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Saying goodbye to the Queen: our tour of Virgin’s last Boeing 747 (Part 1)

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Today, just under 50 lucky ticket holders will be able to say their farewells to the last Boeing 747 owned by a British airline.

Virgin Atlantic 747 Pretty Woman G-VROY

We were lucky enough to be able to go to a press preview of the event, and as this is such a storied and beloved aircraft we thought we would share the highlights of the day with you.

Virgin Atlantic 747 nose

50 years after the introduction of the 747, many airlines are retiring their 747 fleets as Covid-19 affects passenger demand. Coupled with the efficiency gains of latest-generation A350s and 787s the original Jumbo Jets are positively primitive.

Virgin Atlantic 747 wing (2)

By retiring their 747s, Virgin Atlantic is improving the efficiency of its fleet by approximately 10% – a shockingly big number in the aviation industry, where year on year gains of 1% are big news. Virgin Atlantic has already improved its fleet efficiency by 20% since 2007.

Virgin Atlantic 747 Pretty Woman

Virgin’s inaugural flights in 1984 were on a 747-200 named Maiden Voyager. Since then, Virgin has operated a total of 30 747s, with the fleet slowly being phased out with just seven left prior to the pandemic.

In total, Virgin has flown between 60 and 70 million passengers on its 747s!

G-VROY, christened ‘Pretty Woman,’ has been parked up in Virgin’s hangar at Heathrow before it flies to its new owners, Atlas Air.

The event started with “bubbles in the bubble,” a champagne reception on the Upper Deck of the aircraft which features an intimate Premium and economy cabin.

Virgin Atlantic 747 Upper deck

After a quick introduction by Charlie Brown (!) and Corneel Koster, Virgin’s Chief Customer & Operating Officer, we were sent off in groups of two to explore the aircraft.

First stop was the crew rest area at the rear of the aircraft, where cabin crew are permitted (and required!) to rest on long flights. It’s definitely more hostel than luxury hotel. Paint me like one of your French girls:

Virgin Atlantic 747 crew rest area

(Masks were worn throughout the event except in photos where more than 2m social distance could be maintained.)

With no passengers, the galleys were empty. Normally you’d find hundreds of meals contained in storage boxes and trolleys here:

Virgin Atlantic 747 galley

We then moved down to ground level, where the scale of the 747 really comes into play:

Virgin Atlantic 747 farewell

Virgin’s 747 are kitted out with four General Electric CF6 engines. I’ve always wanted to take a photo inside the engine – it reinforces just how large these behemoths are:

Virgin Atlantic 747 GE CF6 engine

Engine technology has moved on a lot from the 80s tech. Although the outboard engine looks smaller, all four turbines are the same size, with a diameter of 2.36m (93 inches).

Modern twin-jet aircraft like the 787 and A350 have even larger turbines, as you can see here. The 747 CF-6 is on the left, whilst the 787 Rolls Royce Trent 1000 is on the right:

Virgin Atlantic 747 CF6 vs Trent 1000

Bigger fans and improved materials mean that latest generation aircraft are 30% more efficient than the 747.

Walking under the aircraft was a unique experience. Fully fuelled, the fuselage sits almost a foot lower than it does here:

Virgin Atlantic 747 bogey

…although there’s still plenty of room underneath! Here’s a photo where I’m sitting on one of eighteen wheels on the 747. Bear in mind I’m 6’2″.

Virgin Atlantic 747 landing gear size comparison

This story continues in Part 2 – click here to learn more of Virgin Atlantic’s Boeing 747 retirement event.

It will be sad to see the 747s go – but at least they’re leaving in style.

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How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (April 2024)

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(Want to earn more Virgin Points?  Click here to see our recent articles on Virgin Atlantic and Flying Club and click here for our home page with the latest news on earning and spending other airline and hotel points.)

Comments (16)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Lyn says:

    Goodness. This brings back long-ago memories of visiting the shop floor at GE’s Aircraft Engines facility in Lynn in Massachusetts.

  • Rich says:

    Strong trouser game Rhys!

  • Nick says:

    “Never trust a man in brown shoes”

  • Super Secret Stuff says:

    Strong pics for the gram!

  • Fred says:

    Those trousers, that top…and those shoes.

    Am surprised you can step outside of a morning.

  • Alex Sm says:

    @Rhys, maybe you as younger and savvier online user can be luckier than HfP readers in convincing Rob that in multi-part texts Part 1 should precede Part 2, both on emails and on the website. It’s a bit weird to send out Part 2 before Part 1 and put them in reverse order on the website. Goes against any website logic tbh…

    • Rhys says:

      It’s so that they’re chronological when looking down the homepage or emails.

      • Rob says:

        and unless you happen to be awake between 5am and 6am it isn’t an issue as you’ll have both emails by the time you read them!

        • David says:

          This also takes us into the whole ‘read your inbox from the top/bottom debate’.

          While there are logical arguments to read bottom up (conversation in chronological order, less chance of misunderstanding people), never reply until up to date. The number of times I get work email threads from the bottom up people re-lighting fires that have already been put out…

      • Alex Sm says:

        But this is against any customs of online comms when newer items normally go on top of older ones. In emails, websites etc. People are used to it and would understand this logic, while you try to change it for some reason, and this creates unnecessary confusion…

        • Rob says:

          If you want confusion, look at this –

          This is the Avios Redemption University series. Because it ranks in date order, the weird obscure articles are on top and the key important ones are on Page 2. Not hugely attractive to new readers.

          I accept that certain cultures read in different orders to most Western countries. Indeed, up North, it is convention to read newspapers from the back to the front so you read the football results first …..

          • David says:

            Or if you are reading a corporate accounts/results presentation, start at the back and read forwards.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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