Author Topic: Happy 50th to the Boeing 747, Queen of the Skies!  (Read 1277 times)

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Offline XB-70 Valkyrie

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Happy 50th to the Boeing 747, Queen of the Skies!
« on: February 09, 2019, 03:41:15 PM »
Ever since I was a little baby I always be dribblin' I wanted to be an airline pilot. (Later in life I became interested in science and eventually ended up as an evilutionary biologist/microbiologist.) Some of my fondest memories as a kid were going to the airport with my parents to meet incoming relatives. (Surprisingly, I was an only child and spoiled rotten, they always had a bunch of swag for me right off the plane.) This was back in the 70s and 80s when anyone--ticketed passenger or not--could enter the sterile area and look at the planes. We always got there early (HELL A X) and I would spend hours with my nose pressed up against the glass looking at all the planes. The bigger they were, the more fascinated I was. While other kids in school were interested in fighter jets, I was always more excited by the airliners, especially the 747! As a little kid, I thought the men (sorry, in those days it was always men) who flew these monsters were gods and I wanted to be one of them. In those days, there was still a glimmer of glamour left in commercial avaition, and at least some people dressed nicely for the occasion. Paint schemes were far more colorful and vivid than today and stewardesses were pretty. Airlines like Pacific Southwest (my first flight on a DC-9-30) and Southwest were really a blast to fly. Economy class was not too bad, there was no TSA, and there were 747s everwhere at the major airports.

Today the 747s are just about extinct for hauling human cargo--British Airways, JAL, and a few others fly them, but they are certainly on their way out. A similar fate is awaiting the far younger Airbus A380--also a four-engined monster. Cost drives everything of course, and it is just cheaper to fly twin-engined 777s, 787s, and A350s that carry nearly as many passengers instead. Nevertheless, one of my acquaintences flies the 747 for UPS and he said that despite the achievements made by the latest generation of twinjets, there is no other jet that can fly as far, as fast with a full load of passengers, cargo, and fuel as the 747! The twinjets always entail significantly more compromises--at least in a fully cargo application. Indeed UPS just ordered several more of the latest iteration, the 747-800.

While Concorde was far faster, more glamorous and beautiful, it was a commercial flop and had a negligible impact on jet travel overall. Fifty years after the 747 was introduced, we are still flying at the same speeds we were in the 60s, except that the 747 is still among the fastest. (My ATC friend always complains about the Airbus 340 and how slowly it climbs out and flies--He calls their once-a-day Lufthansa A340 'the daily pig'). The 747 has played a generally unappreciated role in democratizing air travel and some authors point out that it has also played a significant role in shaping the history and geopolitics of our modern world.

I have flown on British Airways, United, and Lufthansa examples over the years, and while the 767 and Airbus 340 are both more comfortable in cattle class, it was nevertheless always a thrill to ride in one. I will miss seeing them in their passenger guise, but will enjoy at least seeing them in their freight-hauler role.

Article with some very cool images here: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018-09-28/boeing-747-celebrates-50th-birthday-a-history-in-pictures


 



« Last Edit: February 09, 2019, 03:54:38 PM by XB-70 Valkyrie »
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Offline vandermolen

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Re: Happy 50th to the Boeing 747, Queen of the Skies!
« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2019, 07:28:54 PM »
I wanted to be a pilot as well when I was a child. I was also fascinated with civilian airliners and had a special radio which picked up the frequencies so that you could hear the pilots talking to Air Traffic Control. My father used to take me to Heathrow where I watched the planes take off and land from the open roof, viewing area. I could pick up the frequencies from home too as my parent's flat (apartment) in central London was on the flight path to Heathrow. I remember when the 747's were new and I saw the first one in the skies over Hyde Park I think - it looked enormous. At one time I could recognise all the airline companies from the tail fin design.

Sadly I never flew on one as most of the flights I was on were comparatively short-haul. The longest flights I've done is to India and the USSR. The USSR trip (1985) was on a Tupolev-34 which was quite an experience. As a child I was allowed to go into the flight deck of a BAC 1-11 during a flight - my best ever flight experience. It wouldn't be allowed now.

PS my dad was a navigator (Mosquito reconnaissance aircraft) in the RAF during World War Two. I still have his uniform with his navigator wings somewhere in the attic. I also loved making WW2 aircraft model kits and even the Saturn V rocket as a child. I still have a die cast Spitifire on the desk in the study. My daughter and I are in dispute about who owns the die-cast Thunderbirds 2 but that's another story.
« Last Edit: February 10, 2019, 12:47:48 AM by vandermolen »
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

Offline drogulus

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Re: Happy 50th to the Boeing 747, Queen of the Skies!
« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2019, 08:17:54 PM »
    I'm an airline brat (AA). My father started as a radio operator after the war, then the company sent him to computer school (early '60s) and he ended up installing equipment around the world for the new reservations system, SABRE, a commercial development out of the SAGE air defense system.

    We used to go to Willow Run airport to watch planes take off and land. My best plane sighting happened around this time, but not at the airport. A B-36 flew over my house! People in the neighborhood came out of their houses because of the noise.

    I don't remember the first plane I flew in. It must have been a DC-3.
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Ghost of Baron Scarpia

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Re: Happy 50th to the Boeing 747, Queen of the Skies!
« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2019, 09:23:21 PM »
I was also infatuated with airplanes when I was a kid. I had several books on aircraft and was particularly interested in the aircraft of the second world war.

I've done my share of air travel, but never flew in anything remotely interesting. Just a seemingly endless series of Boeing 737's. Never set foot in a 747. Longest flight would have been New York to Moscow, nonstop. I think it was a 757. Also a few puddle jumpers.

Aside from Museums, living in California gave by far the most exposure to interesting aircraft, at least from a distance. I lived in La Jolla, CA for a while and just before the annual air show at Miramar Naval Air Station the jets would do training. A day of jet fighter aircraft flying in formation at low altitude. Quite a lot of noise. It was also not unusual to see military aircraft flying training missions over the Pacific. And the historic aircraft groups seem to gravitate to California. I've seen buzzed by P47s, P51s, B17s, etc.
« Last Edit: February 09, 2019, 09:28:33 PM by Ghost of Baron Scarpia »

Offline Pat B

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Re: Happy 50th to the Boeing 747, Queen of the Skies!
« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2019, 09:28:44 AM »
I too remember everyone being allowed to walk up to the gate, and I too caught a glimmer of air-travel glamour. I especially remember the futuristic (which would now be retro) design of airports, curvy and brightly colored. My first flights were on Braniff. Probably 727s, though I didn’t know the model numbers at that time. Austin and Lubbock were not the places to learn about 747s and Concordes. I just liked all of their different colored airplanes.

Soon thereafter, Braniff was gone. It was the revenge of the plain plane. And to underscore that point, airports were redecorated in beige and beige.

I know there’s a dose of nostalgia there. I know that flying gets less interesting for everybody as we get older. But the industry has mostly abandoned even the pretense that we should do anything more than endure it.

A few years ago, my spouse and I had tickets to London on a BA 747. I was looking forward to it. But it snowed in London, and Heathrow, having reportedly cost-cut their snow gear away, mostly shut down for a week. Our flights were among many that were cancelled.

NikF4

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Re: Happy 50th to the Boeing 747, Queen of the Skies!
« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2019, 03:10:12 PM »
I don't anything about flight and as a young man was more into motorcycles, but I do remember -

Climbing on to the roof of the studio to see the Space Shuttle on the back of a bigger craft flying over Glasgow about 1981? 1982?

A Yakolev(?) courtesy of Izhavia Airlines and another old ex Soviet aircraft of Ruslines. The former was notable for having rear stairs and on one occasion a small and loudly barking dog being held a woman's arms during takeoff, while the latter seemed noisy as hell. But the stewardesses were cool and after I'd explain "Ya govoru po russki, no ne ochen horosho. Prosti menya, pozhalusta?" they'd usually spoil me and stuff during the flight. ;D And the bursting into applause on landing was amusing. :)

The smallest aircraft was one of those luxury private jets that my then girlfriend and I and a few of her colleagues rented after working in London. It was relatively cheap because the return flight was going to be empty anyway and by the time half a dozen of us paid our share it was on par with commercial flights. But a weird sensation flying in something that small.

Years before that I flew into New York for the first time (for work) and as soon as the skyline appeared I pressed 'Play' on my cassette Walkman and the already cued 'Rhapsody in Blue' began. A wonderful experience.

Maybe the only old aircraft I might recognise would be the DeHavilland Mosquito, because my grandfather was a mechanic who worked on them during WWII.

Offline Pat B

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Re: Happy 50th to the Boeing 747, Queen of the Skies!
« Reply #6 on: February 10, 2019, 06:14:53 PM »
Climbing on to the roof of the studio to see the Space Shuttle on the back of a bigger craft flying over Glasgow about 1981? 1982?

Apropos the thread, that bigger craft was a specially-modified 747.

Offline JBS

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Re: Happy 50th to the Boeing 747, Queen of the Skies!
« Reply #7 on: February 10, 2019, 06:36:47 PM »
I flew on a 747 on only one trip, I believe, in 1973, from NYC to Israel.
The last week of the trip was spent in Rome, so I probably did not  fly the 747-200 mentioned here
https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/security-aviation/farewell-747-queen-of-the-sky-1.5629868
But the eastbound trip was 13 hours non stop, and it certainly seemed to be the longest possible flight even if it wasn't

Quote
Beyond its size, the 747 wasn’t that much of a technological innovation over the 707. Only when the more capable 747-200 entered service in 1973, could El Al inaugurate for the first time full non-stop services to New York (the flight from New York to Tel Aviv, at the time longest scheduled passenger flight in the world, had been non-stop since the early 1960s, but the strong winds flying west, meant that until the 747-200’s arrival, flights the other way had to make a stopover for refuelling).

And if you want to know how many passengers the 747 could hold
Quote
The most memorable flight will always be the one in which an El Al 747 broke the world record for the largest number of passengers ever to fly on one plane. On May 24, 1991, 1,088 people flew from Addis Ababa to Tel Aviv, as part of the Operation Solomon airlift in which 14,400 Ethiopian Jews were evacuated from the war—torn country (actually, 1,087 boarded that flight, but a baby was born after take-off). It may have also been the fastest boarding of a jumbo in El Al’s history. It took only 40 minutes to load the plane and there was no need to call the names of stragglers still looking for last-minute bargains in the duty-free shops.

Offline JBS

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Re: Happy 50th to the Boeing 747, Queen of the Skies!
« Reply #8 on: February 10, 2019, 06:39:25 PM »
Apropos the thread, that bigger craft was a specially-modified 747.

From that Haaretz link

I have no idea why Haaretz thought that was actually relevant to El Al

Offline drogulus

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Re: Happy 50th to the Boeing 747, Queen of the Skies!
« Reply #9 on: February 10, 2019, 07:19:21 PM »
     


Maybe the only old aircraft I might recognise would be the DeHavilland Mosquito, because my grandfather was a mechanic who worked on them during WWII.

     The de Havilland Comet, the first jet airliner, was designed by the same team that designed the Mosquito. I never got a chance to fly on a Comet. We got 707s and DC-8s in the U.S. and I flew on a bunch of them.

     
« Last Edit: February 10, 2019, 07:21:18 PM by drogulus »
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NikF4

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Re: Happy 50th to the Boeing 747, Queen of the Skies!
« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2019, 03:03:57 AM »
Apropos the thread, that bigger craft was a specially-modified 747.


From that Haaretz link

I have no idea why Haaretz thought that was actually relevant to El Al

Yeah, that looks familiar. But it was so long ago.


     
     The de Havilland Comet, the first jet airliner, was designed by the same team that designed the Mosquito. I never got a chance to fly on a Comet. We got 707s and DC-8s in the U.S. and I flew on a bunch of them.

     

I knew the name but wasn't aware of the design lineage.
The way the engines appear buried inside the wings looks interesting.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Happy 50th to the Boeing 747, Queen of the Skies!
« Reply #11 on: February 11, 2019, 05:47:22 AM »
     
     The de Havilland Comet, the first jet airliner, was designed by the same team that designed the Mosquito. I never got a chance to fly on a Comet. We got 707s and DC-8s in the U.S. and I flew on a bunch of them.

     

I did fly on a Comet (fortunately after it was modified) and a Viscount, Vanguard, Caravelle etc. as I mentioned my best flight experience was being allowed into the cockpit of the BAC 1-11 during a flight.

NikF's Space Shuttle observation experience is really cool!

I did see Concorde fly over Buckingham Palace when it was new and was always very excited to see it in the skies over London.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

NikF4

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Re: Happy 50th to the Boeing 747, Queen of the Skies!
« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2019, 06:20:39 AM »
I did fly on a Comet (fortunately after it was modified) and a Viscount, Vanguard, Caravelle etc. as I mentioned my best flight experience was being allowed into the cockpit of the BAC 1-11 during a flight.

NikF's Space Shuttle observation experience is really cool!

I did see Concorde fly over Buckingham Palace when it was new and was always very excited to see it in the skies over London.

The types of names of some of the aircraft during that era are almost period pieces themselves.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Happy 50th to the Boeing 747, Queen of the Skies!
« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2019, 06:38:21 AM »
The types of names of some of the aircraft during that era are almost period pieces themselves.
Yes, that's true. The Tupolev 34 experience was interesting. As the plane took off the luggage, which seemed to be stored at the back of the aircraft came flying out on to the floor next to me (I was seated at the back). I remember that the Aeroflot stewardesses (in 1985) were notoriously aloof and unhelpful. I was surprised that the plane was so small and that a police car was next to it:

On the return journey it landed on an icy runway at Riga, Latvia to avoid having to refuel in the UK.
« Last Edit: February 11, 2019, 06:43:35 AM by vandermolen »
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

NikF4

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Re: Happy 50th to the Boeing 747, Queen of the Skies!
« Reply #14 on: February 11, 2019, 07:32:17 AM »
Yes, that's true. The Tupolev 34 experience was interesting. As the plane took off the luggage, which seemed to be stored at the back of the aircraft came flying out on to the floor next to me (I was seated at the back). I remember that the Aeroflot stewardesses (in 1985) were notoriously aloof and unhelpful. I was surprised that the plane was so small and that a police car was next to it:

On the return journey it landed on an icy runway at Riga, Latvia to avoid having to refuel in the UK.

That looks familiar. Different livery, of course. Icy runway - yeah, I think I remember being told about how some of those aircraft were designed with difficult landing/take off conditions in mind.

And I was never there during the period you speak of but can well imagine the attitudes of staff differing from even a decade later. That said, flying in and out of a former closed city and dealing with the militia on airport security was never straightforward. One of them on viewing my passport and the frequency of travelling asked why after so many visits I hadn't yet learned the language of his country. At one point he mumbled and referred to me as a sabaka. Of course, despite then having reasonable conversational Russian skills at my disposal I calmly repeated ya ne ponimayu. I think it just made him worse. ;D



I don't know exactly where you flew in to, but my experiences with Domodedovo were generally fine, whereas Sheremetyevo was a throwback to the Aeroflot days. And that reminds me of another smaller aircraft I'd often travel on the same day but quite the contrast to the Tupolev - a KLM owned Fokker. I remember flying from Schiphol to Manchester on one a few times and on other occasions to Scotland. Luxurious and quiet compared to the much older Tupolev.

An aside; the first time I flew to Egypt by charter we were scheduled to land at an air force base in the middle of the night, which meant well before approach all the cabin lights being turned off and a long period of eerie silence and stillness that extended until after well after landing.

Offline drogulus

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Re: Happy 50th to the Boeing 747, Queen of the Skies!
« Reply #15 on: February 11, 2019, 08:35:54 AM »

     Speaking of turboprops, I once flew on a Lockheed Electra from Dallas to Ft. Worth. The flight lasted 8 minutes.
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Offline vandermolen

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Re: Happy 50th to the Boeing 747, Queen of the Skies!
« Reply #16 on: February 11, 2019, 02:08:50 PM »
That looks familiar. Different livery, of course. Icy runway - yeah, I think I remember being told about how some of those aircraft were designed with difficult landing/take off conditions in mind.

And I was never there during the period you speak of but can well imagine the attitudes of staff differing from even a decade later. That said, flying in and out of a former closed city and dealing with the militia on airport security was never straightforward. One of them on viewing my passport and the frequency of travelling asked why after so many visits I hadn't yet learned the language of his country. At one point he mumbled and referred to me as a sabaka. Of course, despite then having reasonable conversational Russian skills at my disposal I calmly repeated ya ne ponimayu. I think it just made him worse. ;D



I don't know exactly where you flew in to, but my experiences with Domodedovo were generally fine, whereas Sheremetyevo was a throwback to the Aeroflot days. And that reminds me of another smaller aircraft I'd often travel on the same day but quite the contrast to the Tupolev - a KLM owned Fokker. I remember flying from Schiphol to Manchester on one a few times and on other occasions to Scotland. Luxurious and quiet compared to the much older Tupolev.

An aside; the first time I flew to Egypt by charter we were scheduled to land at an air force base in the middle of the night, which meant well before approach all the cabin lights being turned off and a long period of eerie silence and stillness that extended until after well after landing.

Can't recall where I flew into in 1985 probably into Leningrad as it was then called but I was back again in post-soviet years about twelve years ago in charge of a school trip of 35+ teenagers (never again).
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

NikF4

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Re: Happy 50th to the Boeing 747, Queen of the Skies!
« Reply #17 on: February 11, 2019, 02:13:17 PM »
Can't recall where I flew into in 1985 probably into Leningrad as it was then called but I was back again in post-soviet years about twelve years ago in charge of a school trip of 35+ teenagers (never again).

 :laugh:

Consolation is that I'm sure it will remain a fond memory for most of them and perhaps even a life highlight for some.  8) :)

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Happy 50th to the Boeing 747, Queen of the Skies!
« Reply #18 on: February 11, 2019, 02:41:46 PM »
:laugh:

Consolation is that I'm sure it will remain a fond memory for most of them and perhaps even a life highlight for some.  8) :)

Quite probably, although I thought that my colleague described the experience rather well from the teacher's point of view; on return to the school in the early hours of the morning she said that she felt like she'd been repeatedly hit over the head with a cricket bat. I nearly turned my car into a ditch on the way home.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

NikF4

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Re: Happy 50th to the Boeing 747, Queen of the Skies!
« Reply #19 on: February 11, 2019, 02:45:13 PM »
Quite probably, although I thought that my colleague described the experience rather well from the teacher's point of view; on return to the school in the early hours of the morning she said that she felt like she'd been repeatedly hit over the head with a cricket bat. I nearly turned my car into a ditch on the way home.

Well, maybe I underestimated the effect. ;D