Virgin Atlantic’s Varga Girl among Boeing 747 pieces saved from scrapping by Manchester start-up Doors2Manual

Boeing 747s. The much-loved aircraft were the UK travel industry’s most high-profile casualties of the Covid-19 pandemic as the final 38 were sent for early retirement. British Airways scrapped all 31 of its 747s – 10% of its entire fleet – while Virgin Atlantic put its last seven of the iconic aircraft out to pasture. So just what happens to planes that hit pension age?

While a previously released 747 has gone on to become a blockbuster superstar as a prop in Star Wars and others have been reconfigured for cargo, some are condemned to rather less befitting second lives. There’s the potential to end up in airplane ‘boneyards’, gathering dust in a distant desert in what is a far cry from their former glories, or even, as all flight fans know, the ultimate indignity: going to Coke cans!

It was that very thought that left fans itching to get their hands on just a little piece of these 747s to save the old behemoths from either a lonely grave or a chilly fridge.

Now one start-up company has moved to do just that and has given those well-worked beauties a new lease of life by bridging the gap between the planes and their fans.

It all began with the first lady of flying, Virgin’s Varga Girl, who nosed her way from the company’s G-VAST 747 known as ‘Ladybird’ to a living room in Salford, the twinkle in her eye sparking the birth of Doors2Manual.

Drew Hanna was so taken by the new woman in his life that, along with friend Aine Behan, he started up the company that’s giving more AvGeeks the chance to own a one-off piece of flying history.

From the familiar Airbus to the military favourite Spitfire, Doors2Manual is the one stop shop for everything aviation. Throttles to aircraft skin keychains, a 1970s boarding pass to nostalgic crew uniform, there’s everything you can imagine in their online store.

And not only is Doors2Manual giving fans the opportunity to grab a unique souvenir, it’s also doing its bit for sustainability by providing a new use for a vast range of products. It’s not just the body of the plane itself that is saved from going to waste, so much of the interior that would otherwise end up in landfill is upcycled and given a brand new purpose.

Drew Hanna, co-founder, Doors2Manual

“Like so many people out there, I’m a flying nut who has always loved aircraft and have worked in the industry for almost 15 years. When the chance came to buy one of the 747 Varga Girls, I couldn’t quite believe my luck. Then we spotted the opportunity to make this accessible to a lot more people out there and took the plunge last year. It’s been particularly rewarding over the pandemic because our products have helped bring a little bit of joy to travel-starved people, triggering memories of past trips and hopes of more to come. And no, my Varga Girl’s not for sale!”

Aine Behan, co-founder, Doors2Manual

“We’ve been so delighted to get so much positive feedback from our customers. Our online store is something of a treasure trove for travel fans, if we do say so ourselves. The other side of it all is that our industry has a growing responsibility to do more for sustainability and this is our way of making sure all of those old parts are reused and given a second life. It’s been such a privilege to play a little part in that so far and we’re always on the look-out for more unique products. That’s the joy of it – you just don’t know what we’re going to get our hands on next!”