Farewell to the ‘Queen of the Skies’

A Pan Am 747: “Queen of the Skies.”

The Boeing 747, one of the most popular aircraft in commercial aviation, took off on its maiden flight on Feb. 9, 1969.

Pan Am flew the 747 first but the veteran international U.S. airline ceased operations in on Dec. 4th with a short flight from Barbados to Miami on a Boeing 727-200, not one of its legendary jumbo 747s.

United Airlines starting flying 747s in 1970 with a trip from San Francisco to Honolulu.  On Nov. 7 of this year, the 747 makes it last fight on United Airlines on a scheduled San Francisco to Honolulu run.  United says it will be a “retro trip” with a menu of a menu from the 70s and flight attendant uniforms from that era.

United says the theme “will help send the Queen of the Skies off in truth style.”

While 747s disappear from the passenger flight, cargo operators, including United Parcel Services (UPS) continue to use the plans to haul freight.

“The 747 freighter is still needed for the heavy lifting associated with air freight, which is booming now,” says Andrew McIntosh, aerospace for The Puget Sound Business reporter.

Much of the 747’s flights by U.S. American airline companies will transition to the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which drinks less fuel than the almost 50-year-old 747.

That 747 became a staple of my airline travel, starting in the 1960s with my first Pan Am flight on the “Queen of the skies” in 1972 and trips afterwards on United, TWA, Continental, American, British Air, Delta and other versions of the huge jet. There were other trips on the plane from other airlines over the year but my memory ain’t what it once was.

United Airlines in its “business colors.”

My last flight on a United 747 came in 2000 on a flight from Seoul to Los Angeles at the end of a long series of trips between the United States to the far East in the late 1990s.  On one of those trips, the starboard outer engine of a United 747 suffered a turbine failure during takeoff from Hong Kong but the captain was able to bring the plane ot a safe stop.  I waited more than 18 hours for a replacement 747 from San Francisco for the flight home.  Amy and I flew on United Airlines from Washington to Honolulu three times during our stay in the Nation’s Capital and on Pan Am twice before it folded in 1991.

Amy flew on a no-frills People Express 747 from New York to London to meet up with me for New Year’s there but she then had to non-stop from London to St. Louis on a TWA Jumbo to take care of her mother.

Early versions of the jet had a lounge and bar on the upper deck that created the extensive hump on the front.  The lounge went downstairs on later version, some times in coach as well as first class.  Pan Am featured sleeper seats on long-haul international flights.

Pan Am and TWA became the airlines most often used when I flew for government business for different posts I held over the years.  Sometimes, we used special Boeing 707s outfitted for use on “fact-finding missions” by Congress and staff and operated out of Andrews Air Force Base, also the home of Air Force One.

Amy and I flew on one of those special Air Force Boeings in 1985 as part of a Congressional “CoDel” that visited Ireland, London, Israel and Rome.

In 2004, I flew my last flight commercial airline flight on a 747 overnight “red-eye” from Seattle to Washington’s Dulles International Airport on the day after the Presidential election.  Less than a month later, Amy and I signed papers purchasing our new home in Floyd County and I put my “away bags” in the closet.  Trips now occur on two, three or four wheels on the ground.

The 747 flies into history on November 7 — thirteen years and four days after my last flight on the “Queen of the Skies.”

Farewell grand lady.  It was a pleasure to know and enjoy you.

Pan Am and the 747



© 2004-2022 Blue Ridge Muse

© 2021 Blue Ridge Muse