In the weekend of 9 February 2019, an extraordinary transport took place next to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. During this weekend, a Boeing 747 was transported from the airport to the nearby Corendon Hotel.
This whole story started a bit like a joke. When KLM announced the gradual retirement of their Boeing 747s, Corendon founder Atilay Uslu thought that it would be a nice idea to buy one of these 747s, paint it in Corendon colours and park it next to the Corendon hotel in Badhoevedorp.
In October 2018 it was announced that Corendon would buy the Boeing 747-400 -BFB “City of Bangkok”. On the 26th of November, this 747 returned from her last commercial flight to Los Angeles.
On the 10th of December, the Boeing was flown to Rome, where it was painted in the colours of Corendon Airlines, she returned to Amsterdam on the 14th of December, which was also the last flight of the PH-BFB. After this final landing, AELS removed the engines and other valuable items like the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU), brakes, fuel pumps and air conditioning.
On the 5th of February 2019 the whole move, that would take a week and which was executed by Mammoet, started. In order to move the Boeing, it was loaded onto a massive, remote controlled, flatbed trailer. The trailerhas 192 individually controllable wheels, that evenly distributed the 160 tons weight of the 747 and the 200 tons weight of the trailer.
The first leg of the move was still at Schiphol Airport, where it covered an 8 kilometer stretch from Schiphol-East towards the Zwanenburg runway. At this point the City of Bangkok left the airport and continued her journey across the meadows towards the hotel.
In order to avoid sinking into the soggy ground, 21000 steel road plates were laid out in order to create an artificial road for the transport. Next to that, 17 ditches had to be crossed, for which temporary bridges were constructed.
The most impressive part of the whole operation took place in the night of 9 February, when the whole transport had to cross the A9 Motorway. In order to do this, the whole A9 was closed for several hours. At that point, first a couple of lamp posts had to be removed, as well as the guardrail in the central reservation.
Then, the transport could slowly creep up to the motorway. Before it entered the tarmac of the motorway however, all 192 wheels of the trailer had to be cleaned, as the authorities did not want to have any mud on the road.
Once the motorway and the adjacent ditch were crossed, the 747 transport could continue through the meadows towards the hotel.
Finally, on the 11th of February, the last stretch was covered. At the hotel, the Boeing 747 had to make 57 turns, in order to rotate it 90 degrees and park it at the final position.
Over there an aviobridge will connect the hotel with the Boeing, which wil serve as an experience center, where visitors can walk on the wings and can experience a 5D flight inside. It will also serve as a visitors centre, where the history of the “City of Bangkok” will be told.
The end of 2018 saw the retirement of two relatively young aircraft, 2 TUIfly Boeing 737s were flown to Twente Airport where they will be dismantled by AELS.
Halfway November 2018 AELS announced that they had acquired two Boeing 737s that would arrive on the 1st and 5th of December. This was thus mentioned as a nice “Sinterklaas” present. Not long after, it became clear through research that these 2 machines would originate from TUIfly in Germany and that D-AHXE and D-AHXF would be the ones concerned.
These airframes are only 11 years old and have logged approximately 30,000 flying hours, which makes you wonder why they are dismantled already. The reason behind this is that they are of the 737-700 subtype, which is far less popular than the 737-800. However, the 737-700 and 737-800 share most of the components and parts, which makes it interesting to salvage these parts from the 737-700 and sell them to 737-800 operators. In this way the airframe becomes much more valuable in parts than it is as a whole.
In the final week of november, suddenly the news came that the schedule had changed: D-AHXE would arrive on the 30th of November, whilst D-AHXF would arrive on the 1st of December.
30 November 2018 – Arrival of D-AHXE
Boeing 737-7K5 D-AHXE was the first of the 2 sisters to arrive at Twente Airport. Just before 11.30 it departed Hannover Langenhagen airport as flight TUI100P and flew to Twente Airport where she performed her final touchdown on runway 23 at 12.06PM. Check the flight on https://flightaware.com/live/flight/DAHXE
The crew then then taxied to the C platform, where the engines were shut down for the final time. She would be parked at this location for the night and would be towed to the AELS platform on Saturday.
1 December 2018 – Arrival of D-AHXF
Originally it was planned that D-AHXF would also arrive around 11.30 on the Saturday, but after consulting the weather forecast, it was decided to reschedule to an earlier time, as rain and low clouds were expected. As Twente is still a VFR only airport, the cloud base needs to be sufficient for visual operations.
This meant that the departure from Hannover Langenhagen was scheduled at 9.30 already (D-AHXF had still operated a commercial flight to Lanzarote on the day before), after which it landed at Twente at 10.04 (see https://flightaware.com/live/flight/DAHXF for the complete flight). This time, the engines where shut down on the runway, after which the towtruck was attached in order to push the Boeing to the AELS platform next to Hangar 8.
Upon arrival at Hangar 8, the crew was greeted by a very special guest: Sinterklaas awaited them. As the crew was not really aware of this Dutch tradition, some explanation was required….
When the D-AHXF was parked, it was time to pick up the D-AHXE and tow her to the AELS platform where these 2 sisters were reunited. For them it’s now the end of the line….
On the 16th of September 2018 Technology Base Twente, which is situated on the former Twenthe Airbase, organized an Open House to show people what exactly is happening in this rather unique area. Part of the Technology Base is Twente Airport, where a static show with a small airshow was put on.
In the beginning of 2018 it was announced that the Province of Overijssel would organize the Open House at the Technology Base Twente. It was then also mentioned that part of this open house would include a small airshow at Twente Airport. Given the fact that the airport is operational just over a year now, this was an ambitious statement which also shows the link with the surrounding area. Ever since the airport reopened, there has been an ever growing group of aircraft enthusiasts that follow the things that happen on the airfield.
In order to attend the open house, spectators had to order (free) tickets, as the maximum number of visitors was limited to 10,000. The area was only accessible by bike or shuttle bus to avoid congestion in the area.
Once on the field, visits could be made to various innovative companies, the fire exercise facilities and offcourse the airport. AELS also showed/sold aircraft parts in their display area. People could either buy oxygen masks, life vest, seatbelts, bit also complete aircraft seats.
Throughout the day several historical aircraft could be seen up close in the static display area. This ranged from the WW1 Staaken Z21 Flitzer to the 60s era Hawker Hunter.
In the afternoon between 13.30 and 15.00, the airshow took place. This show was opened with an 18-person parachute jump, where the parachutists landed in front of the crowdline. Then the flying display started with shows from the Dutch Thunder Yaks, Fokker Four, Pitts Special and a P-51 Mustang.
Dutch Thunder Yaks
Spotters in action
Crew enjoying the day
Obviously the day would not have been possible without the hard work of all the Twente Airport staff and several volunteers.
The month of January 2018 was a very busy month for Twente Airport, both within and outside of the fences. The reason for this was the arrival of no less than 3 heavy widebodies in one week. All three aircraft made their final flight to Twente Airport, where dismantling would follow by AELS.
Many people know the large aircraft boneyards like Mojave and AMARG, but AELS chose a different approach when it comes to aircraft dismantling. Costs can be saved by chosing to dismantle aircraft in the region where they come from, which already reduces the amount of fuel that is required to transfer the aircraft on the final flight.
What is AELS
AELS is an aircraft disassembly and dismantling company that provides full scale solutions for aircraft that have reached their (economical) end of life. The services of AELS can be split up in 3 segments, where they often come together in one project:
Aircraft disassembly and dismantling
Recycling of aircraft parts
The fact that AELS is a relatively small company means that they can quickly adapt and react to the customers’ needs.
History of AELS
The history of AELS starts with its founder, Derk-Jan van Heerden, a couple of years before the establishment of the company in April 2006. In that period Mr van Heerden asked himself what was happening with aircraft that had stopped flying and he decided to find out more on this subject. This proces lead to him graduating on this subject after which he began to create a business plan for AELS. After a short period with KLM Engineering & Maintenance, where he was responsible for the dismantling of a Boeing 747, AELS was founded by Mr van Heerden in 2006.
Nowadays the AELS team assists aircraft owners all over the world in the dismantling of their aircraft. AELS facilitates the complete process, from the arrival of the airplane to the sale of the last piece of aluminium. During the short existence of the company, more than 40 aircraft have already been processed in a sustainable manner, where the goal is to reuse all components.
Initially the disassembly activities were based at Woensdrecht, in the south of the Netherlands. The downside of this location was however, that wide-body aircraft could not be processed there, due to the lack of space. Therefore it was decided to move the company’s activities to Twente Airport, where the first airframe – a Swiss Airbus 340 – arrived on 27 April 2017. AELS then made clear that they had larger plans and were looking to acquire more airframes.
Three Widebodies in one week
By the end of December 2017, messages started seeping in that , after the arrival of the first KLM Boeing 747, more was to be expected at Twente Airport in January. Almost everybody believed that this would be the 2nd KLM Boeing 747, the PH-BFF. For many it came as a surprise that next to this Boeing, also 2 Air France Airbus 340s were scheduled to arrive at Twente.
A disadvantage of January is that normally the weather is not all that good, grey skies, low clouds, snow and rain dominate the winter period in the Netherlands. These weather conditions can cause issues at Twente Airport, as it is a VFR (Visual Flying Rules) only airfield. VFR dictates that there has to be a minimum cloud base of 1500ft and a visibility of 5 kilometers. Because of these reasons the flights were several times postponed to different dates and on the day itself the arrival time was also changed several times.
The first aircraft that was scheduled for arrival was Air France’s A.340-311 F-GLZI, which was due to arrive on the 19th of January. This aircraft was ferried from Paris – Charles de Gaulle to Twente Airport, a flight of approximately an hour. Due to a combination of strong winds and low ceiling, the flight was postponed several times on this day, after which the Airbus finally arrived at quarter to four. At that time, there was no longer a tow truck driver available, so that the aircraft was parked at Twente’s Runway 05 end. This was something that was appreciated by many aviation enthusiasts, but less by the members of the flying club. They could not use the 3km runway that weekend.
Next up was Air France Airbus 340 F-GLZR on the 22nd of January. On this day the crew was prepared early on the day to make the short flight form Paris to The Netherlands. However, because the flight was a non-commercial flight, they had to join the back of the queue at CDG to obtain a slot or get a towing truck for pushback. When finally F-GLZR’s symbol lit up on the Flightradar app, a sigh of relief went through everybody on or around Twente Airport.
Finally, on the 25th of January the last flight of KLM’s Boeing 747 PH-BFF “City of Freetown” was scheduled to take place from Amsterdam to Twente. This flight had received quite some publicity through the regional media channels, so the spotters hill at Twente was filled with spectators early that day already. This was the shortest flight of this week, but later it proved to be the most difficult one as well. All day long, the cloud base above Twente was to low, so that the flight could not take place at that point. Throughout the day, the AELS and Twente Airport staff were in contact with the flightcrew, who were already aboard the aircraft since 10 in the morning. Finally, by the end of the afternoon, the clouds broke and the ceiling was high enough.
When this became clear, the puzzling and brainstorming started. The Boeing had to arrive before the Universal Daylight Period (UDP) expired, as Twente is a VFR only airport. On the 25th of January this UDP ended at 17.30 local time. An extra problem was that prior to the arrival of the PH-BFF, two bizzjets were scheduled to arrive and depart. These aircraft had already departed their airport of origin, so cancelling them was no longer possible. These jets also had to leave Twente before the Boeing’s arrival, as otherwise they would be stuck at Twente (the runway would be blocked with a large piece of blue metal).
All in all this was a big puzzle, but in the end the last flight of the PH-BFF could take place. At 17.30 precisely, with the last bit of daylight, the wheels of the 747 were pushed against the tarmac for the very last time. After this, the City of Freetown was towed through the darkness towards the AELS platform. Before this could take place, first an A340 had to be repositioned, so that the Boeing could be parked next to Hangar 8. Once parked over there, the crew could finally exit the aircraft after a very long day. Flights to New York usually take them less time than this short hop.
After this flight, things got “quiet” at AELS. They now own 4 widebodies, of which two are parked at the former Runway 11 and two next to the AELS hangar. Only once these aircraft have been dismantled will there be space for new acquisitions. Who know what will be the next arrival….
On Friday 19 January 2018 Air France’s Airbus 340-311 F-GLZI made its last flight to Twente Airport, to be dismantled by AELS.
Long-time Airbus customer Air France is gradually replacing the Airbus 340 with the newer, more cost-efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliner. As a result, the Airbus 340 fleet is slowly phased out. Twente based aircraft dismantling company AELS was able to acquire two airframes, of which the first one was transferred on 19 January.
Airbus 340-311, the 84th A.340 built made its first flight on July 12th 1995 and has since flown with Air France for 22 years. Recently it made the last commercial flight to Paris Charles de Gaulle.
On 19 January 2018 the aircraft was initially expected to arrive at Twente Airport around 11 o’ clock in the morning. This was however postponed to 14.30 due to the weather along the route.
The flight was later postponed further due to availability of tugs at the departure airport and availability of Air Traffic Control slots. Finnaly the arrival time was changed to 16.00 local.
Shortly before 3pm the engines were started and take-off of flight AF370V could be witnessed on Flightradar. The flight then went north and entered Dutch airspace just west of Bergen op Zoom. Above Dordrecht the aircraft turned north-east in the direction of Twente, where it landed at 15.45.
The aircraft was then parked at the Runway 05, where the engines were stopped for the last time. The F-GLZI was then handed over to the new owner, who will slowly reduce it to small pieces.
On Monday 22 January 2018 sister ship F-GLZR will make the same journey.
On the 27th of April 2017 AELS welcomed the first aircraft for disassembly at Twente Airport. On this date former Swiss Airlines A.340-600 HB-JMK arrived from Zürich. Many spectators were present at the Spotters Hill to witness this event.
At 10.36h, the A.340 made it’s last-ever landing at Twente. This was a unique moment for Twente Airport as well, since it was the largest aircraft to ever land here.
The Airbus with line number 169 is a 20 year old airframe, which made the last commercial flight from Johannesburg to Zurich on 24 April 2017. It started commercial service with Austrian Airlines and was later transferred to Swiss Airlines.
This is the first disassembly project that AELS carries out at Twente Airport. AELS has created a technical team that mostly consists of people from the region around Twente Airport. This team will carry out the disassembly of the aircraft.
Twente Airport has several good characteristics to dismantle a wide-body aircraft, which are beneficial for AELS. These are amongst others, a 2400m runway, sufficient platform and hangar space and the flexibility to host these types of aircraft.
It will take approximately 3 months to disassemble a complete Airbus. First the engines will be removed, after which all the useable parts will be parted out. Finally, the remains of the aircraft will be scrapped and recycled.
Since 2006, AELS has dismantled 50 aircraft, but this A.340-600 is the first wide-body aircraft. It is a large aircraft: approximately 64 meters in length, a wingspan of 60 meters and a height of 16 meters.