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Ex-Virgin B777 touches down on US soil

written by Hannah Dowling | May 19, 2022

Virgin Australia (VH-VPE) Boeing 777-3ZG(ER) departing Sydney Airport for the final time, headed for Wellcamp. (Bidgee / Wikicommons)

A Virgin Australia-branded Boeing 777-300ER, which was ferried from Wellcamp Airport to Brisbane last week, has touched down in Honolulu after a short stop in Fiji.

It suggests the aircraft, registration VH-VPE, is being delivered to its new owner or operator, after being purchased in November 2020 by US-based UMB Bank.

The jet took off from Brisbane 8:40am on Wednesday, 18 May, landing at Nadi International three hours and 15 minutes later at 1:54pm local time.

After a quick 1.5-hour stopover, VH-VPE took off again, for a nearly six-hour flight to Honolulu, Hawaii, landing at 11:10pm local time.

The jet is likely to be moved again in coming days, to be delivered to its owners, or perhaps more likely, to be accepted by another airline.

It comes after the widebody jet took to the skies for the first time in 19 months last week, catching the attention of keen planespotters.

It’s the first time the jet has fired up its engines since it entered long-term storage at Wellcamp in October 2020.

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It was previously stored at Sydney Airport, after being withdrawn from use on 30 March 2020. It remained parked in Sydney until it was ferried to Wellcamp on 23 October.

The move sparked significant interest, particularly in light of an upcoming Virgin announcement at its Brisbane hangar that promises to usher in “a new era of flying”.

While the event – initially scheduled for later this month – has now been postponed, the two moves coinciding certainly had the rumour mills turning.

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Virgin grounded its fleet of five Boeing 777s in March 2020 at the dawn of the global pandemic, just weeks before the group entered voluntary administration.

As part of the administration and restructuring process, Virgin axed operations of its 777 fleet, along with its ATR, Airbus A330s and Tiger A320s, in order to slim down to a mid-tier domestic carrier. Since then, Virgin has resumed short-haul international jaunts on its Boeing 737s.

Virgin did not comment on the movement, however, pointed to earlier communications that it had disclaimed its Boeing 777s, despite a number of the jets sitting at Wellcamp for months after the administration process had finished.

Comments (5)

  • Jeffrey Magnet

    says:

    Perhaps it is being converted to a freighter.

  • Paul

    says:

    Strange that a 777 that has the range to go Brisbane-USA Mainland stopped at both Nadi and Honolulu en route. Anybody know why?

    • Ashley

      says:

      Probably only tech stops……

  • Ted

    says:

    Could Possibly Another U.S Outfit Be Preparing FLY U.S.A – OZ Using EX VA B777’s ? ? ?

  • Peter

    says:

    Paul. It may have been due to EROPS requirements, crew training or even the cost of fuel considerations.

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