Saying goodbye to any 747 is hard, but one that is unique, is harder.
Thanks to COVID, the majority of airlines have grounded their four-engine widebody planes. Most A380s, A340s, and 747-8s will see the skies again. But a return to flight isn’t as certain for many 747-400s, which were already long in the tooth.
The same KLM Boeing 747-200 now with a Stretched Upper Deck. Taken in August 2003.
The Dutch airline KLM was already working towards a 2021 retirement for its 747-400s, but thanks to COVID the fleet was retired a few weeks ago. And the AvGeek nostalgists that we are, we felt it was a departure worth commemorating. Especially because KLM operated the oddball passenger/freighter hybrid called the Combi, which included a cargo bay in the rear part of the main deck.
Read on for a quick farewell to the KLM Combi and the rest of its proud 747 fleet.
Update 4/18: It looks like KLM has brought back a small number of 747 Combi flights connecting Amsterdam and a few Asian industrial centers. Not sure how long that will last, but we’re happy the Combi has one final job to do with KLM.Â
United and Flexport covid collaboration
In just a few weeks, because of a lethal invisible enemy, all the worldâ€™s airlines and aircraft manufacturers have abruptly gone from the best of times to the worst of times. This devastating free fall is the worst in the history of the industry. The culprit, Covid-19, has not only nearly paralyzed the worldâ€™s economy but has bought the industry to its knees with a near shutdown situation. Indeed, airlines were the first to be afflicted so severely.
The words â€œgood newsâ€ and â€œaviationâ€ now donâ€™t ever appear in the same sentence or even story. But there is good news to report in this Aviation Airpocalypse. In the spirit of the AirlineReporter brand, weâ€™re going to focus on the positive and in many case life-saving efforts airlines and airframers, are making even as they fight for their own very survival.
The worst of times bring out the best in people. And in this dire time, airlines are no exception. Even with much of the country shut down, airline, airport employees, and many from the supporting industries are classified as essential employees in a necessary business, continuing to provide vital air services: Repatriation and humanitarian flights bringing people home to their own coupled with transporting essential cargo.
They do this while putting themselves at risk of becoming infected by the virus. Many consider them second responders, and due to their medical training some flight and cabin crew have become first responders. For that, we owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude. Itâ€™s no exaggeration to call them heroes too, even as they face an uncertain future.
Hereâ€™s a roundup of what these companies powered by the human beings who work for them are doing to give back in this global time of war.
And at the end of this story, I let you know how you can also help make a real change!
A beautiful Qantas Boeing 747-400 – Photo: Owen Zupp
This is a guest post written by Owen Zupp, who has previously written a few great stories on AirlineReporter. Zuppâ€™s background ranges from charter work and flight instruction to ferry flights, flight testing, and he has served as both a Chief Pilot and Chief Flying Instructor. With over 25 years in airline operations, Owen has flown both domestically and across the globe from his Australian base. He holds a Masters Degree in Aviation Management and his writings on aviation have been published around the world and received various accolades and awards. He is also just a cool guy! -Editor
When it comes to the QANTAS Boeing 747, as the Beatles famously sang, â€œI heard the news, today. Oh boy!â€ â€¦. although not officially. There may be life in the old girl yet.
The news broadcasts were showing footage of the â€œQueen of the Skiesâ€ making a flypast of Sydney Harbour, proclaiming that it was the final commercial service for the 747 in QANTAS colors. Meanwhile, my website and phone were bombarded with a common theme, â€œIs it true?â€ To be honest, I believe that it is highly likely, although I am yet to see an official announcement.
Since the commencement of the Stand Down, I have doubted whether the QANTAS 747 would return into commercial operations when the pandemic has passed. It has been a fine servant to the airways and all that it has safely conveyed, however, its planned retirement was well underway, before Covid-19 ever took its vile grip on the world. Still, there is no official statement to say that the 747 has retired from commercial service with QANTAS. Even so, it seems an opportune time to reflect on ‘the Queen”, as she is set to be on the ground for the time being.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: The COVID-19 pandemic has progressed significantly since this story was published at the beginning of March and recommendations for travel have changed. Please consult more recent guidance from government authorities in informing your plans.
COVID-19: It’s here, it’s spreading, and it has people very worried. Public health authorities everywhere are hard at work containing this newest coronavirus strain, but the global ripple effects are already huge. And as with previous infectious disease outbreaks air travel is getting a lot of scrutiny as a potential means of disease spread across borders.
Feeling stressed? Here’s two adorable teddy bears on a flying hospital on an MD-11 – Photo: Orbis International
There’s no certainty about how far the disease will spread and how the aviation world will respond. But since some of you may have trips on the books or plans in the works, I wanted to take a brief moment to share some thoughts and resources. We discuss the basics of the virus, the level of risk if you fly during the epidemic, how to reduce your risk, whether you need to change your flight plans, and how coronavirus is impacting the aviation industry.
Before we dive into things, two big caveats:
- I’m a physician in my day job, but I’m NOT a trained public health professional or an infectious disease specialist. You should be paying closest attention to the updates and recommendations of trustworthy sources like the CDC and WHO.
- This story is evolving fast, so no guarantees that everything in here is up to date at the time you read this.
Read on for a quick take on the state of flying in the era of COVID-19, and what the epidemic may mean for you.