In a shocking incident, a former Nigeria Airways A310 has burned down in Gilly, Belgium. The aircraft has been parked in the city since 1999 after it was impounded in Brussels for unpaid fees. The plane was later converted and served in several non-flying roles, including as a restaurant, bar, and more.
According to a report from Aviation24, the aircraft burned down on Tuesday. The fire started in the evening and quickly became violent, causing the tail of the aircraft to collapse. Firefighters and emergency services quickly reached the site to contain the fire and no one was injured. However, the aircraft itself seems to be burnt beyond salvaging.
A video of the incident was later posted on Twitter, showing the extent of the fire and emergency services near the site. The plane was not in commercial use at this time.
The aircraft was most recently owned by a French company which purchased it last year. The company planned to dismantle the aircraft by 2020 but delays pushed the project to January 2021. It’s unclear what the company will do now that the plane has suffered significant damage.
Why was the plane there?
It might seem strange why a Nigeria Airways A310 is stored in a small town in Belgium. The aircraft actually has a long and fascinating history. Originally registered 5N-AUG, the aircraft was delivered to Nigeria Airways in 1984, flying long-haul services. The plane was impounded in the 1990s in Brussels after the airline refused to pay maintenance costs, according to Independent.
After a court battle, the maintenance company received ownership of the plane, which it sold to a company in Gilly. The plane was then converted for non-flying use (removing the engines and propping it up) in 1999.
Since its conversion, the plane has served as a popular cafe, Italian restaurant, bar, and discotheque. At one time, the plane’s belly served as a cocktail bar for 220 guests, while the wings were a makeshift terrace.
After 20 years, the aircraft was once again put on sale in 2019 for €100,000 ($118,800), with double the cost to dismantle and transport the aircraft. As mentioned earlier, a French company did end up purchasing the aircraft and planned to dismantle it. Considering the sad events of this week, it seems unlikely we will see this plane in use again.
While the A310 in Gilly won’t be in use any longer, the trend of converted planes has become quite popular in the last few years. Retired aircraft have found themselves serving as waterparks, hotels, and restaurants all over the world.
Most recently, British Airways opted to preserve one of its 747s as a film set. From the famous 747 Jumbo Stay hotel in Stokhomn to Wings and Waves Waterpark in Oregon, retired aircraft have found interesting second lives!