What Happened To Air China’s Boeing 747s?

In its nearly 33-year history, Air China has had numerous 747s pass through its fleet. In fact, 28 jumbo jets across five different variants have served with the Chinese airline. At the moment, 10 remain active in the fleet. Let’s take a look at what happened and what is happening with Air China’s Boeing 747s.

What Happened To Air China’s Boeing 747s?
Air China’s youngest and still-active 747s are 747-8i aircraft. This includes one in a VP configuration. Photo: Eric Salard via Wikimedia Commons 

Air China’s historic 747s

According to Planespotters.net, Air China has operated and then retired 18 747 jumbo jets. These consist of four variants as follows:

  • 747-200M (Combi)
  • 747SP
  • 747-400
  • 747-400M (Combi)

747-200M

The first of these jets to operate with Air China were three 747-200Ms. These were passed along from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), which first took delivery of them in 1983. The CAAC was an operator in itself before its operations were broken up into several different carriers in 1988.

After flying for 10-13 years with Air China, these jets went to Air China Cargo- presumably after being converted to full, dedicated freighters.

Between 2007 and 2010, these jets left the company and went on to fly with other operators.

What Happened To Air China’s Boeing 747s?
Air China operated four 747SP aircraft. Photo: Aero Icarus via Wikimedia Commons 

Short and sweet: The 747SP

The shortest and ‘most petite’ 747, the 747SP, was operated by Air China between 1988 and 2000. Again, these came from Air China’s predecessor airline, the Civil Aviation Administration of China, who took delivery of them in the early 80s.

After leaving the Air China fleet in 1999-2000, all of the jets went to UT Finance Corporation. Three of these have since been broken up, but one remains listed as ‘active,’ flying with Pratt & Whitney Canada (presumably as a testbed) under registration C-FPAW. Its most recent flight was actually just last month.

Of the 11 ‘historical’ 747-400s, Air China operated three regular passenger -400s and eight -400Ms. These aircraft joined Air China throughout the late 80s and 90s. The earliest came in 1989, while the last was delivered in 1999.

A few of these served mainly with Air China before being converted to full freighters to fly with Air China Cargo. After this, they were retired and broken up. Examples of this include B-2456, B-2458, B-2460.

B-2443, B-2467, B-2469, and B-2470 were never converted and were broken up after retirement from passenger service. The jet registered B-2471 remains inactive but stored.

What Happened To Air China’s Boeing 747s?
Some of Air China’s former 747s have quite interesting stories. Photo: Angelo DeSantis via Wikimedia Commons 

There are a few retired 747-400s that have quite interesting roles now.

B-2464 was eventually re-registered as N747BC. The jet was then converted to become one of the few Boeing Dreamlifters, operated by AtlasAir since 2010. Meanwhile, B-2468, after retiring from passenger service, was preserved in Beijing, China, in 2014. It is now located at the Beijing Shijingshan Amusement Park.

B-2466 was eventually re-registered to HZ-WBT7. This jumbo jet flies as a VIP aircraft in Saudi Arabia now.

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Air China’s remaining 747s

The airline has 10 747s that remain active in the Air China fleet. Three of these are -400s configured with the following classes:

  • 10 First
  • 42 Business
  • 292 Economy

These three jets are listed as ‘parked’ and have an average age of 25 years.

Air China also has seven 747-8i aircraft. One of these is fitted with a VIP configuration, while the remainder have the following configuration:

  • 12 First
  • 54 Business
  • 66 Premium Economy
  • 233 Economy

Just two 747-8s are active. One is the VIP/government jet, while the other is B-2485. RadarBox.com data shows the latter has been flying to New York and Los Angeles in recent weeks.

Have you ever flown on an Air China 747? Let us know in the comments.

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