We’re still a few weeks from the NFL regular season, and for once that’s not a rivalry related headline, but that’s not stopping the New England Patriots, who announced this week that they have acquired 2 Boeing 767-300ER aircraft for the specific task of carting the Super Bowl 51 champs around during their away matches this season.
The airframes are believed to be 1991 build ex-American Airlines frames, scheduled to be registered as N36NE and N225NE and are currently in the process of being retrofitted with an all business class layout. Maintenance crews are also repainting the aircraft in an attractive color scheme featuring 5 Lombardi Trophies on the tail. For those of you who aren’t familiar with American football, Lombardi trophies are won when a team wins the prestigious Super Bowl.
This announcement comes in the wave of American’s cancellation of several NFL charter services, along with United and Delta’s advanced retirement schedules of their older aircraft such as the 757 and 767 aircraft typically recruited for this job. While this is good news for smaller carriers such as Miami Air, who picked up two of American’s dropped contracts, it is perhaps better news for Football and airplane fans, as who knows what it may lead to with regards to competition on the football field.
It is estimated that the aircraft purchased cost around $10 million and will be operated with one frame in continuous service while one is kept as a back up. The team will reportedly charter the aircraft out during the off season to offset the costs of operating such specialized equipment, with flight operations expected to be centered at Providence, Rhode Island.
With such a rare and intriguing paint scheme, every avgeek will want to see this plane in it’s new livery. The Patriots will play eight away games this year, with a trip to New Orleans coming the weekend of August 17th, Tampa on October 5th, New York on October 15th, Denver on November 12th, Oakland on November 19th, Buffalo on December 3rd, Miami on December 11th, and Pittsburgh on December 17th. During weekdays, expect to see this rare aircraft sitting at Providence – T.F. Green Airport in Massachusetts.
The Pats are the first NFL team to own their own aircraft for transportation between games, and the only team in all of American sports to own their own frames as well. The next closest thing to NFL-specialized aircraft are the jetBlue Airways team jets, which advertise the teams that sponsor the New York-based company. jetBlue operates Airbus A320’s sporting the New York Jets (football) and Boston Red Sox (baseball) team colors.
jetBlue isn’t the first airline to feature sports teams’ on their aircraft. Back before American Airlines and U.S. Airways merged, U.S. Airways had special planes sporting the colors of the football teams from each of the airlines’ hubs. These teams were the Carolina Panthers (Charlotte), Pittsburgh Steelers (Pittsburgh), and Arizona Cardinals (Phoenix). The Phoenix Coyotes NHL hockey team also owned a Boeing 727 with the team’s’ logo on the tail.
With sports on the rise and more and more money in circulation within the sports each year, expect to see many teams follow the Patriots in terms of buying and owning a personal plane.
Featured photo from Twitter / @ESPNBoston