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Farewell to the Queen of the Skies

Chicago-based United Airlines has sent its last 747 out for a final curtain call.

The Boeing 747, known as the “Queen of the Skies,” a regal nickname it has had since entering service in 1969 has made its final flight with United Airlines. While many airlines have already retired this majestic airship, United Airlines rolled out the red carpet for its final flight, bejeweling its final 747 flight’s passengers with quite a throwback fanfare.

For many, the Boeing 747 represented luxury in the sky. Most airlines operating the 747 used its signature hump, the upper-level of the double-decker, as a private bar and lounge for its passengers. The bar was a place for passengers to relax, mingle and have a drink during their long flights. At the time of its start, the 747 was operating some of the longest routes in the world.

During its design phase, the new 747 airplane was advertised as being able to carry 490 passengers, well more than double the capacity of the 707. Pan Am, as the initial launch customer, was able to influence some of the design features for the aircraft, shaping the way the aircraft is today. The Boeing 747 has been a staple of American and international aviation ever since, trailblazing new paths in luxury travel.

The first prototype of the aircraft, named “The City of Everett” after the location of the production plant, rolled out in 1969. The aircraft was painted in Boeing factory paint featuring the logos of the initial airlines that placed orders for the 747, including United. Less than a year later, and less than 20 years after the first commercial jet aircraft flight, the 747 took to the skies for the first time, changing the aviation industry forever.

The aircraft soon became a status symbol for many airlines. For most, the aircraft became the flagship of their respective fleets. Airlines such as United Airlines, British Airways, Lufthansa, Northwest Airlines, Qantas, Continental Airlines, El Al, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Korean Air, Trans World Airlines, Air France, and Pan American World Airways all used the 747 as the main jewel in their crowns. It became an institution, recognized all over the world for its size, its beauty, and its grace. A head-turner for sure, the aircraft had established its dominance in the skies. Even those with no interest in aviation knew what a 747 was and could recognize it among other aircraft at any airport in the world. One of the world’s greatest engineering feats, most passengers knew they were on board a marvel.

“It’s a grand finale, no question,” United CEO Oscar Munoz said from the jet’s upper deck just before takeoff. “It’s a fitting send-off in the most dignified way for the ‘Queen of the Skies’.”

Farewell, Your Majesty.

Your Legacy will Always Fly High.

Delta’s final flight for the 747 is also on the horizon, and British Airways, still the world’s largest remaining operator of the jet, with 36 still in its fleets, has also confirmed that they will begin phasing it out, with half in service by 2021 and the rest gone by 2024.

In its final format, two late model Boeing 747-8’s will be purchased by the U.S. Air Force for replacements of two other older models which carry the President of the United States. These two new aircraft are expected to enter service in 2024 and remain so for at least an additional 25 years.


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