DALLAS – Today in Aviation, British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) placed the Boeing 747 into commercial service in 1971.
The inaugural flight departed London Heathrow (LHR) at 12:03 GMT, with 283 passengers on board, bound for New York (JFK). The flight was operated by the recently delivered G-ANWF under the command of Captain D. Redrup.
BOAC Orders the Jumbo Jet
BOAC placed its first order for six 747s on September 2, 1966, at a total price of approximately US$160m. This followed a lengthy investigation by the UK government into ordering the American jumbo. It concluded that as “no British aircraft will be available that could fulfill the role,” BOAC would need the jumbo jet “in order to be able to match its main competitors.”
However, there was an ongoing dispute with the airline’s pilots over pay and productivity. The pilots wanted a “wide-bodied pay-rise” to match flying the wide-bodied jets. Talks between the airline and the British Air Line Pilots Association (BALPA) continued for months.
Therefore, the first three jumbos (G-ANWA, G-ANWB, and G-ANWC) stood idle on the ground. It was estimated the delay cost BOAC upwards of £25,000 per day.
Reliability problems, which plagued some engines on the new planes, meant that BOAC could recoup some of its lost revenue by leasing out its unused engines to other carriers.
BOAC’s successor, British Airways (BA), would become the biggest operator of the 747 in the world. At its peak, the airline had 57 747-400s in its fleet. G-AWNF served with BA until January 2001, when it was sold to Nigerian charter airline Kabo Air (N9).
Featured image: BOAC initial order of six 747s soon increased. Photo: British Airways