The world’s favourite aircraft,with the world’s favourite airline
With the covid-19 pandemic taking an ever increasing toll on the aviation industry and the introduction of more fuel efficient aircraft such as the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787,we take a look back at the history of the British Airways 747; which could sadly be the next casualty of the pandemic.
The boeing 747 was first introduced to British Airways with its predecessor BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation). BOAC had placed an order of 11 aircraft with the first aircraft arriving on the 22nd of April 1970 with the first commercial service following a year later flying from London to New York (JFK) on G-AWNF.
On the 1st of April 1974, both BOAC’s and BEA’s operations were consolidated- effectively creating British Airways. British Airways inherited 11 747-100’s from BOAC and later expanded its fleet to 18 aircraft. The 747-100 served with British Airways from 1974 until 1999 with the majority of the fleet being scrapped with some being put into storage.
British Airways flight 149
At 6:05 PM (BST) on the 1st of August 1990, British Airways flight 149 operated by a Boeing 747-100 (G-AWND) departed London Heathrow, with 367 passengers onboard, bound for Kuwait city. While BA149 was in the air, Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait. Within hours, elements of the Iraqi Army had rapidly advanced as far as Kuwait City and had taken control of the airport. While all other airlines diverted their flights, four hours after the invasion began BA149 touched down in Kuwait city. Both the crew and passengers who had been on board Flight 149 were escorted from the terminal by the Iraqi army and transported to the airport’s hotel. The empty aircraft, which had remained at Kuwait International Airport throughout the war, was destroyed on the ground by an aircraft attack in the later stages
of the conflict.
The events of BA 149 are still to be the subject of controversy and debate over whether the situation could have been avoided, as well as
accusations and conspiracy theories that the flight was used to transport undercover British military and intelligence personnel into Kuwait. Several investigations have since been conducted into the flight, leading to official denials from,former British Prime minister,Margaret Thatcher of any government influence in regard to BA149.
In may 1975 British Airways placed an order for four 747-200 with the first two arriving in June of the next year.However during the 1980s British Airways continued to struggle through the rise in fuel prices, as a result several Boeing 747-200 aircraft were delivered directly into storage in the USA and were put up for sale.This variant served with the airline from 1976 and was retired in 2002,at its peak the fleet consisted of 18 aircraft.
In the summer of 1986 the British Airways placed an order for 16 Boeing 747-400 aircraft plus an option for another 12 and in later years ordered 29 more,the airline was the largest operator of the 747-400,with 57 aircraft in the fleet at the peak.The inaugural 747-400 flight took place in july 1989 with the aircraft flying from London to Philadelphia then onto Pittsburg.The aircraft has become a staple in the BA fleet with aviation enthusiasts along with the general public falling in love with the aircraft which has been dubbed the queen of the skies and will forever be an icon.
For British Airways’ 100th anniversary the airline have chosen 4 aircraft to wear retro liveries including 3 747-400’s; G-BNLY,G-BYGC, G-CIVB which are painted in the Landor livery,BOAC livery and the Negus livery, respectively.After 31 years with the airline, the parent company IAG originally planned for the last 747 to leave the airline in february 2024.However due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the drastic decrease in demand for air travel IAG have stated that the 747 may be at risk of an early retirement as it is now inefficient.
One thing is for certain,the boeing 747 may be leaving the fleet of British Airways along with other global airlines,but the aircraft has captured the hearts of millions with it being the aircraft that carried people on their first flight and will remain in the hearts of people as an icon and will never be forgotten.