The first Boeing 747 at the Museum of Flight

The first Boeing 747 at the Museum of Flight

Many non-profit organizations have had challenges from COVID-19, and our local Seattle friends at the Museum of Flight have been one of them. However, they have put their creative thinking caps on and are offering up some pretty cool premium experiences, while still keeping visitors safe. From their website:

The Museum now offers new private, curated tours for groups of up to four combining exclusive access to aircraft cockpits and cabins, viewing of rare artifacts not on public display, entertaining and expert stewardship, plus some upcoming experiences will include catered food and drink.

These Premium Experiences are customized for the interests of the group, from the most casual fan to the ultimate aviation geek. All of them will adhere to the best COVID safeguards. And during Phase II and Phase III (Editor’s Note: these are specific criteria for Washington State) general attendance restrictions, the Museum’s spacious galleries will seem luxuriously intimate.

There are some great options, but my favorite has to be Cocktails with the Queen. You get VIP access to the first Boeing 747, including the upper deck lounge and flight deck. It is not a short in-and-out sort of experience, but one that will last you 2-3 hours and will build some life-long memories. But if that is not to your liking, there are other options…

Returning to Boeing Field after my first solo cross-country flight to Port Angeles, Wash. That's the Seattle skyline in the foreground, Bellevue in the middle-right, and the Cascade Mountains in the distance

Returning to Boeing Field after my first solo cross-country flight to Port Angeles, Wash. That’s the Seattle skyline in the foreground, Bellevue in the middle-right, and the Cascade Mountains in the distance

This is a continuation of my multi-part series on learning to fly. You can read the whole Fly With Francis series here.

So, it’s been a while since I’ve written an update, but that doesn’t mean I’ve not been making progress.

Since the last installment, I’ve done my three cross-country solo flights – they’re a requirement for the PPL, and consist of several solo flights away from one’s home airport. Cross-country meaning, you know, crossing the countryside and not a transcontinental flight in a small plane, which would take a couple days at best.

Requirements for the cross-country flights are that the each one has to include one leg of at least 50 nautical miles and a full-stop landing. For the long cross-county, the flight has to be a minimum of 150nm and include one leg of at least 50nm and full-stop landings at three airports, including returning to the point of origin.

For my flights, the first one was from Boeing Field (BFI) up to Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula. It was a spectacular day – completely free of turbulence, hardly any other air traffic, and clear as the proverbial bell.

The second one was the following week, from BFI to Chehalis, Washington, a bit south of Olympia. It was far more normal, with usual amounts of air traffic and slightly bumpy/windy conditions.

There used to be a lot of fanfare when airlines retired their flagship subfleets. But thanks to COVID craziness, carriers are sunsetting aircraft types left, right, and center. To celebrate these newly-retired planes, we’re compiling stories we’ve written on some of these recently-retired fleets, and it made sense to start with the queen herself: the Boeing 747-400.

Virgin Atlantic's "Cosmic Girl" (G-VWOW), a 747-400, pulling into a gate at SFO. Photo: John Nguyen | AirlineReporter

Photo: John Nguyen | AirlineReporter

It has been over 30 years since the first 747-400 took flight — an eternity in the fast-moving aviation world. The Queen of the Skies was still going strong with a few airlines coming into 2020. But there was no doubt that when airlines started retiring planes, the 747-400 would be first in line to go. Four-engine planes are less fuel efficient than dual-engine types like the Boeing 777 or Airbus A350. And most of the 747-400s flying are pretty old. A few airlines like Delta and United had already retired the type (checkout the links for our stories). But this year, a few others joined them thanks to COVID.

BOAC 747 retro livery - Photo: BA

A British Airways 747 in a retro livery – Photo: BA

Let’s send the recently retired 747 fleets of four major airlines — Qantas, BA, Virgin Atlantic, and KLM — off into the sunset in style. Read on for a recap of our favorite stories flying on those airlines’ 747s!

Laguardia International Airport (LGA) - Photo: Timothy Vogel | FlickrCC

LaGuardia International Airport (LGA) – Photo: Timothy Vogel | FlickrCC

Two things unite all of us on the AirlineReporter team: (1) we all LOVE flying, and (2) we all have other day jobs. I started writing for this website a few years ago as a medical student in California. And once I graduated I moved to New York City to start residency … just in time for COVID to hit. Yikes.

The reality in COVID-hit cities has been covered plenty in the news so I don’t need to describe it here. Except to confirm from firsthand experience that — despite hospitals’/doctors’/nurses’ best efforts — it was as horrific and chaotic as you heard. A lot of people got really sick. A lot of people died. And a lot of people who got better have complications that will affect them for the rest of their lives.

It’s hard for anyone to set a passion or hobby aside. Even with everything I’ve seen, I still miss flying like crazy. I’m guessing it’s the same way for many of you. And even during peak pandemic there may be rare reasons when you absolutely have to fly. If you do, please do so safely.

But for those of you who are able to pause plans for avoidable travel, know that you’re making a huge difference. Air travel can help pandemics leapfrog around the world. And despite airlines’ admirable efforts to keep things clean, the inside of a compact fuselage is an extremely high-risk space to catch a virus like COVID-19.

I live under the approach to runway 13 at LaGuardia and it’s sad to see fewer planes in the sky than I used to. But I also see far fewer COVID cases in the hospital than a few months ago. And while social distancing and masks are responsible for the lion’s share of that change, people reducing their avoidable air travel helped.

So here’s a quick but heartfelt thank you for doing what you can to keep yourselves, your loved ones, and your communities safe. As a nation we’ll need to help the aviation industry stay afloat during this tough time. But take it from me: right now, staying on the ground whenever you can — even as an AvGeek — is 100% the right call.