The 747 in Winter

November 8, 2017

ON TUESDAY, November 7, United Airlines operated its final Boeing 747 flight. Commemoratively designated as flight UA747, the plane left San Francisco at around noon local time and touched down in Honolulu about five hours later, closing out nearly fifty years of 747 flying for United. The company was one of only six current-day airlines to have operated the iconic jumbo jet since its inception.

Delta too is retiring its 747s, which it inherited several years ago through its merger with Northwest Airlines. This means the type is about to vanish completely from the fleets of North American passenger carriers. Once upon a time, United, American, Northwest, Braniff, TWA, Pan Am and Air Canada all flew the type simultaneously.

There are plenty of 747s still out there, scattered around Europe and Asia, but not nearly as many as there used to be, and the number is getting smaller. Lufthansa, British Airways, KLM and Korean Air are for now the biggest operators. Lufthansa flies 42 of them. British Airways has a fleet of 36, and says it will keep them flying at least through the next six years.

The 747’s replacement is not so much the double-decker Airbus A380, as many people assume. The A380 indeed has captured some of the ultra high-capacity market, but, with the exception of Emirates’ 100-plus fleet, it is found only in limited numbers. Rather, it’s Boeing’s own 777-300, which can carry almost as may people as a 747, at around two-thirds of the operating costs, that has rendered the four-engine model otherwise obsolete. Pretty much every 777-300 that you see out there — and there are hundreds of them — would have been a 747 in decades past. The -300 has quietly become the jumbo jet of the 21st century. United, American, and Air Canada are operators of the type, as are scores of carriers overseas.

In other cases, market fragmentation has resulted in carriers switching to smaller long-haul planes like the 777-200 and the Airbus A330. In past decades, traveling internationally meant flying on only a handful of airlines from a small number of gateway cities. Today, dozens of carriers offer nonstop options between cities of all sizes. More people are flying than ever before, but they’re doing so in smaller planes from a far greater number of airports.

The 747’s demise is painful for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which is that it’s such a great looking airplane.

In the mid-1960s, aerodynamicists at Boeing, led by the visionary engineer Joe Sutter, faced a momentous task. Their assignment: to build the largest commercial jetliner ever conceived — one that would feature twice the tonnage and capacity of any existing plane — and make it pretty. Where to begin?

Well, specifically, you begin in the front and in the back. “Most architects who design skyscrapers focus on two aesthetic problems,” explains the architecture critic Paul Goldberger in an issue of The New Yorker. “How to meet the ground and how to meet the sky—the top and the bottom, in other words.” Thinking of a jetliner as a horizontal skyscraper, we see that its beauty is gained or lost chiefly through the shaping of the nose and tail. The builders at Boeing understood Goldberger’s point exactly, and the airplane they came up with, the iconic 747, is an aesthetic equal of the grandest Manhattan skyscraper.

It’s perhaps telling that today, strictly from memory, with only the aid of a pencil and a lifetime of watching airplanes, I am able to sketch the fore and aft sections of the 747 with surprising ease and accuracy. This is not a testament to my drawing skills, believe me. Rather, it’s a natural demonstration of the elegant, almost organic flow of the jet’s profile.

The tail rises to greater than 60 feet. Though it’s essentially a six-story aluminum billboard, there’s something sexy in the fin’s cant, like the angled foresail of a schooner. Up front, it’s hard to look at a 747 without focusing on the plane’s most recognizable feature — its second-story penthouse deck. The 747 is often — and unfairly—described as “bubble-topped” or “humpbacked.” In truth, the upper-deck annex is smoothly integral to the fuselage, tapering forward to a stately and assertive prow. The plane looks less like an airliner than it does an ocean liner in the classic Queen Mary mold. There is something poetic and proud even in the name itself — the stylish tilt of the 7s and the lyrical, palindromic ring: seven-forty-seven.

The 747 was built for a market — high capacity, long haul — that technically didn’t exist yet. By the end of the 1960s, a growing population craved the opportunity to travel nonstop over great distances, but no plane was big enough, or had enough range, to make it affordable for the average person. Boeing’s four-engined 707 had ushered in the Jet Age several years earlier, but with room for about 180 passengers at most, its economies of scale were limited. The technological challenges and development costs of the 707 had been formidable, and planemakers were uneasy with the idea of building anything larger. It was up to Juan Trippe, the legendary leader of Pan Am, who’d been at the vanguard of the 707 project, to persuade Boeing that not only was an airplane with twice the 707’s capacity feasible, it was a revolution waiting to happen.

He was right, even if vindication didn’t come easy. Boeing took a chance and built Trippe his superjet, nearly bankrupting itself in the process. Early-on engine problems were a costly embarrassment, and sales were alarmingly slow at the outset. But on January 21, 1970, Pan Am’s Clipper Victor made the maiden voyage on the New York–London milk run, and the dynamics of global air travel were changed forever. For the first time, millions of flyers were able to cover tremendous distances at great speed — at affordable fares. Four-hundred passengers at a time — New York to Tokyo; Paris to Rio; Hong Kong to Sydney — moving at five-hundred miles per hour in a safe, spacious, incomparably elegant machine weighing close to a million pounds.

It’s not a stretch to consider the advent of the 747 as the most crucial turning point in the history of civil aviation, and over a nearly fifty-year production run it would go on to become one of the bestselling airliners of all time. Of all Boeing jets, only its little brother, the 737, would sell more copies.

747 at Kennedy Airport, 1997.   Author’s photo.

In the second grade, my two favorite toys were both 747s. The first was an inflatable replica, similar to those novelty balloons you buy at parades, with rubbery wings that drooped in such violation of the real thing that I’d tape them into proper position. To a seven-year-old it seemed enormous, like my own personal Macy’s float. The second toy was a plastic model about 12 inches long. Like the balloon, it was decked out in the livery of Pan Am. One side of the fuselage was made of clear polystyrene, through which the entire interior, row by row, could be viewed. I can still picture exactly the blue and red pastels of the tiny chairs.

Also visible, in perfect miniature near the toy plane’s nose, was a blue spiral staircase. Early 747s were outfitted with a set of spiral stairs connecting the main and upper decks — a touch that gave the entranceway a special look and feel. Stepping onto a 747 was like stepping into the lobby of a fancy hotel, or into the grand vestibule of a cruise ship. In 1982, on my inaugural trip on a 747, I beamed at my first real-life glimpse of that winding column. Those stairs are in my blood — a genetic helix twisting upward to a kind of pilot Nirvana. (Alas, later-variant 747s adopted a traditional, ladder-style staircase.)

In the 1990s, Boeing ran a magazine advertisement for the 747. It was a two-page, three-panel ad, with a nose-on silhouette of the plane against a dusky sunset. “Where/does this/take you?” asked Boeing across the centerfold. Below this dreamy triptych, the text went on:

“A stone monastery in the shadow of a Himalayan peak. A cluster of tents on the sweep of the Serengeti plains. The Boeing 747 was made for places like these. Distant places filled with adventure, romance, and discovery. The 747 is the symbol for air travelers in the hearts and minds of travelers. It is the airplane of far-off countries and cultures. Where will it take you?”

Perfect. I so related to this syrupy bit of PR that I clipped it from the magazine and kept it in a folder, where it resides to this day. Whenever it seemed my career was going nowhere (which was all the time), I’d pull out the ad and look at it.

Its grace, its capabilities, and its place in history give the 747 an unmatched mystique that transcends aviation. Its legacy belongs to the bigger, more important context of human imagination and achievement. The nature and travel writer Barry Lopez once authored an essay in which, from inside the hull of an empty 747 freighter, he compares the aircraft to the quintessential symbol of another era—the Gothic cathedral of twelfth-century Europe. “Standing on the main deck,” Lopez writes, “where ‘nave’ meets ‘transept,’ and looking up toward the pilots’ ‘chancel.’ … The machine was magnificent, beautiful, complex as an insoluble murmur of quadratic equations.” No other airplane could arouse a comparison like that. Technologically, aesthetically, whichever — the 747 is without a doubt one the most impressive and inspirational works of industrial art ever produced.

But now for some fun:

The picture at the top of this article shows the prototype Boeing 747 on the day of its rollout from the factory in Everett, Washington. It was September 30th, 1968. I love this photo because it so perfectly demonstrates both the size and the elegance of the 747. It’s hard for a photograph to properly capture both of those aspects of the famous jet, and this image does it better than any I’ve ever seen. When I was a kid, I had a copy of this picture on my bedroom wall.

Across the forward fuselage you can see the logos of the 747’s original customers. The one furthest forward, of course, is the blue and white globe of Pan Am. Pan Am and the 747 are all but synonymous, their respective histories (and tragedies) forever intertwined. But plenty of other carriers were part of the plane’s early story, as those decals attest. Twenty-seven airlines initially signed up for the jumbo jet when Boeing announced production.

My question is, can you name them? How many of those logos can you identify?

Here, and here, are a couple of closer-in, higher resolution shots to help you.

Once you’re ready, scroll down for the answers.

The 747 in those archival Boeing photos still exists, by the way, and you can visit it — touch it — at the Museum of Flight at Seattle’s Boeing Field.

 

Here are the 27 original customers. You may wish to reference this close-up photo as you go along, left to right…

Top row:

Delta Air Lines
Eastern Airlines
Air India
National Airlines
World Airways
United Airlines
American Airlines
Air France
BOAC
Lufthansa

Bottom row:

Sabena
Iberia
South African Airways
Air Canada
El Al
Braniff International
Scandinavian Airlines (SAS)
Swissair
Qantas
KLM
Aer Lingus
Alitalia
Northwest Airlines
Continental Airlines
Trans World Airlines (TWA)
Japan Airlines (JAL)
Pan American

Twenty-seven carriers got things rolling, though many more would follow, from Cathay Pacific to Air Gabon. I’m not sure of the meaning of the order of the decals. Pan Am was the launch customer, and its logo is located furthest forward — either first or last on the list, depending how you see it. The rest may or may not be chronologically arranged, I don’t know.

Whatever order they are in, there’s a tremendous amount of history in those logos. Let’s take a quick look at each of the 27 carriers, and their trademarks. Again, left to right, top row first:

1. Delta operated only a handful of the original 747-100, and not for very long, although later it would inherit more than 20 of the -400 variant through its merger with Northwest. The last of those jets is slated for retirement at the end of this month. The Delta “widget” symbol is today a two-tone red, but is otherwise identical to the mark you see in the photos.

2. A single 747-100 flew in Eastern colors only very briefly before it was sold to TWA. The airline’s blue and white oval, however, one of the most iconic airline trademarks of all time, endured a lot longer. This was the final incarnation of the carrier’s longtime falcon motif, and Eastern used it right to the end, until the company’s demise at the hands of Frank Lorenzo in 1991.

3. The Air India centaur, representative of Sagittarius, suggested movement and strength. It also resembled the farohar, a Parsi heavenly symbol featuring a winged man. The Parsis are a Zoroastrian sect of the Subcontinent — of which Air India’s founding family, the Tatas, were members — and their farohar is a sign of good luck. Sadly, Air India abandoned this culturally rich trademark some years ago. The airline operated four different 747 variants before switching to the 777-300.

4. National Airlines flew the 747 on routes between the Northeast and Florida. In 1980 the airline merged with Pan Am. Its “Sundrome” terminal at Kennedy Airport, where the JetBlue terminal sits today, was designed by I.M. Pei.

5. World Airways was a U.S. supplemental carrier that flew passenger and cargo charters worldwide for 66 years, until ceasing operations in 2014. It operated the 747-100, -200 and -400.

 

6. Until this week, United Airlines operated the 747 without interruption since 1970, having flown the -100, -200 and -400 variants, as well as the short-bodied SP version. The latter were inherited from Pan Am after purchase of that airline’s Pacific routes in 1986.

7. American Airlines sold the last of its 747s more than two decades ago, but over the years its fleet included the -100 and, for a short period, the SP. The emblem in the photos shows an early version of the famous AA eagle logo, later perfected by the Italian designer Massimo Vignelli and worn by the carrier until its disastrous livery overhaul in 2013.

8. The Air France seahorse logo still graces the caps of the airline’s pilots. Air France flew the 747-100, -200, and -400. Today, the 777-300 and A380 do the heavy lifting.

9. BOAC, the British Overseas Airways Corporation, merged with British European Airways in 1974 to form what today is known as British Airways. That black, delta-winged logo traces its origins to Imperial Airways in the 1920s. Known as the “Speedbird,” this is where British Airways’ air traffic control call-sign comes from.

10. Lufthansa’s crane logo, one of commercial aviation’s most familiar symbols, is mostly unchanged to this day. The airline’s 13 747-400s and 19 747-8s comprise what is, at the moment, the largest 747 fleet in the world. The -100 and -200 were in service previously, including a freighter version of the -200.

11. Sabena, the former Belgian national carrier, flew the 747-100, -200 and -300. The airline ceased operations in 2002 after 78 years of service. This logo is one of the hardest to identify in the Boeing photos. It’s blurry in most pictures, and the carrier didn’t use it for very long. People are much more familiar with Sabena’s circular blue “S” logo.

12. Spanish carrier Iberia flew 747s for three decades, but today it relies on the A330 and A340 for long-haul routes. Different versions of the globe logo were used until the late 1970s.

13. South African Airways is among the few airlines to have flown at least four different 747 variants: the -200 through -400, plus the SP. The springbok, an African antelope, remained its trademark until a post-Apartheid makeover in the 1990s.

14. Air Canada recently brought back the five-pointed maple leaf as part of a beautiful new livery. Alas, you won’t be seeing it on a 747. The last one left the fleet in 2004.

15. El Al is Hebrew for “to the skies,” and the Israeli airline still operates a handful of 747-400s mainly on flights between Tel Aviv and New York.

16. It was hard to miss one of Braniff’s 747s. The Dallas-based carrier, one of America’s biggest airlines until it was killed off by the effects of over-expansion and deregulation, painted them bright orange.

17. Each of Scandinavian’s 747s carried a “Viking” name on its nose — the Knut Viking, the Magnus Viking, the Ivar Viking among them — with a fuselage stripe that soared rakishly upward into the shape of a longboat. Just a beautiful plane, as you can see below. That striping is long gone, but the SAS trademark, one of the most enduring in aviation, is unchanged.

 

18. After being in business for 71 years, Swissair closed down forever in March, 2002. It had flown the 747 -200 and -300.

19. Qantas — that’s an acronym, by the way, for Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services — uses a modernized version of this kangaroo logo, and continues to operate a fleet of a dozen or so 747-400s.

20. KLM is the world’s oldest airline, and this logo, a masterpiece of simplicity, is still in use today, only barely altered. There are 17 747s in the KLM fleet. With United out of the picture, KLM joins Lufthansa, Qantas, El Al and BOAC/British Airways as the only members of the original 27 to have operated the jet continuously since 1970.

21. Aer Lingus 747s were a daily sight here in Boston throughout the 1970s and 1980s, before the airline downsized to the Airbus A330. A modernized shamrock logo remains on the tail.

22. Alitalia’s “Freccia Alata” bow and arrow is the emblem that readers had the most trouble with. This was the airline’s symbol until 1972, before changing to the stylized red and green “A” used to the present day. It looks even older than it is. One emailer described it wonderfully as, “something Gatsby would have on cufflinks.” Alitalia parted ways with the 747 in 2002, switching to the 777 and A330.

23. Northwest, which merged with Delta in 2008, was for a time the world’s largest 747 operator, with more than 40 in service. It was the launch customer of the 747-400 in 1989. The last of those planes, now wearing Delta colors, will be flown to the desert later this month, ending 47 years of 747 passenger service by U.S. carriers.

24. Continental Airlines flew the 747-100 and -200 on and off, but never had more than a handful. The “meatball” logo, as some people callously called it, was designed by Saul Bass and used from 1968 until 1991. Continental merged with United in 2010.

25. TWA, one of the world’s most storied carriers, was an early 747 customer and kept the type in service until 1998m — shortly after the flight 800 disaster. Though few people remember it, TWA also had a small fleet of three 747SPs at one point. The SP paint job included the markings “Boston Express,” and they were primarily used on routes from Boston to London and Paris.

26. Japan Airlines flew more 747s than anybody — at one point over 60 — including a high-density short-range version that held 563 passengers! (It was one of those “SR” planes that crashed near Mt. Fuji in 1985, in what remains the deadliest single-plane accident of all time.)  JAL’s crane logo, with the bird’s wings forming the shape of the Japanese rising sun, is the most elegant airline logo ever created. JAL retired the crane in 2002 as part of a monstrously ugly redesign, but wisely brought it back nine years later.

27. And then there’s Pan Am — the blue globe that was once as widely recognized as the logos of Coca-Cola or Apple. What can you say?

In closing, a little-known fact: Yours Truly was a passenger on the inaugural international passenger flight of the Boeing 747-400. It was a Northwest Airlines flight from JFK to Tokyo-Narita on June 1st, 1989. I have this commemorative sake cup to prove it…

Related Stories:

HIGH ART; HISTORY, HYPE, AND THE WORLD’S BIGGEST PLANES
WE GAAN. THE HORROR AND ABSURDITY OF HISTORY’S WORST AIR DISASTER
AVIATION’S GREATEST MOMENTS
REMEMBERING JOE SUTTER

Back to the Ask the Pilot Home Page Visit the Blog Archive Back to Top!

Leave a Comment to mitch

Maximum 1500 characters. Watch your spelling and grammar. Poorly written posts will be deleted!

90 Responses to “The 747 in Winter”
You are viewing newest comments first. Click to reverse order
  1. raj gopal says:

    A great eulogy for a wonderful craft. I used to enjoy the flights from Bahrain in the late 90’s . The best experience was flying Mumbai to Tokyo via Bangkok in the first seat on the main deck below the pilot’s cabin.Surreal imagining being in the front. The return was fantastic , the weather perfect , the landing pitch perfect at Delhi – not a thud , jerk or swing.The aircraft was full of japanese tourists who spontaneously burst out in applause. All thanks to a wonderful plane.

  2. Jennifer says:

    It’s hard to believe they’re all going to be in the desert before long. I have flown on only three. One was a BA SEA->LHR. I was in coach class, and when, upon exit, I tried to peer into the front section, which was, I believe, business class, I was utterly body blocked by a flight attendant. Not even allowed to look!

    My second and third were business class SEA->AMS and AMS->SEA on KLM. I was on the upper level both directions, which was glorious, even if the seating was the old school 180 degree recliner that goes flat but then tilts at a 10% or so angle. I set myself up Barcalounger style so I wasn’t sliding forward all night, but man, I don’t miss those crappy seats.

    I’m hoping to get on one of the Delta final flights, but we’ll see …

  3. Anil Pillai says:

    My first sight of this beautiful girl was on May 20th, 1996. The airport was Muscat in Sultanate of Oman. Airlines was the world’s oldest, KLM. I was to go from TVM to DTW via Oman. My friend (who’s no more) worked at the airport in Muscat, picked me up after I landed, and showed me the city.

    Nearly ending up missing the flight to DTW, and got dropped off at the bottom of the stairs. I remember running up the stairs, they closed the door right after me as they were waiting, and they were not very pleased.

    She was a beautiful sight though, all lit up in the night.

    Thanks again for the wonderful article, Patrick.

  4. Robert Henry says:

    Every time I tour the Everett factory I am amazed to see the tooling and jigs from 50 years ago still making 747s today. I am also amazed at the development model used to build the Everett factory: put all the engineers in the basement as the building is being built, and they can collaborate and easily get to the factory floor to resolve issues quickly and easily. A far cry from the 787 disaster. (I am not a Boeing employee..)

  5. Anonim Air says:

    What a shame that such an impresive airplane does not sells anymore (just a few ones of the 8 had been sold). The end of an era.

  6. Sparky says:

    Another great piece – so sad to see the 747 going. According to my flight tracker, 38% of my 3 million miles have been done on the 747. Fortunately I still fly BA and Qantas a lot, so will get to continue riding in them for awhile.

    Finally had the chance to tour the Boeing factory in Everett last month, a great thrill. The guide said they’re building only six 747-8s per year these days, mostly for freighters. Sad to see that upgraded model wasn’t too successful (and I wonder how Lufthansa justified it in terms of operating cost when no one else could).

    And lastly, years ago I read a long-forgotten book on the history of Boeing and the development of the 747. Apparently when the prototype was ready for its inaugural test flight in front of the assembled execs and dignitaries, the pilot took the plane back over Boeing field at low altitude and executed a barrel roll! How cool would it have been to see that!

  7. Matt says:

    Here’s a write up of the final United 747 flight to Honolulu.
    http://travelskills.com/2017/11/09/trip-report-united-final-747/

  8. Speed says:

    Delta plans Northwest hub tour for 747 farewell

    The Atlanta-based carrier will fly the 747-400 from Detroit to Seattle on 18 December, Seattle to Atlanta on 19 December and Atlanta to Minneapolis/St Paul on 20 December as part of a farewell tour, it says today [November 14, 2017]. Seats on the flights will be open to employees and members of its SkyMiles frequent flier programme.

    Delta’s last regularly scheduled 747 flight will operate from Seoul Incheon to Detroit on 17 December, arriving at the Michigan airport at 11:15 local time that day.

    Delta plans to operate the 747 on a “handful” of sports team and other charters through the end of December, before flying it to storage in the Arizona desert in early January 2018, it says.

    https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/delta-plans-northwest-hub-tour-for-747-farewell-443298/

  9. Kevin A says:

    Great article Patrick.
    It’s sad to learn that the home teams have all retired their 747s. What a great airplane. I’ve never had the chance to fly on one, so I’ll have to save up to buy a ticket to London or Frankfurt before they’re all gone.
    What will happen to all these retired aircraft? I bet if everyone on here threw in a few bucks we could buy one. Now, just where to park it….

  10. John Graham says:

    Patrick

    The South African Airways “Flying Springbok’ continues to fly as SAA’s call sign is “Springbok”.

  11. Martyn Henry says:

    I must be one of the few people never to have flown in a 747. As a long time customer of now-defunct Cyprus Airways, most of my flying has been with A320s. Back in the 80s I was invited into the cockpit of their ex-Pan Am 707. The captain told me they were training to convert to the Airbus but that it was not the same. The 707, he told me, was ‘a man’s airplane.’!

  12. Rod says:

    I agree with Jon Morris that Patrick has many virtues. His thoughtfulness and writing skill enable him to share a great deal with the rest of us.

    More bad news on the 747: British Airway is planning to retire it within seven years. Well, back in the 60s, aero-engines simply weren’t nearly as reliable as they are today, so you weren’t going to launch any twin-engine planes across oceans. They lacked the range in any case.
    Now four engines seems to be a liability. The BAe-146 is also being massively retired here in Europe.
    http://www.airlive.net/british-airways-reveals-retirement-plan-of-its-36-boeing-747-400s/

  13. Jon Morris says:

    Patrick, no one has ever been more deserving of becoming a pilot than you.

  14. Paul Schnebelen says:

    Good article, Patrick! When I was a kid in single digits in the mid-70’s, I think I’d taken all of one flight , but if you asked me to draw you an airplane then, inevitably it’d be in the rough shape of the 747.I’m gonna miss her.

    I’ve seen the prototype of the 747 at the Museum of Flight. She’s still beautiful – except for not having any engines on her. You’d think the Museum could find a set to put on the wings, or at least a reasonable facsimile…

    • Jennifer says:

      When did you see the 747 at the museum? I haven’t been over there in a while, but I helped with the restoration, and it did have engines on it. Now I’m curious – I’ll drive by and take a look.

  15. Walt says:

    Nice requiem, Patrick. My first recollection of the 747 was its inaugural (and as it proved, ignominious) flight to Sydney (Kingsford Smith), Australia … in Pan Am livery, this magnificent then state-of-the-art aircraft was marshalled to the gate, to disgorge its complement of VIPs, Officials, senior Boeing and Pan Am staff into the jetbridge. Unfortunately, the marshaller waved the aircraft a little too close to the terminal building. The forward doors were not able to connect with the jetbridge, there were no rear stairs of appropriate height, so there the aircraft sat – still with its VIPs and other bods on board. There was not enough room between the aircraft and the terminal building for a tug to maneuver to push the 747 backwards. It took 3 – 4 hours before Seattle was able to come up with a solution to tow the aircraft just a few metres backwards by attaching a tow rope to the nose gear. Embarrassment was the order of the day 🙂

  16. Reza Gorji says:

    Hi:

    This is a great tribute written for the 747. It was very enjoyable to read.

    Thank you.

  17. Dave Burhenn says:

    I saw my first 747s at ORD in May or June of 1970, Air France and United birds. My folks went to the Art Institute and left me watching airplanes for an entire day. Seeing the United 747 up close was like seeing a building that flew. Absolutely memorable, but I didn’t get to fly on one until an Air France 747-100 in 1984. I wonder if that was the same airplane I saw landing in Chicago 14 years before.

  18. Dave Burhenn says:

    Loved this piece. My wife and I flew on a TWA 747SP, Rome to Boston, coming home from our honeymoon. Logan in those days was not really equipped to handle multiple jumbos, which happened when we hit Beantown. To make matters worse, TWA scheduled the same movie, “The Natural,” on the Logan-LAX flight that it had shown on the Rome-Boston leg. But still, great to have flown on such a rare aircraft.

  19. robert says:

    Wow, what a write-up, congrats on your knowledge

  20. Kevin Brady says:

    Great update on the details of 747’s by airline-I would add that NAL also flew 747’s MIA-LHR. I always flew 747’s when I could, especially in the front or upstairs-nothing like it and the only plane where you can be seated forward of the pilots. I have been on 175 747 flights on 20 different airlines – One of my favorite trips was all 747’s and all in first class,by hook and crook, arranging business, airline relationships and cunning, I flew JAL 5, seat 2K Sep-06-2003 JFK-NRT, then UA 837, seat 1J on Sep-09 NRT-HKG, SQ 1, seat 3A on 9-11, then HKG-SIN, BA 15, seat 5K on Sep-12 SIN-SYD, then QF 107F Sep-17 in seat 1A SYD-LAX-JFK.That last flight was special. I was thrilled that I was able to take this trip of 24,097 O&D 747 miles, and became quite nostalgic and sad as we approached JFK.

  21. Fnarf says:

    I was at that rollout in 1968. My daddy worked for Boeing. If you think they look big now, imagine how it looked to a ten year old, looking up at that magnificent nose from the tarmac underneath. I actually remember thinking “I’ve seen planes before, from far away, but I don’t understand this thing at all. How can anything be so big?”

    • Rod says:

      Also, to someone used to gawking at Really Big planes like 707s and DC8s, the 747 produced the illusion of flying very Slowly through the sky. All a question of scale.

    • Art Knight says:

      Memories like that are priceless. I remember my dad coming back from a business trip to California in the 80’s. I asked him what he was working on. He took out a napkin and drew a triangle with serrations at the trailing edge. I asked “What is that?” He said “A bat.”

      It was the B-2 Stealth Bomber.

  22. Tod says:

    Didn’t Qantas actually wait until the 200 came for some reason?

  23. PAtrick Smith (not the author) says:

    I have only flown on a 747 once, in business class on CX and the flight was 800 miles long!!! Such is the volume of traffic between HKG and MNL

  24. Kelly says:

    When coming into or pulling out from the terminal and having to go round a747 I was always struck both by it’s enormity and it’s almost organic form. It just looked like the ideal form of mass air travel.

  25. Tom says:

    I always thought that the best looking 747s were the original -100 and -200 series models, with the shorter upper deck and no winglets.

  26. Speed says:

    United’s final 747 trip is scheduled to depart San Francisco for Honolulu at 11:00 AM local time. You can follow it at FlightAware …

    http://flightaware.com/live/flight/UAL747

  27. Speed says:

    Still a few years to go …

    Last BA 747-400 to leave fleet in early 2024
    British Airways is aiming to withdraw its last Boeing 747-400 in February 2024 under its latest strategic fleet plan.
    [ … ]
    Chief financial officer Steve Gunning, speaking during an IAG investor event on 3 November, said new-generation aircraft were 30% more efficient than the 747s.

    https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/last-ba-747-400-to-leave-fleet-in-early-2024-442859/

  28. Ken Smith says:

    One of my first flights was on a JAL 747 from SFO to Tokyo for the 13th World Boy Scout Jamboree in 1971, I hadn’t realized until now how recent the introduction into the JAL fleet it was. The aircraft was set up 100% economy seating, I wish I was still as flexible as I must have been then. The 747 is still my favorite aircraft, especially the upper deck.

  29. Thomas Reinagl says:

    Now that Air Berlin is grounded forever, there’s a high demand of air traffic between FRA and TXL. Lufthansa uses 747s in between their long hauls — possibly the shortest distance for the Jumbo (albeit I know a special variant was developed for inner-Japan commuter flights decades ago).

    My first flight with a BA 747 was from LHR to BOS, where I had a window seat in one of the last rows, and discovered you could easily stretch out in the narrow room between seats and the inner side of the fuselage — it allowed you to have a cigarette once in a while!

    I loved this plane. Boarding one would be the start of a most sentimental journey!

  30. Kevin Brady says:

    I’ve flown on 17 of the original airlines 747’s out of the 27 listed here, if British Airways counts as BOAC. And for what it’s worth, at least once in first class on all 17!

  31. James says:

    I do recall PeoplExpress had at least one 747 — which I flew. It was probably acquired by Continental.

  32. Frank L says:

    Rcvd in my AOL mail today 10/31/2017. Started my Aviation Career in 1961 with Pan American World Airways, went on to Alitalia Airlines, and lastly, Varig Brazilian Airlines. All flew the B747 and all gone, except Bella Alitalia. Yes, fuel, crew costs & noise footprint contribute to the demise of the B747, even the -8 model. WHY ??? Still feel it’s the safest, strongest most beautiful lines on a plane ever built! Feel like I’m in a Womb when flying on one. Very sad end to a beautiful creation. Thank you William Boeing!

  33. UncleStu says:

    My only ride in a 747 was from Rome to Germany, in October 1987.

    As far as I could tell, there were no other passengers on board, aside from my honey and me. Can you even imagine that?

    It was a rare treat to fly over the Alps, switching from one side of the plane to the other, to see as much as possible.

    It’s always sad when old aircraft leave the scene.

    The young whippersnappers don’t know what they missed. For too many of them, an aircraft is just a flying bus – no romance at all.
    (Hey you! Get off my lawn!)

  34. Mia says:

    So happy to see Sabena included (though I couldn’t make out their logo in the photos). My Mom worked for Sabena for several decades and it was through that job that we both traveled the world in the the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Their takeover by Swissair that ruined them, alas.

    I recognized the Alitalia logo because my Mom worked with them before Sabena, and she had a charm with that logo on her bracelet, as well as 1 or 2 Sabena charms.

    The one logo that hung me up was World Airways.

    And that SAS Viking – wow! I think that wins the award for most ferocious livery.

    I will miss the 747. As a nervous flyer (I know, how silly, coming from an airline family), it was always comforting to me to cross any large body of water (summer and Christmas trips home to Ireland every year), on a plane with 4 engines, in case anything goes wrong. I have so many happy memories on 747s. To get home to Ireland we often used to fly through London (hard to get on full Aer Lingus flights, and they were loathe to upgrade staff and would prefer to offload you, as I can attest to), and we often flew Pan Am. Those new jumbos were exotic and a little scary. How on earth would such a huge plane get off the ground? The 1st time I ever saw a kiwi fruit was on a Pan Am 747, and on another, when Jackie O was living in London, young Caroline and JonJon Kennedy flew on our plane. He came back to Economy (with Secret Service) to watch “The Andromeda Strain” because First Class was showing “Love Story”.

  35. Actually, Lufthansa is still operating the 747-400 on its direct route between Seattle and Frankfurt. As a Boeing engineering instructor, I have flown this route four times on my way to and from Chennai, India for work. The Frankfurt – Chennai leg is flown on an A340. The fact that the 747 is still, at mach .85, the fastest cruising commercial airliner really shows on these long flights where the A340 only does about mach .78. When I thanked the cabin crew for keeping the Queen of the Skies alive, the junior purser added in his fine German accent “the Queen Mother” to which I almost died laughing. BTW, I retire today from Boeing after 40 years.

    • Mia says:

      One of the Top 3 highlights of a cross-country driving trip I did in ’91 from NYC to Seattle and back though Canada, was to stop at the Boeing site in Everett and see the 747 in production. It was thrilling and SO impressive.

      I still have the thin, flat family of fridge magnets of the 747, 737 and two other Boeing aircraft.

      I hope you enjoy a well deserved retirement!

    • Misha K says:

      James Patrick,

      As of yesterday through the end of December Lufthansa is actually operating the 747-800 on the Seattle route. Despite being bigger, the premium heavy cabin configuration on LH’s 747-800 means it actually has fewer total seats than the -400 which lacks a first class. So I suppose with the better fuel burn it’s the better plane for the lower loads during the winter season.

  36. Dan Ullman says:

    I am always surprised by seeing the Eastern Logo on that 747. Airline advertising of the day meant if you had a 747 it appeared in a majority of your ads. I couldn’t remember seeing such an ad for Eastern.

    Know I know why. They purchased one and sold it soon after.

  37. Ian Farquhar says:

    QANTAS = Queensland And Northern Territory Air Service

    It’s an acronym, so please, QANTAS. Not Qantas.

    • Patrick says:

      Actually, it’s Qantas, not QANTAS. Go look at the Qantas website. There are various acronymic airline names that in usage appear as normal words. Qantas is one of them. So is Avianca. Sabena was one. Varig was another. It’s up to the carrier how it wants the name to appear.

      And just for the record, the letters stand for Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services, not “air service.”

  38. Alan Dahl says:

    In 1986 I got a chance to take my one and only flight in a 747-SP. It was an ex-Pan Am aircraft soon after the United takeover of their pacific routes. They hadn’t even had a chance to totally repaint the aircraft yet, the Pan Am logo on the tail had been covered up with a smaller than normal United tulip and the “Pan Am” on the sides had been obviously covered up with “United”. Everything else including the blue Pan Am stripe and the interior was still Pan Am.

  39. Thomas Daddato says:

    The Lufthansa logo isn’t a condor. It’s a crane, a bird called a ‘Kranich’ in German. Compare the logo with pictures of the birds on Wikipedia:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Condor
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crane_(bird)
    The logo goes back to the DLR (Deutsche_Luft-Reederei) an airline that started operating scheduled passenger services in 1919 (see
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deutsche_Luft-Reederei) and merged with another airline in 1926 to form Luft Hansa.

    • Patrick says:

      Oh shoot. And I knew that, too. Just wasn’t thinking.

      I’ve made the edit.

      • Simon says:

        It’s an simple enough mistake to make considering Lufthansa used to own a subsidiary called Condor (now part of the Thomas Cook Group).

        • Thomas Daddato says:

          And then of course there was the Condor Syndikat of the 1920s (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Condor_Syndikat) which spawned VARIG and Cruzeiro do Sul, the first airlines in Brazil.
          Lufthansa was involved with a lot of condors.
          In the US it is a common mistake, to think that the bird in the Lufthansa logo is a condor. Maybe that’s because of the former South American involvement.
          In Germany Lufthansa is often referred to as the “Kranich airline”, so people know what bird it is.

          • Simon says:

            It’s kind of funny because with JAL there’s another airline that prominently features a crane, the Tsurumaru.

            I like both logos and LH and JAL are also both great airlines IMHO. Although, these days I prefer ANA over JAL I have to admit. Regardless, compared to my home town carrier (UA) they’re all far superior.

  40. Mark Maslowski says:

    OK, how many of the 27 airlines have you flown (although not necessarily on in a 747)? My count is 16: Delta Air Lines, Eastern Airlines, Air India, National Airlines, United Airlines, American Airlines, Air France, BOAC, Lufthansa, Air Canada, Braniff International, Alitalia, Northwest Airlines, Continental Airlines, TWA, Pan American

    • Simon says:

      I only reached 15. Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, American Airlines, Air France, BOAC, Lufthansa, Air Canada
      Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), Swissair, KLM, Northwest Airlines, Continental Airlines, Trans World Airlines (TWA), Japan Airlines (JAL), Pan American

    • Patrick says:

      I count 19 of them. Nine of them on 747s.

      Related: did you see this story?

  41. Prasad K says:

    The Parsi are a greatly loved and admired community here in India. They are smart, industrious and rich, very broad minded and generous to a fault. Sadly, they are also disappearing – most of them are old, there is some amount of dogma in their religion that prohibits marrying outside the community and many inter-family marriages have caused infertility, fewer offspring, and hence its a community in decline. In fact, the Indian government last year – in a rare gesture – launched a campaign called “Jiyo Parsi” – encouraging them to reproduce more!

    The Parsi landed on Indian shores many centuries ago from Iran – where they were persecuted but were welcomed with open arms in India, and over time they thrived and prospered.

    Interestingly, the Jews landed in India many centuries ago in Kerala, and the city of Kochi of Kerala has many old jewish families and a vibrant Jewish quarter. One stroll on their street and its amazing to see how well they have preserved their tradition, architecture and way of life.

  42. mitch says:

    BTW, lots of airline fleet lists and aircraft production lists for many current and former airlines and manufacturers can be found on planespotters.net.

    Start drilling from
    https://www.planespotters.net/airlines/

    or from
    https://www.planespotters.net/production-list/index

  43. mitch says:

    Logo list – conclusion.

    NOTE: By a quirk of the software, Items 1 thru 13 ended up as a continuation of my reply to Rod]

    27. Pan Am and TWA were the first and second airlines to introduce the 747, but they were soon left behind by their international competition. They never had the ability to update their original fleets with more capable longer-range newer -200s and -300s. During the late 70’s and early 80’s, higher thrust engines became available not just from Pratt, but also from GE and Rolls-Royce. In the Classic 747 years before 1988’s 747-400, maximum gross weight increased from 710,000 to 833,000 lbs. Many airlines, including Air France, Alitalia, British, KLM, Iberia, Lufthansa, JAL, Qantas and Singapore replaced their original 747s by the more capable versions.

    Pan Am and TWA could not keep up. As for the -400 – it was far beyond their financial reach. Just one of the many reasons why both airlines could not survive.

  44. mitch says:

    [logo list – continued]
    14. Air Canada had -100s, -200s and -400s
    15. El Al never had very many 747s at any one time, but they have operated them continuously since 1971. That puts them right up there with their [very] big brothers KLM, British, and Lufthansa. Also Qantas. Over the decades, Boeing sold them four new 747-200s, two -200C’s, a -200F, plus four -400s. They now operate their four original -400s plus another -400 and -400 freighter ex-Singapore
    On May 24 1991, an El Al 747-200C outfitted with760 seats brought 1,122 Ethiopian Jews to Israel on one flight. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Solomon
    16. Braniff’s first and only 747-100, “The Great Pumpkin”: spent its early years flying between Dallas and Honolulu, starting in early 1971.
    17. SAS’s first 747 was named [what else?] “Huge Viking”, which may have been a bilingual pun.
    18. Swissair never had any -100s. In 1971, they bought two -200s from Boeing. In 1983, they became the first airline to fly the long upper deck 747-300, taking four in 1983 plus a fifth in 1987.
    19. Qantas is another original 747 user, since 1971. It operated -200s, -300s, SP’s. Their current fleet is all -400s. Six of those are the world’s only 910,000 lb takeoff weight Extended-Range -400 passenger airplanes. [All other -400s are limited to 875,000 lbs; all other -400ER’s are freighters]
    24. Continental’s original four-100s were traded back to Boeing in the mid 1970’s. All 747s since then were from other airlines.

  45. Planely Obsessed says:

    “once United retires its final 747 a few weeks from now, KLM will join Lufthansa and BOAC/British Airways as the only members of the original 27 to have operated the jet continuously since its inception.”

    Pretty sure Qantas has operated the 747 continuously too, and it’s one of the 27.

  46. Rod says:

    Patrick, is there any relatively simple (100-words-or-less) reason why British Airways, and to a lesser extent Lufthansa, see fit to continue flying the 747 on essentially the same routes on which other airlines now have dumped the 747 to fly largely twin-engine aircraft?

    • Thomas Daddato says:

      Very interesting question. Could ETOPS be part of the answer?
      But this also illustrates what a great airplane the 747 is. Still able to compete with new metal designed decades later.

    • MW says:

      Is there any relatively simple reason why twin jets are much cheaper to run than quad jets of the same size? While there are two engines instead of four, those two engines are pushing the technology much harder to have such high thrust, so probably cost at least twice as much. Furthermore, you need to be able to climb with the loss of a single engine at takeoff. This means a twin needs 200% of minimum climb thrust, where a quad needs only 133%.

      This running cost differential between quads and twins is why the 747 is in winter. 747 production has been cut way back, and the A380 program is similarly in trouble (except unlike the 747, I don’t think it has paid back its development costs.) The A340 died some time ago.

  47. mitch says:

    Despite its size, the 747 has always been the fastest subsonic jet airliner. For comparison, Patrick’s 767 cruises at around 80 to 82% of Mach 1.0, the speed of sound [M.80 to M.82].

    The original 747’s were designed to cruise at M.88 or.90. They had a max operating speed [Mmo] of M.92 and were certified to a max dive speed [Md] of M.97. As a former Boeing flight test engineer, in 1975 I witnessed and reduced the data from a 747SP that reached M.99 at around 33,000 ft during a dive to demonstrate safe dive recovery at M.97 at 27,000 ft, the altitude of maximum aerodynamic forces in the flight envelope. [for the techies, that was the intersection of the max dive V and max dive M curves]

    In service, the short upper deck 747’s best long-range cruise is M.84. An unintended area-rule aerodynamic consequence of the wing-body shape of the short-fuselage 747SP was M.86 cruise speed. This is true also for the wing-body shape of the extended upper deck 747-300 and -400 [not sure about the stretched 747-8I]

    Newer airplanes are slightly slower – the 777 for example cruises at M.85. Does anyone know the cruise Mach number for the Airbus A330, A350 and A380?

    • Rod says:

      Don’t know. But that hump is counter-intuitive — ’tis the Fairing Fairy makes it possible.
      Apparently the damndest planes have broken the sound barrier (the Handley-Page Victor for example) — some of them allegedly as early as WWII — and survived to tell the tale.

      • mitch says:

        Rod, the 747’s high cruise speed is largely due to the wing’s sweepback – 37.5 degrees, more than any other subsonic airliner. The extra oomph from the upper deck ending over the wing [SP, -300,-400 maybe -8I] is the consequence of the Whitcomb Area Rule, complicated cross-section shapes for transonic flow that, if done right, reduce high-speed drag. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Area_rule

      • mitch says:

        More info about many of the logo list airlines:
        1. Delta had five 747-100s but not for long; they were all traded back to Boeing. They became freighters for other airlines during the mid 1970’s
        2. Eastern never took delivery – their 747s were sold to TWA while in production. Eastern leased a few Pan Am 747s during 1971
        4. National had two 747-100s. They flew from Miami to JFK, Los Angeles, and London. Northwest bought both airplanes in 1970.
        5. World only bought three 747s directly from Boeing – all the others were from other sources. The three World airplanes were unique: they had a nose door [note the gap in the front cabin windows] plus the heavy freighter floor and wings. The cabin could be converted from all-passenger to all cargo. Boeing only made 13 747-200C.
        7. American bought sixteen 747-100s; all were gone by the mid 1970’s. One American 747-100 became “NASA 905” in 1974. It was heavily modified during 1976-1977 to carry the Space Shuttle. NASA used it until 2011 when the program ended.
        10. Lufthansa operated the -100, -200 and -400. They were the first to buy the 747-200 Freighter.
        11. Sabena only bought three 747s from Boeing: two -100s and a -300. In 1974, Boeing modified both their -100s with the first side cargo door so the aft cabin could be used for passengers or cargo. Their sole 747-300, delivered in September 1990, was the last 747 “Classic” passenger airplane.
        [to be continued]

    • Dan Ullman says:

      Check out this website:
      http://www.aviatorjoe.net/go/compare/747-400/A380-800/

      It is the sort of site that is good for this sort of question.

  48. Speed says:

    As the 747 is replaced in passenger service by newer more fuel-efficient aircraft, some will continue to fly as freighters and fire fighters. Engadget has a pretty good (for a non-aviation source) piece titled, “A 747 ‘Supertanker’ rains retardant on California’s wildfires.”

    https://www.engadget.com/2017/10/16/the-big-picture-747-supertanker-california-fires/

    Wine Country Fire …
    https://youtu.be/Fox_xomGgFg

    Cockpit Video …
    https://youtu.be/RzT_0n8ty-w

    • Rod says:

      I wonder if all that fire retardant will enhance the flavour of the wine. Possibly.
      When I see this video, I think Wonderful, but that thing has to be flown back to its base and pumped full again, while the Canadair 415 (you’ll notice the lake the 747 overflies) could just keep shuttling back and forth, dipping repeatedly for a new load of water.

      • Speed says:

        On the other hand, retardant is more effective than water. Many aerial drops create a line of retardant ahead of the fire that functions like the classic fire break.

        Here are some interesting numbers from a DC-10 tanker …

        An Air Tactical Group Supervisor (ATGS) has completed a detailed comparison of the use of a DC-10 Very Large Air Tanker (VLAT) and P2V Large Air Tankers to complete the same task of creating 4.6 miles of retardant line on the Colockum Tarps Fire, which is what Tanker 911, a DC-10, accomplished during 3.12 flight hours on July 30, 2013.

        The DC-10 made eleven drops from five-11,600 gallon loads of retardant. The writer figured it would take 41 drops from P2Vs to construct the same amount of retardant line. Two P2Vs could do it in two days, or four P2Vs could do it one day.
        [ … ]
        Other advantages pointed out were that the VLAT could accomplish the objective much more quickly with a wider and more consistent retardant line, and “the eleven individual drops with the VLAT significantly reduced the number of ‘pilot drop exposures’ as compared to the number of drops/passes that would have been required with heavy airtankers”.

        http://fireaviation.com/2013/08/17/vlat-vs-p2v-comparison-of-cost-and-effectiveness/

        I wonder how a re-purposed B-52 would work …

  49. Mike says:

    Ooops – I forgot to mention. Those of you with access to the BBC (or know how to work Google) should look for ‘Jumbo: The plane that changed the world’ originally made for BBC4 last year.

    There is an enormous amount of archival footage from the development programme as well as interviews with the late Joe Sutter who made the 747 possible.

  50. Mike says:

    If anyone is heading Seattle-wards, there’s really no excuse not to go and visit the Museum of Flight – it’s superb and their collection of planes is marvellous.

    And if you have time, go up to Everett to see the Boeing assembly plant – it will blow your mind just how big the facility is. And they are still turning out 747-800s – not many, but these big handsome monsters are still rolling off the production line; though it’s harder and harder to find a flight still using them.

    Which is a shame as even British Airway’s endless costcutting hasn’t made economy in a 747 entirely unbearable (their new 10-across in the cheap seats 777s are another matter). I hope that I will get a chance to go upstairs before the last of these beauties is retired in favour of something with all the charm and beauty of a dishwasher.

  51. Speed says:

    This is too cool for words. Go to the link below to see the Boeing 747 Matterport 3D Tour …

    https://my.matterport.com/show/?m=qdygxmxU3PA

    This is the aircraft pictured above, now parked under cover at The Museum of Flight at Boeing Field as Patrick wrote.

    If you travel to the tail of the aircraft you can see the experimental mid-air refueling station that never went into production.

  52. Andy Pasternak says:

    Horrific fires in Northern California. Cal Fire is now using a 747 to help fight them….
    http://www.sfgate.com/local/article/Watch-CalFire-s-747-Super-Tanker-attack-the-Wine-12264476.php

  53. Mark Maslowski says:

    Flew on a 747 for the first time in June 1970 – Pan Am from London to San Francisco. Sad to see both Pan Am and the 747 go.

  54. Art Knight says:

    My eyes aren’t that good to see the logos, otherwise, I’d be a pilot. What I’m wondering is, why is there dihedral in the horizontal stabilizer?

  55. Daniel Ullman says:

    The fun thing about the 747 was designed with the idea that the SST would be choice of the sort of folks who flew when it was first imaged.

  56. David Deibel says:

    My dad took me to Tucson International Airport in 1969 or 1970 to watch touch and go landings of the 747. I’m not sure why TIA was picked but I remember being really impressed by the size of the plane.

  57. Edward Furey says:

    You really see the fading of the 747 here in Queens, a few miles from JFK. Most of the heavies are twin engined 777s and 330s. Even when a four-engined plane flies over, most of the time it’s a 380.

  58. Matt D says:

    Damn. I got all except the very last one, furthest aft. I stared and squinted, but not triggering any recollection.

  59. DV Henkel-Wallace says:

    There are two I don’t know so I can’t enter 🙁 but what fascinates me is the airlines on that nose that once rode so high but no longer exist. I’ll just mention Pan Am since you mentioned it in the body but there are several other memories on that nose (as well as obsoleted logos).

    • Rod says:

      There were ultimately three or four I just couldn’t make out.
      I’ll be mighty impressed by anybody who can get them all simply looking at that photo.

  60. Chip C says:

    Patrick,

    That’s a great photo. It puts it in perspective, age-wise, that someone climbed way up on who-knows-what to get that elevated shot (pre-drone!) and didn’t even bother to load newfangled colour film. But let’s be glad they didn’t, the resolution and tone just wouldn’t have been half what the b&w photo has.

    Kinda thinking that the one with the flight attendants might have been a better choice for your bedroom wall, but yeah, they are kinda blocking the view of the landing gear.

    My *real* question is why the heck the plane left all those tire tracks behind it when they towed it out. Did they drag it with the brakes on? Was there a heat wave across the Pacific northwest? Or do new airplane tires have a coating of roofing tar on them?

    • Speed says:

      The 747 had/has four sets of main gear — two on the wings and two on the fuselage. The wing gear is slightly (slightly when compared to the length of the 747) forward of the body gear so on a tight turn there needs to be some sideways scrubbing of tires.

      The amount of scrubbing is minimized in normal operation by castoring main gear — it can turn left and right. It is my understanding that castoring can be turned on and off (locked-out) in normal operations. Maybe castoring was disabled while the plane was positioned for pictures.

      Designing and building the airplane wasn’t Boeing’s only job. They had to work with airports to make them compatible with this remarkably large airplane that carried hundreds of passengers and their baggage. In addition, larger capacity ground equipment (tugs, baggage handling, ground-start, air conditioning/heat, fuel delivery) had to be designed and manufactured. In some cases runways had to be widened and strengthened.