Virgin Atlantic is currently flying its Star Wars liveried Boeing 747, nicknamed ‘The Falcon’, to Ciudad Real in Spain. The aircraft is the second of the final seven to make the journey, following the type’s sudden retirement in early May.
The COVID-induced aviation crisis has had a devastating effect on the industry as a whole. Four-engined aircraft have taken the biggest hit. As airlines are reducing their fleets in response, these typically older and less fuel-efficient giants have frequently been the first to be axed. Indeed, today we also saw the final Corsair Boeing 747 flying to Kemble for its retirement.
Ciudad Real retirement
It appears as though Virgin Atlantic is sending its jumbo jets to Ciudad Real to live out their final days stored before they are scrapped. Jet Aircraft Services operates an aircraft dismantling service at Ciudad Real, and it is plausible that the trip down to Spain will be the last for the aircraft.
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So far, two of the airline’s 747s have flown down to the facility. G-VGAL flew down to Ciudad Real on June 2nd, accompanied by G-VLIP today. The aircraft will join at least one of the airlines’ Airbus A330-300s, G-VINE, which flew down to Spain 22 days ago. It’s unclear if the other five 747s will also fly to Ciudad Real.
Farewell to The Falcon
Today’s flight south to Spain is almost certainly the last one that G-VLIP will operate. The aircraft was initially bound for Alitalia. However, the Italian airline never took it, according to Planespotters. Instead, following its first flight in April 2001, Virgin Atlantic took delivery of the Boeing 747-400 on May 15th of that year.
This aircraft has twice been used to promote Floridian theme parks. In May 2010, it acquired a unique decal celebrating the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, Orlando. This livery was kept until January 2011. However, the aircraft retained its original name, Hot Lips, during this time.
In September last year, we were treated to G-VLIP’s second theme park sponsored livery. The aircraft was renamed as The Falcon to celebrate the opening of the new Star Wars area at Walt Disney World in Florida. The name change was accompanied by a big decal of the Millennium Falcon applied to the side of the aircraft.
About the Ciudad Real
The airport has a reputation for being a ghost airport. While the airport ‘opened’ in 2010, it remained unused for seven years until a Boeing 747 landed there last year.
The airport cost €1 billion ($1.13 billion) to build but was sold for just €10,000 ($11,255) in 2015. While empty airports are typically a bad sign, they have become the perfect option for storing aircraft at a time when fleets around the world are grounded.
For example, Lufthansa and easyJet are using the unfinished Berlin Brandenburg Airport to store aircraft. As the airports are not being used for anything else, they have ample parking, and it is typically cheap.
Will you miss The Falcon? Let us know your favorite Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 memory in the comments.