The last United Boeing 747 sitting at SFO – registration N118UA
It is okay to get emotional over an airplane. That is what I kept telling myself anyhow as I experienced United’s final 747 flight recently. I was sad that this was going to be a huge milestone for the retirement of Boeing 747 passenger service. I was also happy and excited to be a part of this historic event. Turns out I was going to be able to experience a few firsts and quite a few lasts on my journey. This was to be my first time flying on a United 747 and this was also going to be my first time flying backwards.
Party at the gate
Pilot signing flight paperwork
Retro ticket holder, retro flight attendants
At one point I was asked something along the lines of, “There is one other U.S. airline (Delta) that is still flying the aircraft, not to mention British Airways and others. Why is this such a big deal?” At first, I almost felt insulted, but then I realized that from a non-AvGeek perspective, why make a big deal about this plane, with this airline?
First off, I think it is like visiting a really good friend or family member you don’t get to see very often and it is hard to say goodbye. You start out saying “well, I guess I better get going,” and three hours later you aren’t quite out the door yet and still sharing stories of good times before finally parting ways. This was the first goodbye stage between me and the 747.
Our seat on the ride of a lifetime – Photo: Manu Venkat | AirlineReporter
Groundbreaking. Iconic. Gigantic. Gorgeous. There’s a lot of words you could use to describe the 747-400, but as of 2017 there’s a new word that gets added to the list: disappearing. Most airlines are rushing to retire the aging beauty. A few airlines, like British Airways, plan to keep the Queen of the Skies around for a while longer. But in general, if you want to make sure you get one more flight on the aircraft that — for many of us — is the ultimate AvGeek icon, you should make it happen soon.
A ride on a 747 is special, no matter where you’re sitting. However, it’s extra awesome if you’re in the first few rows of the main deck, which give you a one-of-a-kind partially forward facing view. You can actually see the runway ahead of you as you take off and land! We made sure to include a ride on a United 747 in seat 1A as part of a recent around-the-world Star Alliance tour, and from an AvGeek perspective, it was the flight of a lifetime. We took plenty of photos and videos for your viewing pleasure — read on to re-live the magic with us.
A view that should be on every AvGeek’s bucket list – Photo: Manu Venkat | AirlineReporter
United’s first Boeing 777-300ER (reg N2331U) at Chicago
Last Monday, it was disorienting when my alarm went off at 3:30am. At the time, I was not sure why it was happening, but I knew that I was not a fan. That was until I snapped back into reality and remembered that I was getting up early to fly on a few airplanes. The mission of that day was to check out United’s new Polaris business class — and I was up for it! I was to start in Seattle, fly to Chicago to meet United’s first 777-300ER, then I would get to know the product flying to San Fransisco, before heading home. All in the same long day.
In the Polaris business class cabin on United’s first 777-300ER
I have read about United’s new Polaris product and seen the photos, but nothing beats putting it to the test at 40,000 feet. Was it worth getting up so early? Oh you better believe it — it was one stellar experience (okay, I will try to behave with the space puns, mostly).
This is N747NA, better known as SOFIA- the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter
You know, despite being a carbon-based life form and therefore largely composed of water molecules – that doesn’t mean I have to like water vapor.
It’s annoying. Think about it? You come in from outside into a warm room and your glasses fog up. Water vapor condenses and produces fog, which keeps me from flying. Sometimes, water vapor even contains annoying minerals resting in solution that can damage precision electronics. If you think I am annoyed by water vapor, talk to an astronomer! It’s worse for them.
Imagine being on the only habitable planet you know of, but having the atmosphere that keeps you alive act like a giant opaque blanket. Gross, right? That’s Earth!
With the sliding door over its 17-ton infrared telescope wide open, NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy – or SOFIA – soars over California’s snow-covered Southern Sierras on a test flight in 2010 – Photo: NASA
Now imagine that you want to look into the vast reaches of the cosmos, at wavelengths below what the human eye can see, which also happen to be even more affected by the water vapor that resides within the lower atmosphere. A recipe for despair.
The best way to get above the earth’s vapor-barrier would be to build a satellite. I think everyone agrees on that.
If, long after your natural life ends, the billions of dollars in funding you requested to build a satellite is approved – they might name it after you and your grad student’s grandchildren may be able to profit from the data. That doesn’t seem like the best idea for continuing research at a regular tempo does it? What do you do? Well, beyond actually funding scientific endeavors more, there is a second choice.