With the completion of United's last revenue flight of a Boeing 747 on Tuesday, and just one United 747 flight remaining (N121UA is still at San Francisco awaiting its final ferry flight to Victorville), many people have shared maps of their lifetime 747 flying. The 747 is far from gone of course. Lufthansa, Korean Air, and Air China all operate the new 747-8 Intercontinental and many 747s freighters are flying. There's even a 747 fire-fighting tanker. The 747-400 still flies passengers, too, with 36 still flying for British Airways and 18 for KLM, one daily trip on Delta for a few more weeks, and a few others still flying for other airlines. Still, for someone whose "home" airport is SFO, Tuesday marked the end of an era.
My 747 travels span 102 flights covering 251,944 miles (405,465 km, but a quarter-million miles is more lyrical). An even 100 were on United, starting with UA 103 from Chicago O'Hare to Los Angeles on 31 March 1988, in seat 2F aboard 747-122 N4714U Justin Dart. The upper deck of a 747 is a special place but even that pales compared to zone A, in the nose ahead of the first set of doors. That's First Class on most airlines and I scored that cabin on 28 of my flights; my favorite seat was 1A which I snared 11 times.
For many people, the 747 conjures images of long journeys to exotic places, dream travels that the 747 made accessible to the masses. Not for me. Having grown up near Chicago, moving to the San Francisco Bay Area meant many trips between the two cities and for many years United offered at least one trip per day on the Queen of the Skies. I sought them out, so 70 of my flights aboard the Queen were on that route. One more, my shortest flight on a 747, was supposed to be on that route: N181UA suffered a compressor stall on engine #2 just after rotation from SFO and we landed just 12 minutes later. After declaring an emergency we flew down the bay so we could fly a (relatively) normal approach to runway 28R; that flight shows up as zero distance in my logs but we probably flew about 40 miles (65 km). After a few hours, we resumed our journey to Chicago aboard N191UA, quickly turned after arriving from Europe.
Just seven of my 747 flights did not touch SFO, and five of those involved LAX. Another, from Singapore to Hong Kong, continued on to SFO and brought me safely home. My only 747 flight with no direct ties to California was from Miami to Washington Dulles, in my favorite seat 1A.
The 747 still took me on my first visits to three continents: Europe, Australia, and Asia. It also took me to new (to me) islands: England, Hawaii, New Zealand, and Japan.
I was fortunate to sit up front on most of my 747 flights:
By series, most of my flights were on the 747-100, followed closely by the 747-400:
|-||0.0%||747-8 Intercontinenal (so far!)|
I managed to to fly on 747s with all four major types of engines (United's 747-400s all had Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines while their older 747s had variants of the JT9D; my two Air New Zealand flights were on an aircraft with Rolls-Royce RB.211 engines, returning on one with General Electric CF6 engines), and on all 18 of United's 747-100s that were in service after 1986 (United's first five 747-100s were sold to Pan American in the 1970s). I missed flying on a few oddballs in the United fleet: N150UA, the sole ex-Braniff 747SP-27 acquired from Pan Am along with ten 747SP-21 aircraft built for Pan Am; the only two examples of the 747-222B, acquired by United to provide more seats than a 747SP could offer between JFK and Tokyo; and the two 747-451 models which were ordered by Northwest but cancelled after being built and then sold to United.
Memorable flights involving the 747 included a trip to Honolulu solely so I could return on N153UA in good old seat 1A on the last scheduled flight of a 747-100 for United and also my only flight on that ex-American 747-123 (three 747-100s soldiered on for several more weeks, substituting for aircraft with maintenance issues), and what ended up being United's next-to-last westbound flight of a 747SP, in seat 1J on N145UA which went on to become NASA's SOFIA observatory.
One other memorable 747 flight for me involved both another 747-123 and NASA although my daughter and I merely watched the flight from the ground after a short bicycle ride to Moffett Field: the last flight of Space Shuttle Endeavor aboard Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) N905NA.
Today's Featured Map shows my travels on the Boeing 747, 100 flights on United (red, including that SFO-SFO flight which is just a dot) and two on Air New Zealand (dark teal).
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Karl L. Swartz.
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