This has been a question that has rattled through my mind every time (interpret as everyday) I tune in to watch BBC’s “Top Gear”. If you haven’t seen an episode, I encourage you to try one on. Even if you’re not a “car” person, you may find it enjoyable especially if you like British humor.
For those familiar with the show (which is among my favorites), there is an interesting looking 747-200 parked in the background of the Top Gear test track that they use to time various supercars and challenge celebrities to compete in their “reasonably priced car” segment. It’s interesting because it has four engines but unlike a traditional 747 where the 4 engines are mounted individually, the engines on this aircraft are attached as a pod of 2 engines on each side.
As is usual each evening, I found myself watching Top Gear (have seen tonight’s episode 5x I think) and again theres the mysterious 747 lurking in the background just tempting my question to start rattling between my ears again. This time however, I was going to get to the bottom of the mystery. So in my journalistic prowess, I quickly booted up both index fingers and launched an attack upon trusty Google to get the answers. I was surprised at what I found. This plane has quite a pedigree:
She started life in the service of Her Majesty’s British Airways as “City of Birmingham”, registration G-BDXJ. She was the 440th Boeing 747 to be built and took to the air for the first time on March 26, 1980.
It served loyally for 22 years for British Airways until its sale to European Aviation Air Charter (EAAC) who used it for various charters in 2003 and 2004. In 2004, EAAC ceased operations and the aircraft found a new home with Air Atlanta Europe, who continued to operate her on charters until her well earned retirement in 2005 after 25 years in service. Her last flight was on May 25, 2005 from London Gatwick to Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey, England.
At this point, she was acquired by Aces High Ltd, who specialize in providing aircraft for the television and film industry. After the acquisition by Aces High Ltd, she became quite the movie star. She debuted on the red carpet in the James Bond Thriller “Casino Royale” where she played the part of “Skyfleet S570” which was the airliner that the terrorists attempted to destroy.
The engines were retrofitted specifically for this movie to give the airliner a unique look that does not exist among “real-life” airliners. The engines were conjoined in pods on each side, and “fuel tanks” were installed where the original engines had previously been mounted.
After her performance in “Casino Royale” she went on to appear in a Volkswagen commercial where she willingly let a Touareg SUV tow her down the runway. She has also appeared in an episode of the British Sci-Fi series “Primeval” where a dinosaur attempted to devour her. Perhaps she fell upon hard times and needed the work………
You can also find her as part of the Top Gear track experience on the Grand Turismo 5 and Forza Motorsport 4 video games.
So, that finally answers that question after many, many, many viewings of Top Gear episodes.