That Qatari Royal Flight 747-8i That's Up For Sale Just Made A Very Strange Flight To Istanbul
Regardless of the very strange route it just flew, it seems as if the super luxury jumbo jet has sold. Could its new owner be Turkey?
I recently wrote an article about a Qatari Amiri Flight VVIP 747-8i that was up for sale. The post drew a lot of attention and it was parroted without credit all over the net. Now it seems that the super luxury jumbo jet has repositioned itself from Basel Mulhouse Freiburg Airport in France to Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen International Airport in Turkey in a very peculiar way. It flew an eight and a half hour route that saw the jet venture out over the Atlantic, seemingly near the Azores, before heading back towards the northeast, over Brussels, and arching southeast over Budapest and down into Istanbul.
Here's VQ-BSK's very odd flightpath to Turkey:
I looked into the VQ-BSK's movements after being pointed towards the Twitter post below, but as the day progressed, the flight's path looked increasingly odd. It also led me to dig a little deeper as to the aircraft's movements since it was put up for sale last Spring.
Flightradar24.com has some puzzling information regarding its activity. Below you can see it was going about its normal business until those operations ceased around the 15th of March. Then it appears in Tunisia on April 22nd, flying from there to Moscow. Then over the next five months, there are a string of flights without data originating in Moscow and Vladivostok, before the strange September 11th flight from Basel to Istanbul.
These could very well be anomalies. It does happen, but, in this case, it seems to happen very frequently and between two major Russian cities over a continuous period of time.
Assuming these are just errors, today's flight to Istanbul is still quite odd. If it is a delivery flight to a new owner, who is that owner? Could it be the supposedly cash-strapped Erdogan government?
The Turkish government already has a fairly extensive executive airlift fleet. This includes a customized A340-500 and an A330-200, as well as an A318ACJ, and a couple Gulfstream and Citation private jets. Erdogan was famously flying on one of the Gulfstreams during a military coup attempt in the Summer of 2016—the repercussions of which are still being felt today.
So it's not like Turkey isn't a known consumer of widebody jets used for elite head of state travels. Currently, the 747-8i is the top aircraft used for such missions, two of which will serve as Air Force One in the coming decade. So maybe Erdogan decided to splurge on the best of the best.
VQ-BSK is already elaborately outfitted for such a role, so even though it is certain to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, buying it second hand would be far less expensive than buying a 747-8i and outfitting it similarly from scratch. Such a project would also take a couple of years to realize at the least.
It's also possible that the aircraft is being delivered to another owner in Istanbul. It would be the ultimate flying toy for an oligarch and there may even be a business case for a top-end charter company to acquire it. In addition, sometimes it can be advantageous to execute such a transfer in certain countries, or in the case of the U.S., even in certain states. But regardless of who the buyer may be, it does seem as if the aircraft has been sold as listings offering to for sale have disappeared from major aircraft sales sites.
We may have to wait a bit to conclusively find out the answers to these questions. But something is clearly going on with this extremely high profile aircraft.
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com