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United Airlines Says Mahalo To The Boeing 747 With Final Passenger Flight

Flight 747 Looked and Felt Like The First United Flight From SFO to HNL 47 Years Ago

United 747 in the Friendship hybrid scheme. Photo: United

The appropriately named United Flight 747 pushed back from gate 86 at San Francisco International (KSFO) on Tuesday November 7th 2017 and departed about an hour late due to an air conditioning issue at 1200 local time. The 747-422 (N118UA- MSN 28811) made a pass over downtown San Francisco and the Golden Gate before heading southwest. When the flight landed at rain-soaked Daniel K. Inouye International airport (PHNL) in Honolulu almost six hours later and taxied to terminal M, the flight had re-enacted the first United Airlines 747 passenger flight some 47 years ago. The jet, delivered in 1999, sported a special retro “Friend Ship” hybrid livery first seen a month previously when United’s Family Day event at SFO featured the jet. Below is the final departure of a United Airlines 747 from SFO, posted on Twitter by United.

Boeing 747 flies into the sunset. Image courtesy United Airlines

United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz was on hand to greet the passengers. Throwback uniforms, period-specific on-board entertainment, and a special 1970s-inspired menu along with a disco-era feel all contributed to the flight’s atmosphere being similar to that first United Airlines 747 passenger flight to HNL on July 23rd 1970. That first SFO-HNL flight was made using a 747-100 aircraft. The “Mahalo” flight used a 747-400- a more advanced version of the same basic aircraft.

Today, Boeing 777 wide-body airliners as well as next-gen 787s, even Boeing 737-900s fly the SFO-HNL route for United. Ah the wonders of Extended Twin Engine Operations (ETOPS).

The first United Airlines 747. Image courtesy United Airlines

UAL flight 747 took nearly six hours to cover the 2,458 mile flight. The flight ended with Honolulu crew adding a giant lei over the “Queen of the Skies”.  Check out the beautiful photo of the 747’s arrival at HNL posted on Twitter by Jaspreet Singh.

United’s Flight 892 took more than ten hours to fly the 5,863 miles from Seoul in South Korea to SFO on October 29th 2017. That flight was the final United Airlines international 747 passenger flight. With the retirement of the 747 from passenger routes by United, the only American passenger carrier to continue flying the 747 is Delta Airlines. But Delta will stage a similar final 747 passenger flight in December of 2017, which will bring the era of US-based 747 passenger flights to a close.

First flown on February 9th 1969, the 747 entered service with Pan American Airlines as the aircraft’s launch customer on January 22nd 1970. United’s first 747 passenger flight took place on June 26th 1970. On April 22nd 1985 United acquired Pan Am’s Pacific routes and 11 747SP aircraft. Between January 29th and January 20th 1988, one of those 747SPs, dubbed “Friendship One”, set a new world circumnavigation speed record of 36 hours, 54 minutes, and 15 seconds. Another United 747SP was later converted into NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA).

Image courtesy United Airlines

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Bill Walton

Written by Bill Walton

Bill Walton is a life-long aviation enthusiast and expert in aircraft recognition. As a teenager Bill helped his engineer father build an award-winning T-18 homebuilt airplane in their Wisconsin basement. Bill is a freelance writer, an avid sailor, engineer, announcer, husband, father, uncle, mentor, coach, and Navy veteran. Bill lives north of Houston TX with his wife and son under the approach path to KDWH runway 17R, which means they get to look up at a lot of airplanes. A very good thing.

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