When British Airways retired their 747 fleet in the aftermath of Covid, the only chink of light in an otherwise sad story was the fact that the three 'special scheme' airframes, repainted to commemorate British Airways' centenary, were set for preservation.
G-CIVB was delivered to Cotswold Airport, Kemble in the 'Negus' scheme of the 70s, G-BNLY went to Dunsfold the 80's 'Landor' scheme and, arguably in the best of the three schemes, G-BYGC sporting the pre-BA colours of BOAC landed at St. Athan.
Victor Bravo has been branded the 'party plane' and become a venue for all sorts of activities. Lima Yankee is used for filming - and has occasionally been open for public access. The original plan for Golf Charlie was apparently similar but, earlier this year, it became apparent that enabling public access to the aircraft on an operational airfield was going to be an insurmountable problem and, with a certain degree of inevitability, she was scrapped.
The internet fora resounded with sadness and, in some case, anger, that the plan for preservation had fallen through. It is, indeed, sad to see such an iconic paint scheme scrapped. British Airways have something of a checkered history when it comes to aircraft preservation. Their airliner collection at Cosford was scrapped years ago. Whilst the suspersonic icon Concorde was mostly saved, one still languishes at Heathrow and none of their current branding really reflects their history. In a challenging business environment, it's not surprising that there is limited budget for preservation activities but we know the level of affection that there is for the Jumbo - it's certainly kept us busy these last few years!
Preserving aircraft, particularly large ones, in the UK climate is no mean feat. It's worth bearing in mind that most of the BA 747 fleet spent half of their lives airborne. Yes, they're exposed to the elements in the extreme, from minus 50 to plus 40 degrees in service life, but they're alive then. Powered up, living, breathing and climate controlled inside. Once they're forever grounded, that lifeline of power, hydraulics and bleed air is gone and a huge aircraft is instantly exposed to the Great British weather in all its glory. It doesn't take long for exterior and interior deterioration to set in. Unless owners are setting aside time, money and resource to care for these giants, their future is uncertain.
Kemble's party plane is off to a bright start and seems busy, despite its £1000 per hour rental price tag! It's party venue predecessor, however, a former MK Airlines freighter had a similar start, featuring in TV adverts, films and as a venue before succumbing to the elements. She was scrapped last year.
Dunsfold's example - which is parked alongside two others - is in use for movies but the airfield is cited for extensive residential development in the near future and 3 Jumbos take up vast amounts of real estate with ££££'s worth of redevelopment value. It seems unlikely that all three will survive long term.
Whilst disappointing, it's not surprising to us that 'BOAC' met her fate at the hands of the JCBs recently. Having worked closely with the scrappers and having spent a considerable sum of money with them in recent years, we were offered the opportunity to acquire some sections of fuselage. They certainly weren't the cheapest sections we've bought and we did deliberate as to whether we should but, ultimately, we want to see these Queens of the Skies live on, so we took the opportunity.
Some of our G-BYGC material is already spoken for, but there will be a small number of fuselage clocks, tags, ribs and our ever-popular window pane clocks coming soon. They'll be available to our subscribers first and, if there's something specific you'd like, please do drop us a line. We also have some pieces from her sisters available - you'll find those in the website shop.