Virgin Atlantic retires Boeing 747s early: 'Pretty Woman' 'wing waves' its way into retirement

If you didn't know better, you might have thought the pilots of a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 that took off from Manchester Airport on Wednesday had lost control.

Shortly after takeoff, the jumbo jet tipped from side to side as if something had gone seriously wrong.

The plane-savvy members of the public who had gathered to watch it, however, knew the pilots were performing what is known as a 'wing wave' to mark the plane's retirement.

It was a historic moment: The aircraft was one of the first 747s to join Sir Richard Branson's Virgin fleet in 2001.

'Pretty Woman' was one of the first 747s to join Branson's fleet in 2001.

'Pretty Woman' was one of the first 747s to join Branson's fleet. Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Online aviation channel BigJetTV shared a video of the performance, saying "Another sad moment today as G-VROY 'Pretty Woman' Virgin Atlantic 747 departs Manchester Airport – This time it's Captain Karl Wort at the controls, pulling-off another classic wing-wave"

Virgin Atlantic announced in May that it would retire all seven of its 747s early as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The airline is one of several to have put its 747s out to pasture during the pandemic, with others including German carrier Lufthansa and Dutch and French counterparts KLM and Corsair.


Analysyts have predicted that the dramatic drop in air travel as governments worldwide work to prevent the spread of Covid-19 could hasten the decline of the iconic aircraft, also known as the "Queen of the Skies".

Pretty Woman joined sister aircraft Jersey Girl and The Falcon at a storage facility at Spain's Ciudad Real Central Airport.

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