On the 24th of May 2019 Twente based company AELS received a unique aircraft; the sole Kuwait Airways Boeing 747-400M 9K-ADE arrived directly from Kuwait.
Little information was given prior to the arrival of this Jumbo. The reason behind this was that when a Qatar Airways Airbus 340 arrived earlier in May, the nature reserve surrounding the airport was “invaded” by people who wanted to see the arrival. These persons did not stick to the rules and wandered off the paths into areas where birds were breeding.
Since this was an undesirable situation, this time it was chosen not to make any public announcements prior to the arrival of the Boeing .
This was not the first Boeing 747 to arrive at Twente Airport, as AELS had dismantled two KLM 747s before. But why is this Kuwait Airways airframe so special?
The aircraft is so special because this was the only Boeing 747-400M that was ever operated by Kuwait Airways. From an airline’s perespective, this makes no sense at all. If you have only one example of a particular aircraft type in your fleet, then you will have a rather high operational cost for that airframe. You will have to maintain a stock of spare parts, need qualified engineers and tools, just for this single aircraft.
The reason that Kuwait Airways operated this Boeing 747 (which was delivered in 1994) is that it was previously used by the State of Kuwait. In this role, it was part of the fleet of aircraft that was used to transport the Emir, Royal Family and other government officials. After the Kuwait Government obtained a new Boeing 747-8, this particular aircraft was handed over to Kuwait Airways.
Little was changed on the interior, so that it was still available as a back-up plane, in case needed. The interior therefore sports some special features that you will not find on a regular Boeing 747.
The upper deck, for example, was strictly off limits to regular passengers. This upper deck was reserved for the VIP guests, with a lavish seating area, a bedroom and a bathroom equipped with shower.
Passengers on the lower deck could note that there was a large portion of the centre section that was walled off. In a normal 747, this area would house the centre rows of seats. However, in 9K-ADE this area houses an operating room. Surely, that is not something you see every day.
In January 2019, the aircraft made the last commercial flight from Doha to Kuwait City, after which it was withdrawn from use. On the 24th of May Al-Jabriya departed Kuwait City for last time, for a flight of 5 hours and 23 minutes to Twente Airport. There she arrived shortly after 20.00 local time.
After engine shutdown on the runway, she was towed to the AELS platform, where she now awaits her fate next to the Qatar Airways Airbus 340-600.
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 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….