By this point, everybody is well aware that British Airways is retiring its last Boeing 747s following over 50 years of flying the type. But, did you know that three Boeing 747-8s used to wear the British Airways livery? Here’s why, and what happened to them.
Around 40 years into the Boeing 747 program, the latest entry to the family took its first flight. The Boeing 747-8 was set to follow in the footprints of the highly successful 747-400. However, while many freighters have been built, only three passenger airlines ended up buying the 747-8, Lufthansa, Air China, and Korean Air.
Three British Airways 747-8s?
While never an operator of the passenger version of the Boeing 747-8, British Airways’ livery previously adorned three 747-8s. The British flag carrier used to operate dedicated cargo aircraft as part of its fleet. However, today IAG’s cargo arm, IAG Cargo, has no aircraft.
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While these three Boeing 747-8s were painted in British Airways colors, they were never actually operated by the British flag carrier. Instead, they were operated under wet lease by Global Supply Systems (GSS), a subsidiary of cargo giant Atlas Air.
The three 747-8s were operated out of London’s Stansted Airport. While British Airways isn’t known for operating many services from the low-cost hub, the airport plays a crucial role in London’s cargo capacity.
However, in January of 2014, British Airways decided that its future cargo operations would only take place in the holds of passenger planes. The airline terminated its five-year wet lease contract with GSS as of May 1st. As such, the airline returned the aircraft to the lessors between April and May of 2014. GSS wrapped up its operations as it was unable to find a replacement for British Airways.
G-GSSD was the first of the three aircraft to be delivered by Boeing. Having taken its first flight on October 21st, 2011, the aircraft was delivered to Global Supply Systems in the Chatham Dockyard livery on November 2nd of that year, according to Planespotters.net. G-GSSD flew for GSS until May 2nd, 2014 when it was returned to Atlas Air and registered as N856GT. The airframe holds the line number 1442.
For a while, the aircraft flew around in a white livery with British Airways’ signature blue belly. However, between June and August 2015, the aircraft was repainted into a white and yellow livery. The plane was being operated by Polar Air Cargo (another Atlas Air subsidiary) for DHL. The plane was returned to Altas Air in March 2017. It wasn’t repainted into Atlas Air colors until some time in the summer of 2019.
G-GSSE was the second of the trio to be delivered. With a line number of 1444, the jumbo jet took its first flight on November 17th, 2011. While G-GSSD was delivered to Stansted, G-GSSE was delivered to Hong Kong, according to Planespotters.net.
Like its sister, G-GSSE ended up wearing an odd white and blue livery after British Airways returned it. This was after it was re-registered as N857GT to Polar Air on April 21st, 2014. Sometime between February and June 2015, the airframe was repainted into a white and yellow Polar Air and DHL hybrid. It has kept this livery to today as Polar Air still operates the aircraft for DHL.
Last but not least, G-GSSF is the youngest aircraft of the trio. With a line number of 1445, the Boeing 747-8F took to the skies for the first time on December 5th, 2011. It was delivered just ten days later on December 15th, again to Hong Kong, according to Planespotters.net.
The aircraft was registered as N858GT with Atlas Air on April 8th, 2014. In July, it was transferred across to Polar Air Cargo, who continues to operate it for DHL in a white and yellow hybrid livery. The aircraft was repainted sometime in 2015.
Did you know what happened to British Airways’ three Boeing 747-8 aircraft? Let us know in the comments!