The wide body, four-engine Boeing 747-400 is an iconic part of British Airways’ fleet.
BA, which was the world’s largest operator of the Boeing 747, described the 747-400 as ‘a proven performer with high reliability’ which boasts high reliability and has incorporated major aerodynamic improvements over earlier 747 models, which have a history stretching back 50 years.
The aircraft’s life began in April 1970 when BOAC – which would later merge with BEA to form today’s airline – took delivery of its first Boeing 747-100, which was the 23rd to be constructed by Boeing, according to its line number.
BOAC then took delivery of another 14 aircraft over the next three years, with the 15th aircraft delivered in December 1973.
A Boeing 747 long-range wide-body four engined commercial jet airliner for the BOAC – British Overseas Airways Corporation flying above the UK on April 7, 1971
None of those early models remain flying today. Most were scrapped, a handful were stored, and BA’s first 747 left the fleet in October 1998, aviation publisher Simple Flying reports.
After BOAC and BEA merged, the 15 Boeing 747s was transferred to British Airways on April 1, 1974. BA took delivery of four 747-100s, bringing the total fleet size to 19.
On February 18, 1991, British Airways’ Boeing 747-100 was destroyed in Kuwait during the Gulf War, becoming the only BA 747-100 to be involved in a hull loss during its time with the airline.
BA received its first Boeing 747-200 on June 22, 1977, and the airline went on to operate a total of 24 passenger 747-200s that were delivered between 1977 and 1988. No British Airways 747-200s were involved in hull loss while with the airline.
The Boeing 747-400 is the BA model most familiar to us today, and is the only type still in service with British Airways today. BA’s first 747-400 was delivered in June 1989, and it flew with the flag carrier for nearly 30 years.
British Airways announced that its fleet of Boeing 747 aircraft, fondly known as ‘The Queen of the Skies’, are likely to have flown their last scheduled commercial service
The airline operated a total of 57 Boeing 747-400s, meaning that BA has operated 100 passenger 747s and one cargo 747. 747-400s were delivered for ten years until April 1999, making BA’s youngest aircraft 21 years old.
But the ‘queen of the skies’ will no longer don the red, white and blue of the Union Jack after British Airways retired its fleet of Boeing 747s as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The airline, which was the world’s biggest operator of the 747-400 model, had already planned to ground its fleet of 31 of the iconic wide-bodied jets in 2024.
But the pandemic, which has seen most of the world’s planes grounded for the best part of three months, has hastened its journey into retirement, especially as forecasters predict that passenger numbers will remain lower than normal, potentially for years to come.
BA’s predecessor BOAC had first used the 747 in 1971 and, as with many airlines, the plane – affectionately referred to as either the ‘jumbo jet’ or the ‘queen of the skies’ – became a symbol of the new age of mass travel to all corners of the planet.
A BA Boeing 747 flies alongside the Red Arrows during the Royal International Air Tattoo in Fairford, Gloucestershire, in July 2019
Its days have been numbered, though, in light of new, modern, fuel-efficient aircraft such as Airbus’ A350 and Boeing’s 787.
More than 1,500 jumbos were produced by Boeing, and it has historically been a commercial success for the manufacturer and the airlines.
But its heyday is long in the past and any sight of the jet, with its distinctive hump at the top, is now a rarity. Just 30 of the planes are believed to now be in service, with a further 132 in storage.
British Airways’ 747-400s have a capacity of 345 passengers and can reach a top speed of 614 mph.