As the world’s airlines move to retire Boeing 747’s from their passenger fleet’s, amid sighs of sorrow among the enthusiast community but gasps of relief within management of these hemorrhaging airlines, the economics of operating these iconic aircraft is essentially they’re downfall.
Image by Levie Meykens
As the dynamics within the aviation industry shift and passenger trends evolve, changes are apace across all airlines as they grapple for survival. With the sharp rise in online sales, e-commerce surge and pandemic related freight, the B747 may have its day in the sun yet, as many enter a second-life as cargo aircraft. Conversions are ripe for passenger to freighter alteration and the B747 is a keen model with operators. Positive news for all who hold the ‘Jumbo’ in high esteem.
One airline which is an advocate of the “Queen of the Sky” and has been since its foundation in 2012, Silk Way West Airlines of Baku, Azerbaijan operates up to 10 of the type – 5 x B747-400F and 5 x B747-8F with age ranging from 4 years to 22 years. One of the older fleet members, 4K-SW008 a B747-400F had urgent business at Dublin Airport recently. The second freighter to deliver Irish aid to India to help in that nations fight with Covid-19. Arrival into a wet and windy Dublin was on Monday 3rd of May, descending through the murk for a 19:36 landing on RW28L.
The flight originated in Baku and travelled to Frankfurt before onwards to Dublin. A first visit to Dublin by the aircraft, it’s attractive livery, pleasing to all even in the gloomy conditions experienced upon its arrival. 4K-SW008 has been with the airline since 2012, the longest dweller in the Silk Way West fleet.
Its fair to say, enthusiasts were out in force to welcome the Silk Way B747. A ‘Jumbo’ has the effect of mustering a large turnout whenever one visits Dublin, everyone’s favourite. Main differences in the two B747 variants include, 17% more fuel efficiency for the B747-8F over the ‘400F series, 16% more cargo volume for the ‘8F’ with a maximum carrying ability of up to 137 tonnes versus 125 tonnes.
Image by Karolio Kavolelio
One feature of dedicated B747 freighter’s, of which the Silk Way West fleet is made up of, no passenger to freighter conversions for SW, is the aircrafts ability to open its nose door by swinging upwards. Akin to a reclining roof of a convertible car only on a gigantic scale, the swinging nose is the jumbo freighters party piece. Most significant visual difference between an original manufactured freighter B747 and a conversion variant is the shorter ‘hump’.
After a short few hours stay on Irish terra-firma, loading complete, 4K-SW008 was on the move departing at 23:06 and pointing in the direction of Baku, a 5hr flight east. The following morning, Tuesday the much needed supplies were delivered to Delhi, mission complete. Silk Way West Airlines named ‘Cargo Airline of the Year 2020’, on the shoulders of Boeing’s best – the 747
Images by Levie Meykens & Karolio Kavolelio