During its 23 years of business, Orient Thai operated no less than 25 Boeing 747s of nearly all varieties. Most of them were scrapped shortly after exiting the airline’s fleet, but a few went on to, at least temporarily, different fates. One still lives on as a tourist attraction, and another’s fuselage serves as a shelter in downtown Bangkok. Let’s take a look at what happened to them.
Orient Thai flew scheduled and charter services in Southeast Asia from its inception in 1995 until it ceased operations in 2018. During its active years, the Thai airline operated almost all variants of the Boeing 747, including a couple of freighters, for a total of 25. Most of the Orient Thai jumbos, all pre-owned, have been scrapped. However, some have had a slightly different twist of fate.
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Trapped in the monsoon and Don Mueang
HS-UTI, a 747-200 built-in May 1975, was operated by Japan Airlines before arriving with Orient Thai in January 2004. The aircraft flew for the carrier only a year before it was withdrawn from use and stored at Bangkok Don Mueang Airport. Several more of the airline’s jumbos joined it at Bangkok’s old international airport.
During the monsoon season of 2011, Bangkok suffered massive flooding. As shown in the photo above, Orient Thai’s old 747s got caught in the rain as Don Muang was closed due to the heavy rainfall. Don Mueang was home to Bangkok’s international traffic before Suvarnabhumi opened in 2006 but has since become somewhat of a regional low-cost carrier hub.
Shelter in the center of the city
It is unclear exactly which of the Bangkok-stored 747s has ended up in a residential area in the central parts of the Thai capital. It is reportedly functioning as a shelter for up to three homeless families, along with the remains of an MD-82.
Boeing Land Khorat
Meanwhile, one of Orient Thai’s old 747-200s, HS-UTB, has reincarnated as somewhat of a tourist attraction in Nakhon Ratchasima, commonly known as Khorat. The initial plans were to name the site where the plane is parked “Boeing Land” and to turn the actual 747 into a hotel.
For reasons unknown, the hotel project itself never took off. However, the grounds around the 747 have been curated into what is called Airplane Park Khorat and features the Boeing Takeoff Cafe. Visitors can take photos up close with the jumbo jet. In what is a rare opportunity with planes, they can even get some drone footage in.
— Biruoh (@biruoh) July 28, 2017
Before joining Orient Thai’s fleet in November 2002, the plane had a long history of flying for, yes, initially Japan Airlines, but it also traversed the skies for carriers such as Air Atlanta Icelandic, Air Afrique, Air Algérie, and Saudi Arabian Airlines.
Only passenger jet to continue service scrapped last year
Out of all of Orient Thai’s passenger 747s, only one went on to fly for other airlines following its exit from the airline’s fleet in 2013. HS-STE went on to fly for Eagleexpress Air, Nas Air, and Flynas before retiring at Jakarta Soekarno Hatta Airport in Indonesia. The 747-400M was subsequently broken apart in August last year, at the age of 27 years. It was first delivered to Air France in 1992.
Did you ever fly with Orient Thai or see one of its 747s? Let us know in the comments.