What Will Happen To El Al’s Boeing 747 Aircraft?

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El Al’s process of modernization, which started in 2017, will reach a significant target by the end of October. With the retirement of the last of its fleet of Boeing 747 aircraft, the Israeli flag carrier looks to its new 787-series aircraft, of which 12 have already been delivered. The iconic reputation of the 747, and its special place in the history of El Al and Israel, makes one wonder what will happen to the fleet when the final aircraft is retired. Simple Flying has looked into the matter.

Israeli flag carrier, El Al, will be retiring the last of its 747 fleet by month’s end. Where will these iconic aircraft go? Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

Modernizing El Al

In the process of modernization, El Al announced the phasing out of its Boeing 747 and 767 fleet at the end of 2016. The carrier had decided to move on the sleeker, and more fuel-efficient 787 Dreamliner, placing an order of 16 aircraft. The first of these newer aircraft was delivered to El Al in August of 2017, receiving its 12th 787 in September 2019.

The decision to move away from the 747 after such long service brought an era to an end for El Al. It took delivery of its first two 747-200 aircraft in 1971, with the Boeing series aircraft servicing a large percentage of long-haul flights for the Israeli carrier. This October signals the end of almost half a century of operations.

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More than 1000 Jewish refugees were evacuated on a single El Al 747 flight during Operation Solomon. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

The 747 will always be synonymous with Operation Solomon in the Jewish community when more than 14,000 Jewish refugees were evacuated from Ethiopia. On one flight, over 1,000 refugees were flown out on an El Al 747 aircraft.

What has happened to retired El Al 747 aircraft?

Since 2017, the last remaining active 747 aircraft have been retired, bar one. The first retired since the announcement of El Al’s modernization in 2016 was 4X-ELH, having been broken up in 2018. Further aircraft retired in this period includes:

  • 4X-ELE – Stored in December 2017, and scrapped in June 2019.
  • 4X-ELB – Stored in July 2019, still remaining in storage.
  • 4X-ELF – Stored in June 2019, still remaining in storage.
  • 4X-ELD – Stored in September 2019, still remaining in storage.
  • 4X-ELA – Retired in September 2019.
The last of El Al’s active Boeing 747s, 4X-ELC, will be retired by the end of October. Photo: Mark Harkin via Flickr

The last remaining active aircraft in the fleet, 4X-ELC will see retirement by the end of October 2019, having serviced routes between Tel Aviv, and Barcelona and Bangkok. The aircraft has flown under the name of Beer Sheva since its arrival in 1995.

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What will happen to the stored 747 aircraft?

At this moment in time, the future of these magnificent aircraft may lie in freight work as cargo planes. Alternatively, they could be moved on to another airline or dismantled and scrapped. Some of El Al’s older 747s have been used by the military for exercises, such as 4X-AXA (currently used for drills involving hijacked aircraft).

The popularity of the 747 in cargo flying means that Boeing still produces the aircraft, yet the retirement by El Al of cargo 747s indicates that scrapping most likely awaits.

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