Footage has emerged of a former Wamos Air Boeing 747-400 being torn apart in Catalonia. The aircraft in question had been withdrawn in January this year. However, is this set to become a more familiar sight in the near future? With the drop in passenger demand caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic prompting several airlines to prematurely retire their larger aircraft, this may well be the case.
A sad end for an iconic aircraft
Yesterday afternoon, a short video was published on Twitter showing a small crane slowly but surely breaking up the nose of a former Wamos Air Boeing 747. It is a sight that many avgeeks will be devastated to see, but, unfortunately, one we are likely to have to get used to in years to come.
— Breaking Aviation News & Videos (@breakingavnews) November 27, 2020
The clips were shot at Lleida–Alguaire Airport, a small, regional airport in the west of Catalonia. As far as commercial aviation is concerned, Iberia Regional serves the airport with domestic flights to Ibiza, Mallorca, and Menorca. Icelandair has also been known to store some of its grounded Boeing 737 MAX aircraft here.
— ElTenienteDan 🇵🇹🇪🇸🇮🇹 (@rurbo360) November 27, 2020
However, its other purpose sparks far less joy than a holiday in the Balearic Islands. It is here that certain aircraft come to be dismantled at the end of their service lives. This is an extensive, four/five-stage process, consisting of the following steps:
- Draining of fluids
- Engine removal
- Removal and listing of resaleable parts
- Removal of hazardous material. This aspect is unique to Boeing 747s as earlier versions (550 aircraft built between 1968 and 1981) used depleted uranium as counterweights.
- Tearing down of remaining metal using diggers and other industrial vehicles
All in all, the fifth step represents a rather unceremonious end for any aircraft, let alone the ‘Queen of the Skies.’ But what was the story of the aircraft in the video before it came to Catalonia for dismantling?
A colorful service life
The aircraft in the video bore the registration EC-KSM. According to Planespotters.net, it had been withdrawn from service on January 6th, 2020, and moved to Lleida–Alguaire four days later. During its time at the airline, it had a high-density passenger configuration. This consisted of 517 economy seats, as well as a small 12-seat business class cabin. At 26 years old, it had been one of the oldest remaining Boeing 747 aircraft.
EC-KSM spent more than half its service life with Singapore Airlines, having been delivered in 1994 registered as 9V-SMW. In 2008, it moved to Spanish leisure carrier Pullmantur Air, upon which its registration changed to EC-KSM. This airline later became known as Wamos Air in 2014. However, since then, it has also been leased to various Asian airlines, although its registration has remained constant. These are as follows:
- Biman Bangladesh Airlines (once)
- Garuda Indonesia (five times)
- Saudi Arabian Airlines (once)
Wamos Air’s remaining 747s
According to Wamos Air’s website, the airline still has two Boeing 747-400 aircraft left in its fleet. These are equipped with the following two slightly different seating configurations:
- EC-KXN – 24 business, 451 economy
- EC-MDS – 10 business, 23 economy plus, 430 economy
However, Planespotters.net reports that they are both in storage, with an average age of over 24 years. As COVID-19 continuing to significantly impact passenger demand, one has to wonder whether these aircraft may also have reached the end of the line. Here’s to hoping that they can return to the skies one day after all.