2020: Heathrow to Teruel | Scrapping
G-CIVT Withdrawn From Use: 28th March 2020
03rd April 2020: Heathrow to Teruel | Scrapping
G-CIVU Withdrawn From Use: 27th March 2020
31st March 2020: Heathrow to Bournemouth | Storage
05th June 2020: Bournemouth to Cardiff | Storage
13th November 2020: Cardiff to St Athan | Scrapping
G-CIVV Withdrawn From Use: 23rd March 2020
23rd March 2020: Heathrow to Cardiff | Storage
28th September 2020: Cardiff to Castellon | Scrapping
G-CIVW Withdrawn From Use: 29th March 2020
31st March 2020: Heathrow to Bournemouth | Storage
11th June 2020: Bournemouth to Cardiff | Storage
22nd October 2020: Cardiff to Dunsfold | Preserved
G-CIVX Withdrawn From Use: 19th March 2020
03rd April 2020: Heathrow to Teruel | Scrapping
G-CIVY Withdrawn From Use: 05th April 2020
08th October 2020: Heathrow to St Athan | Scrapping
G-CIVZ Withdrawn From Use: 17th March 2020
17th March 2020: Heathrow to Cardiff | Storage
18th October 2020: Cardiff to Newquay | Scrapping

 
Boeing 747-436 - G-BYGF - British Airways | SPEEDBIRD 9177E | 26th August 2020: London Heathrow - Kemble 


Boeing 747-436 - G-BYGE - British Airways | Callsign: SPEEDBIRD 9177E | 24th September 2020: Cardiff to Kemble

 Boeing 747-436 - G-CIVB - British Airways | SPEEDBIRD 400 | 08th October 2020: London Heathrow to Kemble

 
Boeing 747-436 - G-BNLY - British Airways | SPEEDBIRD 9154P | 05th December 2020: Cardiff to Dunsfold

Preservation

22nd October saw G-CIVW fly to Dunsfold to be used by a movie filming company. The only 747 to be preserved in the 'Chatsworth House' livery, as she wears below:

Following the announcement of the withdrawl, British Airways made it clear there would be no enthusiasts flights or farewell events and all aircraft would be disposed of...And for a good while that is what happened.
However hope began to filter down through the rumour mill that the 'Negus' scheme G-CIVB would be preserved at Kemble. Despite landing on the 8th, it wasn't until 23rd October 2020 Kemble Air Services finally signed the contract to take ownership. The plan is for it to be available for corporate/business hire and on-board meetings including use of the in-seat entertainment screens.



On 23rd November details emerged of a ferry flight from Cardiff to St Athan for scrapping. A campaign was started on social media using the hashtag #SaveLandor in a bid to stop the Landor schemed aircraft being scrapped. It appeared to be in vein however when on the 26th British Airways released told media:
“We continue to explore all options for our iconic heritage Landor 747 aircraft. No final decision on its future has been made”



On 28th November it was revealed that G-BNLY has found a new home at Dunsfold Aerodrome. Aviation Filming Ltd plans to add her to the other two 747s available to use for filming.
On the 5th November the aircraft successfully flew the ferry flight, departing Cardiff for Dunsfold despite the less than perfect weather conditions.

With British Airways announcing the Landor aircraft was to be saved, the completed the heritage trio by also announcing the BOAC scheme had been purchased by eCube at St Athan to be preserved, completing the amazing U-turn:
“It will be maintained as a heritage piece by aviation specialists eCube Solutions to showcase the pre-eminent contribution British Airways’ 747 fleet made to UK aviation,” read the airline’s statement.
Chief Executive Sean Doyle commented:
“We think they have great historical importance, not only to British Airways but to the entire aviation industry, and we are pleased they will be preserved for future generations in locations in the UK,” 


 A selection of my other images captured over the years...