The Great Boeing 747 Dropped From All US Airlines – It Had A Good Run
Boeing 747, the iconic “Jumbo Jet” is being decommissioned from US airlines, but is still very much in use by British Airways, KLM, and Lufthansa. Although its retreat is going to become global eventually, the first step towards fleet modernization has been done, and we can expect cheaper, shorter, more direct flights and smaller airplanes to take over, which is good news.
The last 747 flight by US-based airlines was Delta Airlines flight 9771 on Wednesday. It flew from Atlanta to Pinal Airpark in Arizona, and wasn’t even a full flight—just 48 people on board. But it was a milestone—and not just for the two people who got married mid-flight
Delta’s last scheduled passenger service with the jumbo was actually late in December, at which point it conducted a farewell tour and then some charter flights. But as of today, after 51 long years in service, if you want to ride a 747 you’ll need to be traveling abroad.
Back in the 1960s, when the white heat of technological progress was burning bright, it looked for a while as if supersonic air travel was going to be the next big thing. France and Britain were collaborating on a new kind of airliner that would fly at twice the speed of sound and shrink the globe. But there was just one thing they hadn’t counted on: Boeing and its gargantuan 747 jumbo jet.
The double-decker airliner wouldn’t break the sound barrier, but its vast size compared to anything else in the skies helped drop the cost of long-haul air travel, opening it up to the people in a way Concorde could never hope to do.
Now though, with modern materials, better engine designs and cheap fuel, it pays to have more smaller aircraft with shorter, more direct flights.
More than 1,500 747s have left Boeing’s factory in Everett, Washington. Most spent their careers in passenger airlines or carrying freight worldwide. Some were even outfitted fore more extreme tasks like fighting forest fires, carrying presidents, and even hauling space shuttles. The US Air Force uses a small fleet of E-4Bs as airborne doomsday control centers, and it even tried using one for ballistic missile defense, complete with a giant laser poking out its nose.
Although no US passenger carriers still operate the big bird, several hundred remain in service with other airlines, most notably British Airways and Lufthansa.