British Airways has waved goodbye to its last two Heathrow-based Boeing 747s, one painted in the airline’s heritage “Negus’ livery and the other in the current Chatham Dockyard colors.
More than 18,000 people flocked to the airline’s Facebook page Thursday to watch the two giant aircraft take off into a gray, drizzly London morning.
Thousands more watched the departure at the airport.
Many of them recounted memories of the long-serving 747 fleet on an accompanying feed.
BA is among several airlines to bring forward the retirement of the planes due to COVID-19 and they have not been operated by airlines in their birthplace, the US, for some time.
The airline had planned a synchronized dual take-off on parallel runways but the weather meant they took off individually.
The Negus aircraft, G-CIVB, conducted its last passenger flight from Miami to Heathrow on Aril 6, 2020, and had operated 13,398 flights and 118, 445 hours over 59 million miles.
The Chatham plane, G-CIVY, undertook its last passenger flight from Chicago Heathrow on March 20. It had operated 11,034 flights over 90,161 hours and 45 million miles.
The Boeing 747 opened the world for many travelers and during its half-century of service flew 3.5 billion people to 200 global destinations.
But the fuel-hungry, four-engine aircraft could not compete with more efficient twin-engine jets such as the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350.
The 747’s last flights will be their shortest with one going to Kemble in Gloucestershire and the other to St Athan in Wales.
British Airways flew its first 747 on April 14, 1971. At the 747 fleet’s height, BA had 57 aircraft and was the world’s biggest operator of the 747-400.
BA chief executive Alex Cruz said the departure would be difficult for everyone at the airline as they paid tribute “for the incredible part they (the 747s) have played in our 100-year history”.