Ex-Top Gear presenter and supercar aficionado Jeremy Clarkson has shared heartbreaking footage of a stream of Boeing 747s lined up at a countryside storage airport in the UK. Seven of the jumbos are currently in storage at the facility, with more expected soon. While some may go on to extended lives as cargo planes, the majority have likely already taken their last flight.
Sad times for the BA 747
British Airways has had a long and deep relationship with the Boeing 747, one which spanned more than half a century. The Queen of the Skies has flown high in the flag carrier’s fleet since the days of BOAC, operating the -100, -200, and -400 over the years.
Sadly, due to the unprecedented impact of the COVID pandemic, British Airways was forced to retire its remaining 747s early. While the type already had an end of life plan in place, it was anticipated to have a few more years in service at least. Sadly, it was not to be.
In mid-July, BA announced that its Queens would not be returning to their throne. Since then, the airline has been busy shipping the 31 aircraft off to their final resting places. One of those places is a little airfield in the English countryside – Cotswold Airport at Kemble in Gloucestershire.
Belligerent celebrity and supercar enthusiast Jeremy Clarkson yesterday shared this heartbreaking video of a line of BA 747s parked up at the English airport. For most of us, it’s a rare treat to get up that close with a Boeing 747, let alone a whole flotilla of them.
How many 747s are parked in Gloucestershire?
From Clarkson’s video, we can clearly see at least five British Airways 747s parked up. In fact, there are another two there also, making a grand total of seven (so far) to be stored at Cotswold Airport. The most recent to join was G-CIVO, which flew in from Cardiff on September 11th.
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Also at the airfield are G-BYGA, G-BYGB, G-BYGF, G-CIVJ, G-CIVL and G-CIVN. They’ve been arriving at a rate of around one a week over the last couple of months, and more are expected. Located at the airport is Air Salvage International, a specialist aircraft dismantler. It’s owner, Mark Gregory, told the Daily Mail it will take at least nine in total, possibly more.
But that’s not the extent of the 747 collection at Cotswold Airport. The Daily Mail reporter said that there were no less than 13 jumbo jets parked up around the site. Some may well return to service; for others, the future is not so bright.
What will happen to them now?
Under normal circumstances, retired Boeing 747s are valuable commodities. Companies like Air Salvage International make a business from taking key parts from the retired airframes and recycling them as spares to keep the rest of the fleet flying. But with so many being phased out in such a short space of time, the company doubts there will be as much demand for spares in the future.
Speaking to the Mail, Mark Gregory said,
“Some will probably be converted for cargo. So we’re taking the engines off and looking after them while BA works out what to do next.”
While some may go on to serve as competent cargo carriers, many will likely be scrapped. Around 98% of the 747 can be recycled, a process that will take Air Salvage International some ten weeks to achieve. It’s a sad end for a glorious aircraft and such a shame it had to go out with a whimper rather than a fanfare.