Seized by its lessor in Hong Kong during the month of March, a Boeing 747-8F last operated by Russian AirBridgeCargo was sent to a long-term aircraft storage site. After spending about three weeks in San Bernardino, California, the 747 registration VQ-BFE was transferred to Marana Pinal Airport, a site typically associated with long-term aircraft storage.
The last move for VQ-BFE
As we noted in a previous article, Singaporean company BOC Aviation managed to collect its Boeing 747-8F from Russian air cargo operator AirBridgeCargo in late March. The jet, registration VQ-BFE, flew from Hong Kong to San Bernardino, California on March 25 and had been parked there for several weeks.
However, about three weeks after landing in San Bernardino, the nearly eight-year-old plane took off again, this time bound for Marana Pinal Airport. The flight lasted just one hour, with the 747 taking off at 9:38 a.m. local time on April 14 and landing in Marana at 10:39 a.m. local time.
The AirBridgeCargo 747’s most recent move took it to the dry desert climate of Arizona. Photo: FlightRadar24.com
What’s in Marana?
Marana Pinal Airport is the gateway to Pinal Airpark – a massive 2,080-acre (8.42 km2) site most commonly associated with long-term aircraft storage. As the Airplane Boneyards website states, “one of the main functions is to serve as a ‘graveyard’ for civilian commercial aircraft as well as the storage, reconfiguration and recovery of airliners. Out of service airliners are stored there because the dryness and low humidity of the Sonoran Desert provide an ideal storage environment.
Of course, despite Pinal Airpark’s strong association with being a ‘boneyard’, it’s important to know that there’s more to the facility than just long-term storage. Indeed, it is also home to aircraft maintenance and modification activities. Ascent Aviation Services and Jet Yard Solutions are two examples of companies performing such work at this Arizona facility. Of course, aircraft storage is also mentioned as a service for both companies.
As a result, it’s not fully confirmed that long-term storage will be the fate of VQ-BFE, but for now, that seems like the most likely answer.
Pinal Airpark is one of several long-term storage sites located in the United States. The facility was quite full at the height of the 2020 pandemic. Photo: Getty Images
What else could happen to the jumbo jet taken over?
As the Russian invasion of Ukraine drags on, it is possible that this plane will remain in Marana for weeks or even months. However, it would also not seem impossible that the aircraft could be reassigned to another airline operator.
The jet is legally owned by BOC Aviation and could therefore hypothetically be leased to another airline or cargo operator. Looking at the data provided by ch-aviation, it is unlike any other airline in BOC Aviation’s long list of customers that operates 747 freighters sourced from BOC Aviation.
The data, however, shows that Qatar Airways leases 13 aircraft from BOC Aviation, with nine being Airbus A350-900s and the other four Boeing 777-300ERs. We know that Qatar Airways also currently operates two Boeing 747-8Fs with its cargo division, so the airline group seems like a suitable customer for BOC Aviation to pitch for this seized aircraft. Of course, there are probably many other factors that we don’t know that could get in the way of this seemingly perfect match.
As of January 31, the 747-8F registered VQ-BFE had accumulated 27,935 flight hours over 5,128 flight cycles.
What do you think could happen to this aircraft in the coming months? Let us know by leaving a comment.
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