Say hello, wave goodbye

By: David Gunner

December 23, 2020

Out with the old, in with the new. As we come to the end of 2020, never have those words meant so much to so many. Here at Virgin Atlantic, it's been a year of big change for us, not least in our aircraft fleet size and shape. This was illustrated by two aircraft movements this week. On Monday we said goodbye to, G-VROY, our last Boeing 747 and our last four engined aircraft. Yesterday, landing at Heathrow, G-VTEA, our seventh and latest brand new Airbus A350-1000. This was a passing of the baton, from the old guard to new. When one chapter in our history closes and a new one begins.

G-VROY, a final farewell

Captains Zane Dunning, Mark Thacker and Carl Biltcliffe were at the controls of G-VROY, our last 747 flight. The ferry flight, via Las Vegas, delivered the aircraft to its new owner in Arizona. It was a bittersweet flight for all three pilots who have decades of experience flying the big jet and agree that flying this final flight was a great honour.

BigJetTV were at Heathrow to capture G-VROYs last departure. Keep an eye out for the wing wave at the end.

The tech log, signed by engineer Dave Tylee, is handed to Zane, signifying that the aircraft is fit to fly and ready for its last departure.

In charge of the despatch our Senior Turnaround Officer Graham Cornish

Tug driver Pete Gilbert pushes our last 747 flight off the gate, with Dave Tylee on the headset.

Onboard G-VROY on its flight to Las Vegas

On the ground in Las Vegas. Photo by our Las Vegas Airport Manager Andrew Morley.

G-VROY at its final parking space in Arizona, and the specially commissioned plaque that Zane mounted in the pilot crew rest area to inspire any future visitors to the aircraft.

Thank you Queen of the Skies.

You have made it possible for millions to embrace the human spirit for adventure and travel the globe, exploring new worlds, people and their cultures, has helped us understand our differences so we can all live together in peace. 

Captain Zane Dunning

No, this isn’t a boyband promo shot, these are engineers, watching G-VROY depart for the last time. Phil Wardlaw, in the middle, is our Vice President, Engineering and Maintenance. Either side of him, Denis Brailsford and Lee Butterfield of our aircraft assets team. They are part of the team responsible for bringing new aircraft into our fleet and decommissioning aircraft we no longer need. Those are big time-consuming jobs that generally take up to 18 months to complete for each aircraft. On a normal year the aircraft assets team might expect to handle a couple of aircraft, but 2020, as we know, hasn’t been a normal year. Since the beginning of 2020, this small team has overseen the return of ten aircraft and taken delivery of three new ones. G-VROY’s departure marked the end of this mammoth project.

Leaving our fleet in 2020: A340-600s G-VWIN, G-VFIT and G-VNAP, 747-400s G-VAST, G-VXLG, G-VROM, G-VROY, G-VROS, G-VGAL, G-VLIP, A330-200 G-VMNK

Joining our fleet in 2020: A350-1000 G-VDOT, G-VRNB, G-VTEA

Changing of the guard. Top is Boeing 747 G-VROY, Pretty Woman. Designed in the 1960s, built in 2001. Below G-VTEA, Rosie Lee, built in 2020

The day after G-VROY, headed off into the sunset, G-VTEA, Rosie Lee, our brand new Airbus A350 landed at Heathrow for the first time. This was our seventh A350 and our last new aircraft delivery of 2020. It was a special moment for Paul Reilly, our aircraft assets manager, who looks after our new aircraft builds and deliveries.

“This has been particularly challenging over the lockdown period. Still, with support from colleagues and specialists at Virgin Atlantic and Airbus, we have achieved our tough 2020 delivery schedule” said Paul.

G-VTEA also sports the latest in our series of new flying icons.

Paul wraps up his work for 2020 with his third A350 delivery.

After arriving into Heathrow, G-VTEA will undergo a number of checks, some equipment installation, software uploads and engineering work ahead of entry into service in January.

Learn more about the process of accepting a new aircraft in our blog post about the delivery of G-VLUX

As for our pilots? Next year, Zane, Carl and Mark will begin their conversion onto our Boeing 787 fleet and look forward to welcoming you onboard in 2021.

Our seven Airbus A350 aircraft, along with our seventeen Boeing 787s, represent the latest generation of ultra-modern, long haul, twin-engine aircraft. The new aircraft are built using modern materials such as titanium and composites that make them lighter and stronger than their predecessors and are equipped with the latest-generation engines.  This makes them much quieter, more comfortable and better for the environment than the aircraft they replace. With spacious cabins, lower altitude air pressure, bigger windows and dynamic mood lighting, jet lag is kept to a minimum. You’ll step off at your destination feeling more refreshed than ever, ready to head off on whatever adventure is awaiting you at the end of your flight.

Categories: Our Aircraft