The last United Boeing 747 sitting at SFO – registrationÂ 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
- Retro goodies
- 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.
EVA Air Boeing 747-400
There is littleÂ question that the Boeing 747 is the most beautiful aircraft ever built. Itâ€™s in a class of its own. Thereâ€™s a reason itâ€™s called the Queen of the Skies.
While some modifications (just a few) have been made since the first one took to the skies in 1969, its design is timeless. From the pointed nose that rises gracefully up to the cockpit windows and that distinctive hump.
For decades, it was the undisputed leader in wide-body aircraft. With more than 1,500 ordered, airlines that flew the 747 gained instant credibility and cachet. Bigger isnâ€™t always better, and while the Airbus A380 may be the biggest commercial airplane, it has nothing on the 747’s style and panache. The 747 is a glamorous runway model that turns heads wherever it goes – the way it struts confidently through airports around the globe. And nose onâ€”rotating off the runwayâ€”itâ€™s a thing of beauty.
Flight attendants welcome me onboard
All good things must end, and so it is that the 747 is in its twilight yearsâ€”eclipsed by the more efficient Boeing 777, bigger Airbus A380, and fuel-sipping Boeing 787/Airbus A350. With only 41 Boeing 747-8Is ordered, the writingâ€™s on the wall. And in the coming decade, we will see fewer and fewer Boeing 747s. But there are still some airports where you can see the Queen, and take one last flight. Such is the case with my home airport in Vancouver (YVR), where EVA, China Airlines, Lufthansa, British Airways, and Qantas still have passenger operations with the type. Albeit, the latter three operate the aircraft only seasonally. This past year, BA began using the Airbus A380 in summer months, but reverts to the 747 in the winter months. Lufthansa is now the only carrier operating daily 747 passenger service to Vancouver.
AirlineReporter recently experienced EVA Airâ€™s Boeing 747 service on the Vancouver-Taipei-Vancouver sector. The 747 once made up the bulk of EVAâ€™s long-haul fleet. It was the aircraft the Taiwanese airline used on its first flight to North America, when it inaugurated service to Los Angeles in December, 1992. Like many airlines, EVA has been replacing its 747s with Boeing 777s, which now do most of the airlineâ€™s long-haul flying. In fact, the airline now only has three passenger 747s left in its fleet, and Vancouver is one of the few destinations to whichÂ EVA uses the aircraft. EVA executives recently told me that 747 will no longer fly the Vancouver route by July 2017, and will be completely retired from the airlineâ€™s fleet by September of next year.
If you tallied up the number of flight reviews on this site, you will notice thatÂ the majority of them are for business and first class. It turns out that premium cabins are just more interesting than economy, with all the fancy lie-flat suites, and butler service in your private bedroom. More often than not, economy is, well….boring. But sometimes it can be pretty exciting — depending on what kind of plane you are flying.
That’s the position I found myself in recently when I flew back to the 1990s on board KLM’s Fokker 70 and Boeing 747-400 “combi.” Both aircraft types have become exceedingly rare, and I jumped at a chance to fly them between Hamburg, Germany and New York, via Amsterdam.
The right cuff-links for the occasion – Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren | JDLMultimedia.com
When I moved to the USA in May of 2012, I packed up my entire life, left everything and everyone behind in Australia, and began a new life in Seattle. Pretty soon I was meeting up with all kinds of people, especially AvGeeks but even I didn’t think that less than two and a halfÂ years later I would be getting married.
It wasn’t just any wedding though, it was probably the most unique AvGeek wedding. How so? Well, my wife and I were married inside the very first 747 – the City of Everett locate at the Museum of Flight.
That’s me and my new wife Heidi, posing for our first photos as a married couple inside RA001, Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren | JDLMultimedia.com
Yeah, you read that right, the first 747. Â Truth be told, I couldn’t believe at first that the Museum of Flight would let us use the first 747 (also known as RA001) like that. But we were extremely excited. Right now, you are probably thinking about my wife, “She let you do that?”. Well, the truth of the situation is that it was Heidi’s idea.
After trying to find intimate venues for a small wedding at low-to-zero cost, we just couldn’t find any. Parks in Seattle all require a permit to get married. These can cost anywhere from $200-400. Pass!
We spoke with our friends at the Future of FlightÂ in EverettÂ about perhaps getting married there; however, Heidi’s family are all based south of Seattle, so this would be a long way to go for them (unfortunately, my family was not able to make it over for the wedding).
I knew that the Museum of Flight had just finished refurbishing RA001 so I joked that we should just get married under it. My wife, being ever the smart one in our relationship, made a good point that it rains a lot in October – what would we do if it rained that day? Her idea was we get married inside. This excited her more than me, and I’m the AvGeek!