The last US airlines operating the passenger version of the Boeing 747 are in the process of saying goodbye to the “Queen of the Skies” with United Airlines’ last flight scheduled for November 7.
Delta Air Lines and United are moving to retire the iconic US-made jumbo jet after almost four decades in service.
United’s farewell 747 flight will be from San Francisco to Honolulu and its last international 747 flight will head to Seoul, Korea, from San Francisco on October 29.
Delta will retire its fleet by the end of 2017 to replace them with Airbus A350s made by Boeing rival Airbus. Delta will take delivery of five A350s in 2017 with more coming in 2018.
Delta customers and employees have started their farewells to the big plane after the aircraft operated its final Tokyo-Narita to Honolulu flight and made a rare appearance on two domestic legs earlier this month.
United’s final flight will recreate the airline’s first 747 flight in 1970 with a seventies-inspire menu, retro uniforms and inflight entertainment “befitting of that first flight”. It will be named “Friend Ship” after the first United aircraft.
Seats on the flight went on sale through united.com September 18 but will not include those on the upper deck, giving all passengers the opportunity to enjoy a space once used for spacious bars and lounges. However, customers in first and business class will go into a draw to occupy a select number of upper-deck seats.
United will begin the final journey at 9am San Francisco time with a gate celebration featuring speeches, a Boeing 747 gallery and remarks from United employees and executives.
The flight is due to depart at 11am and arrive in Honolulu 2.45pm local time to more farewell celebrations.
The 747 OPENED UP AIR TRAVEL FOR MILLIONS
The 747 was the first widebody to sell 1500 units and was instrumental in making air travel more affordable for millions of travellers by allowing airlines to fly more people for less cost.
But giving life to the plane that changed the world was a challenge that brought Boeing, the world’s biggest aerospace company, the then-biggest engine maker Pratt and Whitney and the legendary Pan American World Airways to their knees.
Boeing was immersed in an attempt to build an ill-fated supersonic transport, dubbed the Boeing 2707, and the 747 was considered an interim solution that might carry passengers for five to 10 years until supersonic transports took over.
It was the combined dream of Pan Am founder Bill Trippe and Boeing chief Bill Allen that brought the plane to fruition.
Boeing announced plans to build a 490-seat plane in April, 1966, at a new plant in Everett, Washington.
The first Boeing 747-100, City of Everett, rolled out of the plant on September 30, 1968, and made its first flight the following February.
Pan Am operated the first commercial flight from New York to London on January 21, 1970, and Continental Airlines put it on domestic routes in June that year.
United received its first 747-100 on June 26 and made the first San Francisco-Honolulu commercial flight on July 23.
In 1985, United announced plans to acquire Pan Am’s Pacific routes as well as 11 Boeing 747SP planes. The 747SPs, regarded as sports cars of the range, were shorter and could fly higher, faster, and farther than standard 747 models.
In January, 1988 Friendship One, a Boeing 747SP owned by United Airlines, set the around-the-world air speed record of 36 hours, 54 minutes, and 15 seconds in a children’s charity flight. Passengers on the flight included astronaut Neil Armstrong, famed test pilots Bob Hoover and Lieutenant General Laurence C. Craigie, and Moya Lear, the widow of Lear Jet founder Bill Lear, as guests.
United received its first longer-range B747-400 in June, 1989.
The big jet has also been used by NASA as a carrier vehicle for the space shuttle and as a platform for an infrared telescope.
The first of two specially modified B747-200Bs was delivered in August, 1990, to take over the role of Air Force One from the Boeing 707.
Boeing has continued to produce a new, more fuel-efficient iteration of the 747, the 747-8, in both passenger and freighter versions.
But it last year hinted it may end production if it failed to receive more orders for the program.