BA farewells 747s

“Sad Day for All” the understated words of an Air Traffic Controller at Kemble/Cotswold Airport summed up how I and so many 747 enthusiasts felt as the very last two British Airways Jumbo 747-400s departed the fleet.

British Airways Boeing 747-400, G-CIVB and G-CIVY took off from London Heathrow Runway 27R on Thursday 8th October at 0646am and 0711am respectively.

The airline had planned for the two Boeing 747s to have departed side by side from the airport’s parallel runways. As a result, of terrible weather, this spectacular double departure did not occur.

G-CIVB (Negus Retro Livery) flew a very short 112km (67 miles) as BA flight 400 landing at Kemble/Cotswold Airport (GBA)’s Runway 26 in England’s Cotswold hills. She had served with BA for over 26 years.

The Negus livery takes its name from the Negus & Negus agency that developed the colour scheme in 1973 when BA was created from the merger of BOAC and BEA. It lasted until 1980 and featured “British airways” in full on the fuselage. Later the “airways” was dropped.

a map of a city
BA 400 G-CIVB LHR-GBA. Source: Flightradar

As you can see from the map, due to terrible weather the aircraft held for 30 minutes circling around Barnsley and Faringdon at 7,000 feet until the clouds parted. G-CIVB then made the last ever landing of a BA 747 at 912am local time. You will see in the video, a spectacular amount of spray flying up as a result the heavy rain.

My heart had a slight wrench as a Union Jack was waved by the crew through the roof hatch of the plane and the onlookers were thanked for coming to say “goodbye”. G-CIVB’s fate is unknown with rumours that it may be preserved in a museum in the UK. Here’s hoping. I really like visiting the two Qantas preserved models in Longreach and Wollongong, Australia pictured below:

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Over in St Athan, Wales, at 0831am local time, 22-year-old G-CIVY, flew her last flight as BA flight 747 for 51 minutes over the 206 km (122 miles) to BA’s maintenance depot. She will join several other BA 747s and some Virgin Atlantic ones waiting to be scrapped.

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British Airway’s predecessor BOAC began their 747 passenger flights from London to New York on 14 April 1971. This video shows the first flight from London to Sydney in 1971 along with the semi humorous sexist commentary of the time.

At its peak, BA had 57 Boeing 747-400 aircraft in service, all delivered between 1989 and 1999. Last August 2019, there were 33 aircraft in service and the retirements began with the retention of all the 747s being grounded by 2024. The pandemic brought the deadline earlier.

I first flew a British Airways 747 in 1978 from London to Sydney via Singapore and had nine more flights on a BA 747 in Business and Economy between 2001 and 2012.

a map of the world with blue lines

If you still want to fly a 747; Lufthansa, at this stage, are still flying their 747-400s until 2025 and their fleet of 747-8 will stay for many years to come. Air China also fly both 747-400 and 8’s. Korean Air also operate 747-8 and Rossiya have some 747-400s.

“Sad Day for All”

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