The world’s very first jumbo jet, also coined the “Queen of the Skies”, took its first flight over 50 years ago. The aircraft formed part of many major airlines’ fleets, including British Airways and Lufthansa as well as Portugal’s flag-carrying airline, TAP Air Portugal. But TAP no longer owns any Boeing 747s, so what happened and where are they now?
A history of TAP Air’s Boeing 747s
The Boeing 747 was easily identified thanks to its four jet engines and a distinctive upper deck ‘hump’ at the front of the aircraft. Measuring over 70 metres long with a wingspan of nearly 60 metres, the Boeing 747 was one of the largest aircraft in TAP Air’s fleet. As such, it specialised in flying its long-haul routes.
In total, TAP Air Portugal owned four of the -200 series aircraft and flew them for 12 years between 1972 and 1984. The aircraft were then sold on to other airlines before being reused and eventually scrapped.
According to Air Fleets, one aircraft was bought by Pakistan International Airlines in 1976, where it flew until March 2005 – operating the Bangkok to Tokyo route for part of its lifetime. It was then stored at Lahore Airport Pakistan before being transferred to Evergreen International and eventually scrapped by Baltia Airlines in 2012, who had stored the aircraft since 2010.
Out of TAP’s fleet, a further two Boeing 747s were scrapped in 2004 and 2005 by Tower Air and the final 747 was reported as “broken up in Karachi” in 1980 by Pakistan International Airlines.
A brand-new fleet for TAP Air Portugal
The Boeing 747 was a standout aircraft at the time of manufacturing, but since retiring the aircraft, TAP Air Portugal now flies Airbus to cover its long-haul routes. These days, the airline favours the more narrow-bodied aircraft to manage longer journeys with A340s, A330s and A320s in its fleet and it has also invested in the Airbus neo. TAP Air have bought five of the Airbus A330-900neo aircraft and was the first airline in the world to fly them.
Is this the end of the Boeing 747?
Currently, there is a mixed appetite for the Boeing 747, with a few airlines deciding to also update their fleet and retire the Queen of the Skies. These include Qantas, who plan to retire their fleet by 2021, and British Airways who will say goodbye to its 33 strong fleet in 2024.
One of the reasons for the 747s retirement is that, even though it was a standout aircraft at the time of its manufacture, the four-engine design is simply not as fuel-efficient as some of the other models that Boeing are now producing. Today, the twin engine is the cream of the crop.
However, there are still a number of airlines dependent on Boeing’s 747 jumbo jet. Unlike some other newer models of aircraft, such as Boeing’s 777x, the 747 has a greater passenger seating and fuel capacity. KLM, Virgin Atlantic and Lufthansa will continue to use their 747s on their long haul routes.