A heartbreaking image has emerged of a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 in pieces. The Queen of the Skies was the first aircraft type to be operated by Virgin, but that legacy is now coming to an end. Virgin has retired the last of the type, and no more passenger flights will be operated for the airline by the 747.
Very sad image
A Twitter user this week shared an image of an ex-Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 broken up in pieces. While the specific aircraft is unknown, it’s likely to be G-VBIG, ‘Tinker Belle,’ which exited the fleet in January and is now marked as scrapped.
— Julián G. 🛫😷😷😷🛬 (@JulianGGil) May 19, 2020
The last flight of G-VBIG was on November 22nd, when it flew from London Gatwick to St. Athan (DGX). St. Athan is home to eCube Solutions, an aircraft recycling specialist who takes around 60 end-of-life aircraft every year. It was famously the final resting place for the British Airways 747-400, registered G-CIVG, which made a ridiculously short final flight from Cardiff to the aircraft graveyard.
Of course, G-VBIG is not the only Virgin Atlantic 747 to have met a sticky end. G-VHOT ‘Tubular Belle’ and G-VFAB ‘Lady Penelope’ have both been scrapped. G-VMIA, an old -100, and G-VOYG, a -200, have also been scrapped.
Virgin’s long history with the 747
Virgin Atlantic famously began life after founder Richard Branson had some problems with a canceled flight. Feeling he could operate an airline more successfully, he acquired the airline’s very first Boeing 747 in June 1984. Maiden Voyager, an eight-year-old 747-200, was the airline’s first and only aircraft for over 18 months, until the arrival of Scarlet Lady in January 1986.
Over the years, Virgin has operated a total of 29 different Boeing 747s. Just one was a -100, while 15 were the -200 variant and 13 the current 747-400 variant. At the start of 2020, Virgin had just eight 747s left in its fleet, with all the -200s and many of the -400s retired some years before.
G-VBIG left the fleet in January this year, leaving just the final seven in service. While Virgin had planned to keep operating these aircraft until 2021, the current crisis in the industry has expedited this plan. The airline announced on May 5th that all the Queens would be retired with immediate effect.
While the final fate of these 747s is yet to be decided, they were all on lease, so the decision is out of the hands of Virgin Atlantic. It’s possible some may go on to third-tier airlines or be converted for cargo operations. However, one ex-Virgin Atlantic 747 has its future assured and will continue to soar to new heights.
G-VWOW, an 18 year old 747-400 known as Cosmic Girl, has been modified to carry Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket and will be blasting the launcher into space to deploy satellites around the world. It is scheduled to undertake its first demo mission this weekend.
The end of the Queen
Virgin is gathering its remaining Boeing 747s in Manchester, with the last touching down at the airport yesterday. The final aircraft to touch down was G-VXLG, ‘Ruby Tuesday.’ There’s a possibility that the airline is planning a glorious exit for the type, with which it has such a long and colorful history.
— Emma Castle (@emmacastle) May 21, 2020
Very sad to see these parked up waiting. Had to go and appreciate them whilst we can! A very sad loss for Manchester Airport
— Airliners Live (@airlinerslive) May 20, 2020
Although passengers will be disappointed not to be able to take one last flight on the Queen of the Skies in Virgin livery, perhaps we’ll get to send them off some other way. Perhaps we’ll be treated to a beautiful photoshoot of the final seven Queens all together one last time?
Will you miss Virgin’s 747s? Let us know in the comments.