The second largest plane ever to land at Kelowna International Airport touched down Friday afternoon.
The privately owned Boeing 747 Special Performance aircraft—one of only 45 ever built and one of only six still flying in the world—is a modified version of the first “jumbo” jet. It has a wingspan of 195 feet and overall length of 184 feet. A typical 247 is about 230 feet long.
The big plane arrived in Kelowna for maintenance at KF Aerospace, which is located on the airport grounds.
The 747 SP, only surpassed in size by the Russian Antonov transport plane that landed at YLW in 2009 to be worked on by KF Aerospace employees, is expected to be at the airport for about six weeks. While there, it will be undergoing what is described by KF Aerospace officials as “light” maintenance.
“It’s the general sort of stuff that keeps the plane flying,” said Craig Woolford, hanger operations manager for the company.
He said a team of 10-12 employees will work on the aircraft.
Despite the size of the aircraft, the maintenance work is just like on any other plane. But he said it is great to have the 747 SP here because working on it will be a first for many on the maintenance team.
According to Kelowna-Lake Country MP Stephen Fuhr, a retired Canadian Forces pilot who was on hand to witness the landing Friday, the plane is basically a first generation 747 that has had part of its body removed to make it shorter and lighter. But with the same engines and thrust, it is also faster.
“It’s amazing to think this plane can fly at mach 0.92, or 92 per cent of the speed of sound,” he said.
As a child interested in planes, Fuhr said it was always his dream to fly a 747 SP some day.
While the media was allowed to film its arrival from the outside, Fuhr had the opportunity to tour the inside later in the day, check out the cockpit and take photos that he shared with the Capital News.
Because the plane is so big, KF Aerospace does not have a hanger large enough to house it during its stay at the airport.
According to YLW officials, the aircraft arrived following a non-stop flights from Shannon, Ireland.
“The arrival of the 747SP is a great opportunity to demonstrate YLW’s ability to accommodate larger aircraft at the airport,” said Philip Elchitz, YLW manager of airport operations. He said it also showcases the abilities of KF Aerospace and highlights how the airport and its partners are a major economic generator for the city.
KF Aerospace is the largest private employer in the Okanagan and operates a maintenance, repair and overhaul facility at YLW.
“The arrival of this aircraft gives us a picture of what is possible on the airport campus when KF and YLW work together. There could be many more opportunities to follow if we’re receiving and servicing long-haul aircraft,” said Paula Quinn, corporate secretary of KF Aerospace.
To accommodate the landing of the 747SP, airport operations temporarily restricted access to the runway in order to manoeuvre and position the aircraft for towing and parking at the KF facility.
There were no impacts to passengers or incoming or departing flights at YLW.
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