British Airways “Queen of the Skies” jumbo jets bade farewell to London on Thursday. These jumbo jets brought long haul flights to the masses.
British Airways was the world’s largest operator of the 747, but it is now retiring its entire Jumbo jet fleet. This is because of low passenger traffic due to the coronavirus pandemic and the airline is moving towards more fuel-efficient planes.
Chief Executive Alex Cruz said it was “a difficult day for everybody at British Airways. As the aircraft leaves our home at Heathrow for the very last time.”
The Last Take Off
The last two Jumbo jets of the British Airways took off simultaneously from Heathrow on their final journeys. The BA staff and engineers were present to witness the final flights and see them take-off. The aircraft took off simultaneously from both the southern and northern runways.
But in normal times this view is unthinkable because of the morning rush. But due to low traffic at Heathrow and other UK airports, it was possible to witness it.
The two aircraft, with registrations G-CIVB and G-CIVY, have flown 59 million and 45 million miles respectively.
But now they are flying to Cardiff and to Kemble in Gloucestershire to be scrapped.
They last flew commercially in April. A number of other British Airways 747s are in storage at Cardiff airport, while several more are in the California desert at Victorville.
During its 49-year history with the airline, the Jumbo jet became known as the Queen of the Skies.
However, the airline is retiring its final 747s early because of the slump in intercontinental aviation.
However, for more than 50 years, the 747 was the world’s most easily recognizable jetliner. Because of its humped fuselage, four engines, and 16 main wheels.
It took its maiden flight in 1969 and soon secured its place in history as the jet which allowed more affordable air travel due its size and range.
Passengers have included John Paul II, who arrived for the first visit to Ireland by a pope on an Aer Lingus 747 in 1979. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned to Iran from exile on an Air France jumbo during the Islamic Revolution that year.
The 747 was introduced by the BA’s predecessor BOAC on the London-New York route in 1971. And at its peak, British Airways had 57 747-400s.
Former pilots have told how the jet took some getting used to, from a cockpit positioned almost 30 feet above the ground and more when angling the nose higher just before touching the runway.
“It was like landing a block of flats from the 2nd floor,” Hugh Dibley, a former BOAC captain, said.
The owner of British Airways, IAG, is battling to survive as due to the pandemic much of the global flying market is at a halt.