LONDON – October 18 saw British Airways (BA) retire the next Boeing 747-400, dubbed ‘Victor Zulu’, also known as G-CIVZ (L.N. 1183/MSN 28854).

The aircraft, officially 22 years old this month, flew from Cardiff Airport (CWL) down to Newquay (NQY) for storage, having been at CWL since March this year.

‘Victor Zulu’ was delivered and painted in the ‘Benyhone Tartan’ colour scheme before changing over to the ‘Union Flag’ in May 2003 and then onwards to its oneworld special colours in May 2009.

The aircraft seated 14 people in First Class, 86 people in Business, 30 in Premium Economy, and 145 in Economy. G-CIVZ’s last commercial flight was from New York’s JFK to London Heathrow (LHR).

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Aircraft Retired So Far

The following airframes have been retired:

‘Victor Bravo’ and ‘Victor Yankee’ were the last two airframes that were stored at LHR to be retired, with the airline now moving on to aircraft stored elsewhere across the country.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Last Decade of Prevalence

The last ten years of the aircraft as part of the BA fleet have been significant, as per a previous article by Airways earlier this month.

July 2015 came along, and the airline commenced works on 18 of its -400 aircraft to upgrade the cabin systems on board, including refurbishments of its interior, the addition of 16 extra Club World seats as well as new in-flight entertainment systems.

By September, the first refurbished aircraft departed on its maiden commercial flight down to JFK, featuring at the time Panasonic in-flight entertainment, larger screens, and more content for fliers.

The BA Boeing 747 made another Olympic Games appearance in August 2016, returning back from Rio de Janeiro (GIG) on yet another gold-nosed aircraft with the name ‘VictoRIOus’, with the Paralympic Team returning back later in the month.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Last year, in coordination with the Royal Air Force Red Arrows, the Boeing 747 in the BOAC livery did a fly-past to celebrate 100 years of BA. And then, sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic came around. The airline announced in July of this year that the aircraft would be phased out early due to the significant drop in demand for business.

By August, the first aircraft, dubbed ‘Victor Delta’ (G-CIVD | L.N. 1048/MSN 27349) was sent to its final home of Castellon (CDT) for storage. This particular aircraft, offering the Oneworld Alliance color scheme, had flown over 115,000 hours across 13,300 flights, traveling 50 million miles.

Many of the frames offered the same in terms of usage, meaning that all Boeing 747 across the BA fleet had a busy and well-used life.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A Rare and Unforgettable Sight

With 19 of the 31 units already retired, it is forecasted that the remaining 12 will be at their final homes by the beginning of next year, based on their current retirement patterns.

The history of the Boeing 747 in the BA fleet shows how much of a brilliantly useful asset the aircraft was, and this is something that will not be forgotten about.

There is some level of hope that the BA 747 that were repainted as part of Centenary celebrations will not get torn into pieces for scrap. Initially, there were some rumours that the BOAC, Negus and Landor liveries would be preserved in the UK, but no official confirmation has been given for it.

But what we do know is this. COVID-19 has not just decimated the aviation industry; it has decimated an aircraft type that enthusiasts and those in the industry hoped to get just a few more years left off. This means that we must catch them while we can before they become a sadly scarce unit.

Featured Image: G-CIVZ, a British Airways Boeing 747-400. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons