Undisclosed Location, England

How to steal a Jumbo Jet

Date November 2010
Posted May 2012
A beginners guide to snatching a Boeing 747
Before we go any further with this one I would like to stress that, whilst people like myself who don't have 'normal' lifestyles are obviously worthy of your suspicion and a top score in the I-Spy Book of Terror Threats, we chose to attempt our first and only aircraft theft on the ground with no passengers or crew present.

The photos dispersed within the text, save for the first one which was chosen specifically to inspire you to indulge in activities worthy of a James Bond storyline and that will definitely make you more attractive to women*, are important. They illustrate the various hardware which you need to become familiar with, in particular the cockpit controls and the emergency oxygen masks.

Jumbo Jet, somewhere, England (2010) courtesy of adventuretwo.net

With that out the way, let's get to the meat of the matter: how to score yourself a jet. In our case it was as simple as somebody having the idea and phoning around following which a carefully selected band of criminals convened in a nondescript location (I think it was the McDonald's on Commercial Road actually). Roughly it was hoped that a big aeroplane would be approached and then boarded: one which we'd found ourselves on an urban exploration website, and that's the only part of this which I'm not going to help you with. Find your own fucking plane.

Our plans were refined but we were conscious of those pesky CCTV cameras designed to spot just this kind of suspicious behaviour so we strolled nonchalantly across the carpark one by one, darting quickly into the back of my grey Seat Leon when sure none of the creepy stick-mounted eyes-in-the-sky were looking. Reaching the M25 we were without tail. So far, so good.

Jumbo Jet, somewhere, England (2010) courtesy of adventuretwo.net

An undisclosed amount of time later the GPS bleeped ferociously. I killed the headlights and pulled up on a grass verge, sitting back for a minute to give our night vision time to adjust. Then, quietly, we disembarked the vehicle. We'd taken care to stow our cameras, drink and spray paint in satchels back in London because we all know that they're the quickest way to advertise yourself in the capital as a bringer of hell-fire. Added to this we had a hamper of food provided by one of our unknowing backers (a large supermarket chain that I won't name here for obvious reasons) so in total a veritable cart-load of gear. Just reaching the plane (which we could see silhouetted on the apron) would be a logistical exercise in itself. But help was at hand.

If siologen played Mastermind and the subjects of bra sizes and Holden Toranas had already been taken by other contestants then he'd probably choose aircraft loading. Whilst this level of expertise didn't help us actually move the stuff we had to carry, his good knowledge of aircraft anatomy was to prove useful. Close to the nearest plane (a cargo variant 747) our quiet procession was rendered panic-stricken as a pair of bright headlights spun out of the darkness and hurtled towards us. "Into the under-carriage!". Siolo's command was quick and to the point, and not wanting to chance-it we obeyed, clambering up onto the gigantic tyres. The van, clearly marked "Airport Security", blazed around the airliners for 10 minutes and then departed.

Jumbo Jet, somewhere, England (2010) courtesy of adventuretwo.net

Mistaking our compliance for interest, siolo waited for the tail-lights to disappear into the darkness before spooling up into an informative lecture about cargo logistics. I think he started on about how to get the 'cans' into the back of a DC-10 without catching your nuts in the handles, or maybe it was the merits of the 737 hold versus the A319... To be honest I'd tuned out within about 30 seconds: we were now nearly beneath the soon-to-be Sewerfresh Airlines 747-200. It was time to form a boarding party.

In retrospect we should've expanded our research for this operation beyond Google Earth. Now that we had reached the Jumbo we had no fucking idea how to actually get inside the thing. When in flight they're generally sealed up and pressurised and when on the ground require stairs or an air-bridge to access them (we had spotted some inspection gantries on wheels but they'd been secured to metal stakes too far away to be of use).

Jumbo Jet, somewhere, England (2010) courtesy of adventuretwo.net

Now required to help, siologen stopped telling us about his first experience alone with an A380 and helpfully explained that the over-wing emergency exits can be opened from the outside. We'd brought Scott down from Manchester because everyone knows that he doesn't go anywhere without six plastic bins full of rope access gear. Little more needed to be said: a long length of 9mm rope was coiled up and flung over the port wing, pulled down from the other side and lashed to the landing gear. Suitably rigged Scott jumar'd up the rope and attached a wire ladder for the rest of us.

Our on-site aviation oracle had one more important nugget of advice: you know when you're about to take-off and the captain comes on the intercom and asks the crew to "arm doors and cross-check"? Well (said siologen), that's because they need to arm the escape slides and rafts so that, in the event of landing on water and the plane not being smashed up into about 6,483 unrecognisable pieces, they automatically inflate when the doors are opened. Should you open the doors on the ground, from the outside, whilst they're armed... well, don't try it. Apparently we needed to check for an orange strap in the window or something. Given the potential violence that one would incur for fucking this up we nominated our expert to climb up the and do it himself, a task which he managed without incident. The rest of us followed up onto the wing and inside the cabin, slightly disappointed not to have witnessed siologen being flung into orbit by a giant yellow inflatable hotdog. Because let's face it, that would've been hilarious.

Jumbo Jet, somewhere, England (2010) courtesy of adventuretwo.net

In all our enthusiasm we had forgotten to consider why this plane might be here, apparently abandoned and readily accessible. Rather, we'd just seen it on an aerial photo back in McDonald's (I had one of those 3G USB sticks) and deemed it close enough to a public road to be worth a shot. Closer inspection revealed that the beast was inert and probably waiting to be scrapped. Scott, always one for a challenge, had brought along a battery powered travel hair-drier with which he hoped to get the engines started. Not wasting time Yaz had breached the cockpit and called down to tell us that the fuel gauges were registering empty before climbing out of the cockpit roof hatch with some fatcaps to go and daub the SA livery on the vertical stabiliser (registration G-BR4P). In the absence of 100 tons of avgas in our picnic hamper some bright spark suggested siphoning the Seat and was summarily told to shut up. Getting a crate like this off the ground takes a bit more than 35 litres of 95 RON. The plan wasn't shaping up so well.

Jumbo Jet, somewhere, England (2010) courtesy of adventuretwo.net

In despair I sat in the captain's chair enjoying little more than the comfort of the sheepskin seat cover. I slid one hand over the ivory-coloured throttle handles, pushed my feet forward to reach the rudder and placed my other hand on the control yoke. This 747 was clearly an older specimen and there was a distinct lack of LCD screens. Behind a partition an extensive array of wireless kit was packed in with about 50 spiral-bound manuals describing the various systems which made the aeroplane work. You could just imagine the poor fuckers in the midst of an emergency, rapidly losing height whilst rifling through that lot trying to work out what the hell a 'code 1105A system function override error'** was, and more importantly how to deal with it. If nothing else this provided for a little consolation: if we weren't leaving the ground then we'd hardly need to worry about such eventualities.

Jumbo Jet, somewhere, England (2010) courtesy of adventuretwo.net

Sensing a downturn in our fortunes and always a bastion of optimism, siologen called from the first class cabin. Leaving the controls to themselves I went to see what kind of drama had unfolded only to find instead that he'd tipped out the hamper, thus unloading a sea of small polythene bags (bought for a pound each at a London airport) onto the floor. Scott meanwhile was now strapped into one of the seats with the armrests down, window blind closed, seat fully reclined and face attached to the ceiling by a plastic pipe, getting stuck into the oxygen supply.

Fuck it, if we weren't going to actually fly the plane now that we'd taken it then we'd damn well enjoy the merits of first class without some snotty hostess telling us we'd had 'perhaps enough already'.

Having made it this far you may be feeling a little cheated. What kind of aircraft stealing guide doesn't tell you how to get the plane home? All I can do is offer you one more pro tip: befriend the hostesses. Previously I've only ever used this to scrounge some of the spare first class food that they keep at the back for their own consumption, but it has much more potential than that. Not only can you tap them for information on how to neglect your economy class passengers (the freeloading photo forum nerds not worthy of a seat in first) but they'll surely introduce you to the captain. Hit that gully mf up for some firsthand flying tips and you'll be well on your way.

Jumbo Jet, somewhere, England (2010) courtesy of adventuretwo.net

* Not guaranteed, individual results may vary.
** Plane spotters, don't be emailing me to point out factual inaccuracies. Go and clean your 400mm f/4 L instead.

Big thanks to ProUrbex.com for supplying the action shots.
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Boeing 747 Wikipedia

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