The Little English Airport Where Boeing 747s Go To Die

The Boeing 747 is one of the most revolutionary commercial jets in history. It has been 50 years since it conducted its first-ever passenger flight. However, all good things must come to an end, and the plane is being retired at a rapid rate. Several of these are being sent to Cotswold Airport in Gloucestershire. The small British field has a storage park for aircraft that are being made redundant.

British Airways, Boeing 747, History
The sun is setting the career of the Boeing 747. Photo: Getty Images

Rich history

Previously known as Kemble Airfield, the former Royal Air Force station has strong ties to the local community. It had been in military use between 1938 and 1993, with key fighter aircraft such as the Red Arrows flying out of the field. Moreover, the United States Air Force even moved in during the Cold War and used it as a maintenance facility.

The site was eventually sold to a local businessman named Ronan Harvey in March 2001. After that, work began for commercial and civilian usage.

A different time

In recent years, businesses such as flight training schools have been using the site. However, during the downturn in economic activity, the field’s surrounding storage facilities are the cause of the main action these days.

Cotswold airport (kemble) aerial view
There is plenty of space to park planes at the site. Photo: Arpingstone via Wikimedia Commons

The jumbos are a familiar sight at the airport, regularly flying in to be put to rest. Several of these arrive to be scrapped at Air Salvage International, which is based on the outskirts of the field.

According to Gloucestershire Live, the airport shared the following regarding its activity.

“The runway is 2km long, much larger than Gloucestershire or Oxford and routinely takes large jets in and out. We always have all types of aircraft from small light aircraft from visitors or our six flying schools, to corporate jets and occasionally, the larger airliners for parking or recycling with Air Salvage International, one of the companies based on site.”

End of an era

Even though the airport is no stranger to taking in inactive aircraft, there are more coming in than usual this season. Due to the global health crisis, most jets are currently on the ground. Subsequently, there is not enough space to hold all of these at mainstream airports across the UK. Therefore, fields such as Cotswold are a suitable solution in the current climate.

Before the downturn in passenger activity, the 747 was already being phased out. Many airlines have been attempting to modernize their fleet with more efficient aircraft. However, the pandemic has catalyzed the Queen of the Skies’ retirement, with the likes of Virgin Atlantic and KLM announcing its permanent grounding.

BA Boeing 747s at London Stansted
There is only so much space at UK’s major airports. Photo: Getty Images

Moreover, British Airways has shared that it is considering letting the type go. It has already been scrapping several of its units over the last few months.

Altogether, it is coming to the end of the road for the 747. The most common place to currently see one is likely to be on the ground at airports such as Cotswold rather than in the skies. Regardless, the plane has a left a legacy that won’t be forgotten for years to come.

What are your thoughts on Cotswold Airport? Are you sad to see so many 747s continuing to be retired? Let us know what you think in the comment section.