Top deck of Boeing 747 carried through Black Country on way to becoming visitor attraction
It's not often you see a plane on the motorway, but that's what greeted travellers on the M5 and M6 on Thursday when part of a 747 was carried north.
The top deck of a Boeing 747 was carried by lorry through the Black Country and Staffordshire en-route to Greater Manchester where it will become a visitor attraction.
The unusual sight came up the M5 from Kemble in Gloucestershire before heading onto the M6 towards Barton City Airport in Salford, Greater Manchester. There, British Airways' G-BYGA will become The Deck, a tourist attraction for tours that will also host the UK's only 747 flight simulator using a real aircraft flight deck as well as a potential wedding and conference venue.
Drew Hanna, co-founder of Doors2Manual and Director of The Deck, described this as a dream of the company's "for a long, long time", adding that "being able to salvage such a significant part of an iconic aircraft is our biggest thrill so far".
"It's speeding along," he said. "It's all gone really well," with fears of infamous M6 traffic jams failing to materialise.
The only major hold-up on G-BYGA's final journey was between Junctions 12 and 13 of the M6 in Staffordshire, where delays lasted for much of the day after a van fire at around 8am resulted in one lane needing to be closed while it awaited resurfacing.
The top deck of the plane was due to arrive at its destination shortly before 2.30pm where it was due to be unloaded and placed inside its new hangar.
Over the next few weeks work includes cleaning, setting up power to the flight deck and resetting instruments in the cockpit before its ready to welcome visitors.
Karen Kearns, Operations Manager, Doors2Manual and Director, The Deck added: “The journey to Manchester’s original airport is just the start of a second life for the old girl and we’re so privileged to be able to give her a bright future."
Mr Hanna said the short-term aim over the next three-four weeks is to have the plane in a position to welcome visitors to look around.
"Medium term, before Christmas, we're aiming to have some sort of flight deck," he added. "Then in 12-18 months as a venue for weddings and conferences."
The Boeing 747 has been described as 'the UK travel industry’s most high-profile casualties of the Covid-19 pandemic' with the final 38 retired.
British Airways got rid of its 31 747s while Virgin Atlantic also retired its final seven examples.
Barton City Airport's visitor attraction also includes viewing area, picnic spots and a children's play area, as well as three existing flight simulators.
Tracy Williams, Business Development Manager of City Airport (Manchester Barton), said: "This will be a glorious sight to see and a fantastic addition to the Airport’s offering, saving one of the best known and well-loved, iconic aircraft there is and providing a unique opportunity for visitors to enter a real 747 cockpit."