In May this year, Virgin Atlantic announced it would be retiring its last seven Boeing 747s early. While I the A380 has not faired great on the second-hand market, the Queen of the Skies has transitioned fairly well. So whatever has happened to Virgin Atlantic’s last 747s?
Grounded and straight to retirement
Many a jumbojet left the skies prematurely this year. When calculations are finalized, the total tally of 2020 early aircraft retirements will be rivaled by no other year in history. While Virgin Atlantic announced in 2019 its remaining Boeing 747s would exit the fleet in 2021, the unprecedented crisis brought forward their withdrawal.
The seven 747s still in the carrier’s fleet in March were grounded as aviation came to a standstill in March. Shortly thereafter, on May 5th, Virgin Atlantic announced that they would not be returning to the skies. So whatever has become of them?
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Quite the tour to arrive with Atlas Air
Virgin Atlantic’s 747s have moved about quite a bit since the airline chose to retire them. For instance, twenty-year-old G-VROS, also known as Forever Young, was first stored at London Heathrow from March 31st until May 5th, when she flew to Manchester.
There she remained until September 8th, when it was back to Heathrow for close to two months before moving on to Marana Pinal Airpark in Arizona on October 30th.
While Forever Young is currently stored, it has been taken up by ACMI specialist Atlas Air; and it is not the only one. The cargo and passenger charter operator has thus far leased three of Virgin Atlantic’s last 747s.
It has already taken delivery of one: G-VROM. Previously known as Barbarella, the aircraft is now registered as N481MC. However, there is as of yet no indication whether or not it will be reconfigured for cargo.
Joining a large fleet of other Queens
The final of Virgin’s jumbo jets to go to Atlas is G-VROY, alias Pretty Woman. It is currently stored at London Heathrow after a little over six months of hanging out in Glasgow, Manchester, and Ciudad Real Airport in Madrid. Data suggests it is due to transfer to its new operator at any moment, after fulfilling its final assignment for Virgin, serving as a restaurant for a special farewell meal.
Atlas Air already operates a fleet of 36 Boeing 747-400s, the oldest of which is close to 30 years. While most of them are 747-400Fs and carry only cargo, some maintain a passenger configuration for charter. Atlas Air also has four of the newer 747-8s, all of which are freighters.
One scrapped, the rest in Arizona and Tel Aviv
The only ones of Virgin Atlantic’s last 747s to be scrapped thus far is G-VAST or Ladybird. It met its destiny at St Athan Airfield in Wales after spending some time at London Gatwick and Manchester Airport.
The remaining three, G-VXLG or Ruby Tuesday, G-VGAL or Jersey Girl, and G-VLIP or The Falcon, are still listed as stored. G-VGAL and G-VLIP are both at Marana Pinal Airpark, while G-VXLG is alone in Tel Aviv, at Ben Gurion, where it flew from Manchester on December 3rd. The reason for the move is still unknown. We shall have to return once the fate of Ruby Tuesday becomes clear.