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Air China flew a 747-400 to Brazil last week. The flight was apparently to pick up some passengers.

The aircraft departed Beijing and arrived in Milan before continuing on to Brazil.

On New Year’s Eve, many leaders from around the world flew to Brazil to be present for the inauguration of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. One delegation, however, stood out for the size of the aircraft they were using: it was a passenger Boeing 747-400 from China.

The sky is ruled by the one and only Queen of the Skies.

On that day, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Vice President Wang Qishan were traveling from Beijing to Milan for a quick technical stop before arriving in Brasília–Presidente Juscelino Kubitschek International Airport (BSB) aboard a Boeing 747-400. The airplane that made the flight was registered B-2472 and operated by Air China, a state-owned flag carrier.

The Boeing 747-400 is one of the most popular passenger planes in the world, and it’s been in service with Air China since it was manufactured in 2000. The plane has accumulated an impressive total of 28,275 flight hours over the past 13 years, and it’s currently in the process of being flown for its 28,800th flight cycle.

When it was first configured for long-haul routes, B-2472 had 10 first-class seats, 42 business-class seats, and 292 economy-class seats. The Boeing widebody was originally configured for passenger use but was reconfigured for VIP use in 2011. It was reconfigured once again, to its original settings, in August 2020.

Using passenger aircraft for official state visits

Air China has a dedicated Boeing 747-8 that is registered as B-2479. This plane is already in the VIP configuration, meaning that it has all the extra features and amenities that are available in a plane specifically designed for VIPs. Recently, President Xi and Vice President Wang decided to fly on board a different plane instead- a Boeing 747-8. This is not the first time that passenger aircraft have been used for official state visits.

Prior to the retirement of the B-2472 in 2011, the Chinese government flew three other Boeing 747-400s for official state travel. One of these aircraft, the B-2443, was the same model and configuration as the now-retired B-2472. Unfortunately, the older aircraft was no longer in use and was scrapped at Beijing Capital International Airport in March 2015.

Another Boeing B-24 Liberator bomber, similar to the one that crashed in Beijing last month, is still in service with Air China. The nearly 29-year-old aircraft was last flown in March last year. And finally, there is another Boeing B-24 Liberator bomber in service with the same cabin settings, though this one is newer and was recently reactivated for domestic services on the Beijing-Shenzhen route.

The sight of the B-2472 in Brazil was a treat for government delegations and aviation enthusiasts alike, since jumbojets are a rarity in the global airline fleet these days.