Farewell to British Airways’ Queen of the Skies

On the morning of 8 October 2020, British Airways retired the last of its two Boeing 747 jumbo jets. Two of the “Queens of the Skies” took off from Heathrow, after a ceremony starting at 7:47, and made their way to their final destinations. I followed the second of the planes on Flightradar.com and also watched a live video provided by Bigjet.tv as it made a gear-up fly past of Heathrow, tipping its wing as it went.

The sight reminded me of the coverage of the retirement of Concorde back in 2003, an event that I discussed in my book Shinkansen: From Bullet Train to Symbol of Modern Japan as I drew parallels with the retirement of the 0-series shinkansen.

If Concorde was a shinkansen, it would be a 500-series, with its sleek design, or the pointed design of the 100-series. The 747 is perhaps more of an E4-series or even the original shinkansen, the 0-series, itself. It shouldn’t be fast, but is. It shouldn’t be beautiful, but is. It is perhaps ironic, given my research about JL123, that the 747 is my favourite passenger plane. It was the plane that I regularly used between the UK and Japan when the Japanese airlines used it. It was also the plane, back in 1988, that I flew on when leaving Europe for the first time. I remember a few flights on a 747 on the upper deck (twice as business class on KLM) and even going in the cockpit on one flight between Osaka and Hong Kong (in the days before 9/11 and the ban on such things). I have mentioned a couple of other 747 memories in another post.

It is fitting that for my current series of novels, that I had always planned to have a group called “Queens of the Skies” – but it’s a bit of coincidence that I will be including mention of that fictitious group today in a chapter (called “Joyride”) that I am working on for the latest book in the Iwakura Series.

But today is about the BA retirement of its 747s. I flew on BA 747s a number of times – to/from Japan and also to/from USA. I had been hoping to see the final plane go by Cardiff on its way to St. Athens, but it took a southerly route rather than coming across the city.

Lining up to do a fly-by of Heathrow airport
Approaching Cardiff
Final approach on its final flight

I may not have managed to photograph the last flight, but here are a few photographs of BA’s queens.

Goodbye BA’s 747s. Thank you for the memories.

Please sign the petition asking British Airways to keep a 747 for a museum.

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