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What is essentially a brand new Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet airplane doing sitting at the scrapper in Arizona? With only 50 fight hours logged, in spite of the airplane’s condition, it is worth more to scrap than sell, we guess? That’s the thing, we can only guess why scrapping it is the only alternative. But we can tell you how a 10-year-old 747, costing $275 million when new, ended up with 50 flight hours in that time. 

Who was the Boeing 747 airplane built for?

Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Boeing 747-400 making its final approach | SONNY TUMBELAKA/AFP via Getty

In 2011, the Saudi Arabian Royal Flight Group ordered what became 747-8BBJ. It was to be the airplane used by Sultan bin Abdulaziz A Saud, who was the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, he died in 2011, as the plane was being built. With the Crown Prince dead, the 747 was never used. 

When the Saudi Royal Flight Group received the 747 in 2012, it was flown to EuroAirport Basel in Switzerland, to sell. The price tag was $95 million. But no one put in a bid, and so it sat, with only 42 flight hours. After 10 years with no bids, the Saudis abandoned it.

Why is the airplane sitting in an Arizona scrapyard?

Saudi Prince 747
Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al Saud’s Boeing 747-400 | aviation Images Group via Getty

So in April of last year, under the new ownership of Boeing, 747-8BBJ made what we think will be its last flight. The destination was Pinal Airpark, located in Marana, Arizona, an airplane graveyard. Its tracking number was N458BJ, according to AVweb. Few to no airplanes leave Pinal intact. So far, Boeing hasn’t said what it plans on doing with it.

And that’s that, for now. We know that these mega-liners have seen better days, for a combination of reasons. One is because they use a lot of fuel. And another is that the business model today is for shorter flights to hubs breaking up long flights. This way travelers can then pinpoint their destinations, resulting in smaller planes needed for fewer passengers. 

Can it be used for air freight service?

Kalitta Air 747
Kalitta Air cargo jet 747 making its final approach | Will Lester/MediaNews Group/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin via Getty

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So a plane like the 747 is somewhat of an anachronism in the 2020s. Still, many fleets use them for cargo, such as Kalitta Air out of Ypsilanti, Michigan. Though keeping a mostly low profile, it handles large cargo needs, especially for the U.S. Department of Defense. 

If the Kalitta name sounds familiar, it’s because drag racer Connie Kalitta heads the flying service. In fact, the winnings from taking the top spot at the 1965 NHRA Winternationals went toward buying his first airplane. It has grown to a fleet of mostly 38 Boeing 747-400w, 777Fs, and Boeing 767-300ERs. 

So this type of air freight service is where the 747 still has relevance. Why one of those companies hasn’t stepped up is puzzling. And that’s why we say we don’t know why the only outcome for 747-8BBJ is scrapping it. We know why, but to our untrained eyes, it doesn’t make sense.