Today marks the 45th anniversary of revenue service with the Boeing 747. Pan Am flight 2 departed the gate at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport the evening of 21 January 1970. Unfortunately, one of the engines on the aircraft (N733PA Clipper Young America) overheated while taxiing to the runway and the aircraft returned to the gate where 332 passengers, 20 crew, and cargo were transferred to N736PA Clipper Victor. With the replacement aircraft, the flight finally lifted off the runway at 1:52 am on 22 January 1970, over six hours late, for the six-hour and 16-minute flight to London Heathrow.
Today, Pan Am is long gone and the few remaining 747-100s no longer fly in scheduled service but four of the 17 flights from JFK to LHR still operate with 747s—all 747-400 models, three flown by British Airways and one by Virgin Atlantic. Virgin Atlantic also flies an Airbus A340-600 on the route; the remaining dozen flights are in various models of widebody twins.
At the time, the huge 747 offered the most glamorous service on the route. The 747 may remain the largest aircraft flying JFK-LHR (see Simon Calder's opinion) but the most glamorous scheduled service between the two cities arguably is with the smallest aircraft—British Airways flies the Airbus A318 twice daily from JFK to London City Airport. These dedicated aircraft are equipped with just 32 seats, less than one-tenth of the seats on Pan Am's 747s 45 years ago.
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Karl L. Swartz.
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