Designing, developing and building a Boeing 747 presents a major undertaking, but it’s typically done under the assumption that the finished product will spend years in service. Not so for one, seemingly unwanted airliner.
A Boeing 747 that was originally designed as a private plane for a Saudi royal, is heading to the scrapyard after sitting 10 years on a runway at an airport near the borders of France, Germany and Switzerland. According to CNN, the 747 never got its luxury interior and never found an interested buyer, so instead of fulfilling its jet-setting destiny, it’s being sent to Arizona, where it will be gradually stripped of its parts. The plane only spent about 30 hours in service during 16 flights.
The jet is a 747-8, similar to the final 747 delivered earlier this year by Boeing to Atlas Air. But this particular plane was built as part of the Boeing Business Jet program, which turns commercial airliners into private planes for governments and private customers. According to the report, Boeing has sold more than 250 BBJs but most have been 737s and not the more complicated 747-8, which has a range of 10,000 miles and 5,000 square feet of interior space.
The plane was being built for Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia but he died in 2011, only a few months before the scheduled delivery. The 747 only flew for testing before being parked to await its finishing touches. But the plane was never completed and no one bought it because, as aviation analyst Connor Diver told CNN, there’s not much of a market for a four-engine private business jet outside of the Saudi royal family.
Diver said it would have cost up to $50 million to finish outfitting the plane and since not many commercial airlines operate the 747-8, demand for this particular plane was not high.
According to CNN, the 747-8 is still in the process of being disassembled by a Boeing contractor. The parts, including four practically brand-new engines, will likely eventually go to the cargo operations that are still using the 747-8.