Last British Airways 747 In Chatham Dockyard Livery Makes Final Flight

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Yesterday saw another milestone reached in the retirement of British Airways’ iconic Boeing 747 fleet. In the afternoon of November 13th, the airline’s last remaining 747 to bear the ‘Chatham Dockyard’ livery made its final flight. While the aircraft had plied its trade on BA’s long-haul routes for 22 years, its final movement was the short hop from Cardiff to St Athan.

British Airways 747 G-CIVU
G-CIVU had spent its entire working life at British Airways. Photo: Rosedale7175 via Flickr

The final flight

Yesterday afternoon, a British Airways Boeing 747-400 bearing the registration G-CIVU took to the skies for one final time. Flight BA9172 departed Cardiff Airport (CWL) at 15:18 and touched down at the neighboring MOD St Athan at 15:36. This flight was particularly significant as it represented the last flight of a British Airways 747 sporting the airline’s current ‘brilliant white’ livery.

This paint scheme is a variation of the airline’s iconic ‘Chatham Dockyard‘ livery. This famous design is among the most recognizable brands in the United Kingdom, if not the world. Indeed, it is hard to imagine British Airways aircraft in any other livery on a wider scale. It has adorned British Airways aircraft since 1997, save for a handful of short-term commemorative liveries. The name ‘brilliant white’ refers to the pearly base color of the aircraft’s hull.

There are still two remaining BA 747s that are yet to leave Cardiff. However, while these also sport the ‘Chatham Dockyard’ livery, their hulls bear the older, off-white base color. They also do not feature the coat of arms in the same way that ‘brilliant white’ aircraft such as G-CIVU do.

BA 747 G-CIVU LHR
One can see the coat of arms to the left of the British Airways logo on G-CIVU. This was a characteristic feature of the ‘brilliant white’ variant of the ‘Chatham Dockyard’ livery. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Flickr

The aircraft in question

According to Planespotters.net, British Airways took delivery of G-CIVU in April 1998. It was powered by four Rolls-Royce RB211-524 turbofan engines, and featured a four-class seating configuration. This consisted of 14 First suites, 52 Club World flatbeds, 36 World Traveller Plus recliners and 235 World Traveller seats.

G-CIVU’s service life (and indeed that of the entire remaining British Airways Boeing 747 fleet) was brought to a premature end earlier this year by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. This has, unfortunately, been the case for many larger airliners across the world.

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The aircraft’s withdrawal from service occurred on March 27th, and it flew to Bournemouth (BOH) for storage on March 31st. It remained here until June 5th, when it made the short flight to Cardiff. As we now know, it has since departed the Welsh capital’s international airport for nearby St Athan.

British Airways Boeing 747-436 G-BYGE
British Airways operated a total of 101 Boeing 747 aircraft between 1974 and 2020. They were among the most iconic and recognizable airliners to grace the skies of the United Kingdom, and indeed the world. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | JFKJets.com

The future of British Airways’ long-haul fleet

Moving forward, British Airways’ long-haul fleet will have a very strong focus on twinjet widebody airliners. The airline is yet to retire any of its quadjet double-decker Airbus A380 ‘superjumbo’ aircraft, although all 12 remain in storage, according to Planespotters.net. However, the fact that the airline has small orders outstanding for Airbus A350, Boeing 777, and Boeing 787 ‘Dreamliner’ aircraft certainly underlines BA’s commitment to a twinjet long-haul fleet for years to come.

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