British Airways has retired the Airbus A319 that flew the Olympic Flame to the United Kingdom when London hosted the Olympic Games in 2012. The 21-year-old aircraft wore a special livery at the time and was known as the firefly.
Once every four years, an aircraft is enlisted to carry the Olympic Flame from Athens to the host nation ahead of the torch relay. Usually, this aircraft will receive a special livery. Last year this was a Japan Airlines Boeing 787. Before this, A LATAM Brasil Boeing 767 had the honors. In 2012, British Airways went for a slightly smaller aircraft, given the somewhat shorter flight.
On Saturday, G-EUPC left London Heathrow Airport for the last time, bound for St Athan near Cardiff. The airport is where many British Airways aircraft have gone for their final flight over the years and is not far from the airline’s Cardiff heavy maintenance base.
According to data from FlightRadar24.com, the aircraft left the British Airways maintenance base at Heathrow at 11:30, taxiing over to Terminal 5 one last time, where it arrived at roughly noon. After a little over an hour of saying goodbye to its former home, the aircraft began taxiing to Runway 27R at 13:20.
It took off 15 minutes later, bound for St Athan. The aircraft climbed to a height of 21,000 feet, where it remained for a minute or two before almost instantly beginning its descent. After flying over the Bristol Channel and past Cardiff, the plane landed one final time at 14:06.
According to aircraft records from ch-aviation.com, G-EUPC was the third of 44 Airbus A319s flown by British Airways, but it is at least the 11th such aircraft to be retired by the airline. The aircraft first flew on November 2nd, 1999, meaning that it is 21.8 years old. British Airways took delivery of the jet ten days later.
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.
The jet has clocked an impressive 47,029 flight hours, equating to some 5.4 years of flying. These hours were completed across 37,332 flight cycles, giving an average flight length of one and a quarter hours. On average, the aircraft was flown for roughly six hours a day.
According to ch-aviation, the aircraft has a current market value of $6.97 million. FlightRadar24.com lists the plane’s last passenger flight as BA1445 from Edinburgh to London Heathrow on November 20th.
A very important role
While most of British Airways’ A319s have just served as short-haul workhorses, the same cannot be said about G-EUPC. On May 18th, 2012, the world’s attention was fixed on G-EUPC. The plane had departed from Athens. However, rather than flying to London as a regular British Airways flight would, the aircraft flew to RNAS Culdrose in the county of Cornwall.
Onboard the aircraft were a handful of invited guests, including the Olympic Flame, as it made its way to the start of an 8,000-mile 70-day relay around the United Kingdom, culminating in the Opening Ceremony on July 27th. For the flight, the aircraft received a special firefly livery.
Will you miss G-EUPC? Let us know what you think and why in the comments below!