March 29, 2020 – Vancouver, Canada
By Henry Tenby
It is with great sadness that KLM Royal Dutch Airlines retired their passenger 747-400 fleet today with the final flight being an inbound combi flight from Mexico City.
I received a message this morning from my good friend Niels Dam who was specially in Amsterdam in the vacinity of Schiphol airport to witness the historic event of KLM’s final Boeing 747 passenger flight operating today. Amid the global economic downturn of the COVID crisis, airlines all around the world are parking their fleets in a fight for survival in the wake of evaporating passenger traffic as the world’s populations go into self-isolation mode.
Niels reported the inbound 747 from Mexico City did a wing wave while on finals, and the pilot made a special speech over the frequency thanking the world’s aviation fans for their interest in the aircraft and expressing his sadness that it was not possible for aviation fans to be present in droves for the event, due to the COVID situation, in the same way the Fokker 70 was retired from the KLM fleet back in November of 2018.The authorities closed the normal spotting facilities at AMS out of respect for social distancing and public safety so those aviation fans like Niels who were on hand to bear witness to the historic event had to view the 747 landing from a distance. Niels was able to park his car in a parking lot near the airport where he was able to take a few photos as the inbound KLM 747 passed overhead on its way to the arrival runway.
KLM really had no interest in promoting or discussing the significance of their passenger 747 retirement by doing any media reachouts, discussions or assistence on the matter. A message of inquirey sent a few weeks ago to KLM’s PR office generated a two word response that nothing was planned. Which was really out of character for KLM, specially considering the massive contribution the Boeing 747 played in the development of the airlines history over the past 50 years that the type has been in service with the company.
So what of the future for KLM’s 747s? For certain the passenger fleet is officially retired and parked at Schiphol airport as we are still in early days of the COVID crisis. If the aircraft are parted out and scrapped on site or ferried elsewhere, that is surely their end of the line. That said, the fleet is well maintained and could very easily be re activated if a future return to normal warrants their use on re animated routes.
The aircraft are probably long since paid for, so it would seem in haste to initiate immediate scrapping. If we look to past history, during downturns airlines park certain fleets only to reactivate them when times are better. Let us hope this applies to the KLM 747 passenger fleet.
KLM still retains three cargo 747 freighters, two of which are in KLM livery and one of which is in Martinair livery. No phase out date has been set for these aircraft so their flying duties will continue for the foreseeable future.
As a celebration of the Boeing 747 in the KLM fleet, Niels Dam and I spent some time exploring the retired KLM 747-300 PH-BUK that now forms a cornerstone display at the Aviodrom aviation museum as presented in the photos below.