11:33 PM

Before they
are gone.

Will there be a day in my lifetime when the last 747 is pulled from passenger service? The venerable Boeing jumbo that defined wide-body air travel will surely be replaced by some future generation of mega-airliner, one so efficient it will pump much-needed profits into the major international carriers. It will not happen tomorrow, or next year, or even next decade...but it will happen. Someday, the only guys left flying the -47 will be freight haulers launching over the Burma Hump to deliver palletized cattle deep within the Chinese mainland.

I realized the other day that I have never flown on a 747. Not that I haven't wanted to, mind you, but it just has never happened. But my personal “history” with the -47 goes back to at least 1968, when at age 12 I took my first long airliner ride aboard a United Airlines 707, FAT to SEA.

When I returned from that trip, I wrote a long typed letter to the President of United Airlines, dropped the envelope into the U.S. Mail and forgot about it. But then as if my magic a couple of months later, I received a package from – guess who – the President of United Airlines! He must have been blown away that a 12-year-old snot from Fresno actually could type and spell correctly, and must have been impressed with the proper business letter format of my inquiry. Yes, even back in my 'tween years, I could still wow 'em with words.

Along with the President's personal letter thanking me for my compliments about his airline was a ream of what I considered “inside information” on the “new” 747 that United was putting into service. There were black and white photos of the factory, a media kit with booklets showing every possible specification and performance number, charts, diagrams, seating arrangements, and a full history of the 747 project. I still have it all somewhere, most likely “archived” under my stairs in a box.

The moment I laid eyes on this package, my hot love affair with the famous Boeing jumbo began. These days, when I'm in a CRJ as it taxis into the gate at SFO, I am still mesmerized by the sight of the 747...in my world there is no finer sight at any major airport. The -47 stands taller then the terminal, dwarfing any lowly flying machine that has the guts to park nearby. It is magnificence in airliner form, it is the King Of All Airliners, one that all others must bow to as they lumber by, never quite worthy enough to live in the shadow of a four seven.
But this summer or early fall, I might finally get the chance to – as they say – consummate the marriage. Julie and myself will be celebrating 20 wonderful years together with a trip to Tuscany and Vienna, Austria...a trip that at some point will require the use of a very large airliner to hop the pond. In planning the trip the other night, Julie quietly asked me that if I had my choice, would I prefer an airline that flies the 777, or a 747?

Silly girl. After 20 years, you'd think she'd know the answer to such an obvious question. I'll take JFK to Florence, Italy on a proud and mighty -47, thank you very much. I want to make that trip before the four-sevens are all gone because that will be a sad day indeed.

And the -47 we take over the Atlantic better have at least one spiral staircase, some sort of piano, and an enormous amount of takeoff thrust, because to me, this will be the ride I've been anticipating for 39 very long years.

UPDATE #1: 022607@1151A: If you are a fan of the Goonie like I am, you have to LOVE this anonymous comment about the above post:
When the last B747-400 is broken up and sent to the scrap yard the pieces will be carried in a DC-3.
Love it, love it, love it.

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