Delta’s Queen of the Skies (N674US) took a victory lap across the country on Dec. 18
With Delta Air Lines’ last 747 now in the boneyard at Pinal Airpark in Arizona, we thought it would be a good time to look back at the next-to-last farewell tour in late December when it visited both the Boeing plant of its birth and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
N674US taxiing at Paine Field in Everett – Photo: Jordan Arens
This particular bird (N674US – LN: 1232) first flew on September 30, 1999 and was delivered to Northwest in October of that year. It was transferred to Delta’s fleet in June of 2009 and flew with the airline until being put out to pasture. With the retirement of these iconic planes from Delta’s fleet, no U.S.-based passenger airline flies them any longer (unless you count Atlas and their charters).
My United Boeing 747-400 at SFO
Iâ€™ve always enjoyed reading stories of AvGeekâ€™s first flights. The particulars vary, but the basic arc is usually the same: three-year-old self spends the entire time glued to the window in a hushed awe as the cornfields of Iowa stroll by four miles below. And loâ€™: an AvGeek is born.
That wasnâ€™t me. I mean, I liked looking at the airplanes just fine. That was awesome from day one. But actually flying in them? That was another matter.
Two-year-old me hated every last waking moment of my first flight. And, according to my parents, I made sure everyone within earshot knew it. My blood-curdling screams, which Iâ€™m told lasted most of the flight between Boston Logan and Minneapolis via Detroit, were endearing enough to encourage many of my fellow fliers on board to pick up and find somewhereâ€”anywhereâ€”else to ride out the two-hour living hell (Editor’s note: Jeremy stillÂ reacts similarly today).
Iron Maiden’s custom Boeing 747-400 takes offÂ from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
Bands customizing big transport jets for tours is nothing new. For instance, Alice Cooper, the Allman Brothers Band, Deep Purple, Elton John, Olivia Newton-John, and Peter Frampton all made use ofÂ The Starship (a Boeing 720) back in the 1970s. Â Legendary metal band Iron Maiden has turned the volume up to 11 with their custom-liveried “Ed Force One” — named after their evil mascot, Eddie.
The longÂ list of cities on the tour is a cool addition to the livery.
What makes Iron Maiden’s tour planes even more unusual is that they’ve been piloted by lead singer Bruce Dickinson, who holds a transport pilot license.Â Iron Maiden’s last tour made use of a customized 757-200.
After the band’s April 11 show in Tacoma, WA, they made the short hop up to Paine Field in Everett, WA on April 12 for a VIP tour of their bird’s birthplace, the Boeing assembly plant, before leaving the same day for their next tour stop in Denver (Editor’s note: I got to see the beautiful #EdForceOne fly over my Denver office on departure!).Â Before they left Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, I was able to be there, on the ground, and get some up-close photos of the plane.
My EVA Air 747-400 in Seattle, after I landed
Typically, flying on the upper deck of a Boeing 747 is an exclusive affair. When the jumbo jet was first introduced, the upper section was a lounge for premium passengers. More recently, most airlines put premium seats up top.Â This means that mostÂ don’t have the ability to experience the upper deck.Â Unless you have the means, a job willing to pay, the miles to upgrade, or some extra luck, you’reÂ relegatedÂ to the main deck.
However, there have been a few airlines that have configured their 747s with economy on the upper deck. Today, Air France, Virgin Atlantic, and EVA Air are the only ones to offer theÂ option. With many airlines constantly upgrading their fleet, and the 747-400 thus being phased out, the ability to fly economy up top onÂ the “Queen of the Skies”Â will soon be a thing of the past.
The upper deck of my Boeing 747-400
I recently had a flight home from Taipei (TPE) to Seattle (SEA) on EVA Air, and the airline kindly put me in business class (pretty much standard procedure when flying on press-related trips). At first, it didn’t fully make sense to them when I asked if I could give up my business class seat in the nose of the 747 for an economy seat on the upper deck. But that is exactly what I worked hard for; I wasÂ never as excited to fly in economy.