A 54-year-old Boeing 727 made a five-day trip through northern South Africa. Unlike the previous flying days, this was a slow and arduous road trip, covering 320 miles from Johannesburg to Hoedspruit. The 727 is destined to become a VIP hotel suite for the ambitious Aerotel, with up to 18 beds available to reserve exclusively.
An unusual convoy
People in South Africa witnessed a very unusual convoy on the roads last week. A Boeing 727, loaded onto the bed of a huge truck, slowly crossed the country from OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg to the town of Hoedspruit, on the edge of Kruger National Park.
While the trip would have only taken a few minutes if the plane was flying, the road trip took much longer. In total, the trip covered 520 km (323 miles), a distance achievable by car in under six hours. However, because the convoy was unusually large and bulky, the truck could only crawl on the roads at about 10 miles per hour.
Therefore, the whole trip lasted five days. The plane left Johannesburg on the morning of Monday 7e June. He finally arrived at his destination on the afternoon of Friday 11e. He had passed through a number of South African towns and villages along the way, causing a lot of excitement on the way.
A VIP hotel
The final destination of the Boeing 727 is the Aerotel in Hoedspruit. Aerotel already has an aircraft hotel on site, a Boeing 737, previously registered ZS-BIL. This 39-year-old 737-200 was originally delivered to America West, although its last operator was Gryphon Airlines in South Africa.
Aerotel founder Martin den Dunnen and his wife Tracy den Dunnen purchased the 737 in 2019, turning it into a 12-bed boutique hotel with showers. It opened in October 2020, but den Dunnen was not there.
According to a report in the South African, the plan was always to have a second plane on site. The second would be a VIP experience, which could be rented in its entirety to Aerotel customers. The 727, in its VIP configuration, does the job perfectly.
The giant 727 will have 18 beds in total, making it perfect for large families or group getaways. Although the large T-tail has been removed for transport, it will be reinstalled at the site as the aircraft refurbishment project begins.
Pricing details for the 727 units are not yet available, but the 737 rooms can be booked starting at R 1,500 ($ 109) per person.
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About the 727
The Boeing 727 was the most recently registered J2-KBA and was a VIP jet for the Djibouti Air Force. He had flown in this role between April 2001 and September 2012, but has been stationed since then.
Before entering the VIP configuration, the aircraft operated for the former Frontier Airlines. It’s not the same Frontier we know today, but an airline that came out of the merger of Arizona Airways, Challenger Airlines, and Monarch Airlines on June 1.st, 1950.
Operating from Stapleton Airport in Denver, the airline began service with 12 Douglas DC-3s. It was the first airline to fly the Convair 580 and did not join the 727 until February 1967. Flying under the name N7273F, this aircraft was one of the first to arrive, but left the fleet in 1969 when the airline switched to a Boeing 737. based operation.
The 727 became N300BN, flying for Braniff International until 1982. It spent the next decade with Burlington Northern (BAX Global), a freight airline, under the name N3946A, until it left the fleet in 1995. His last stop was with the Air Force of Djibouti, where it served as a VIP transport aircraft from 2001 to 2012.
Now it will take on a new lease of life as a VIP hotel suite for Aerotel’s most distinguished guests. The hotel said that since the plane is already in VIP configuration, there won’t be much to change internally. Therefore, we can expect reservations to open in the near future.