Fond Farewell

I see that British Airways is finally retiring their wonderful Boeing 747 airliners from service, which gives me yet one more reason not to fly with them.

Seriously:  if I ever had a choice between flying DFW-LHR-DFW on American or BA, I generally preferred to fly with BA even though my track record with the pocket-picking bastards has not always been a good one.  And the 747 was the only reason, because these ugly giants were designed back in the day when passenger comfort was the goal (as opposed to sardine-packing economic reasons, e.g. the 777), and Boeing aircraft could be relied on to act like airliners and not lawn darts (ahem  737MAX).

And call me a timorous wussy, but I’ve always preferred four engines over two when it comes to long-haul flights, because if I’m flying at 40,000 feet over an ocean, I like having the redundancy of lots of engines — no matter (or especially because) how much the engineers try to reassure me that two engines will be just the same, cross their hearts.  I know the odds;  and while one engine failure is bad with either a two- or four-engine aircraft, two engine failures will have a totally different outcome for a 777 versus  a 747.

Gah.  It’s probably a good thing that the Chinkvirus has fucked up international travel for a while.  It’ll give my irritation a chance to subside.


  1. Kim,
    The mighty 747 did have a good run. There’s no arguing with 50 years of excellent service.
    As for two-engine safety … I give you the tale of The Gimli Glider. While not brought down by mechanical failure, it was brought down by a failure of the systems of checks-and-balances.

    1. The Gimli Glider was brought down because of Air Canada hiring a ramp rat who couldn’t do basic arithmetic…. And running out of fuel in a 4-engine aircraft is just as bad as running out in a 2-engine, or one.

      And OK, Kim: Timorous Wussy it is. I’ve flown across the Atlantic a few times in single-engine aircraft, twice in recip powered.. The last time was just last year (Switzerland to California).

      1. To which I reply:

        MY chances of dying in a single-engined aircraft crash over the Atlantic: 0

        YOUR chances of dying in a single-engined aircraft crash over the Atlantic: >0

        1. A faint heart ….. or no guts, no glory.

          And it wouldn’t be a crash…it would be a ‘water landing’. Or so the airlines tell me.

          The only time I ever sweated it was ferrying an F4G to Germany…..we developed intermittent fuel transfer issues. A little pucker factor inducing. but that was with a 2 engine aircraft.

          1. Of all the instances of commercial passenger jet aircraft entering the water from flight only two were without fatalities. Everyone knows about Capt Sully and the Hudson River, but there was one other where the pilot missed the runway and landed in San Francisco Bay.

    2. Kim,
      I forgot to mention … the irony of the 747 is that it almost never got built. The design was proposed around the same time many nations’ SSTs were in development, so the 747 was originally conceived as a freighter. When it became apparent the SSTs were not to be the way of the future, 747 was converted for passenger use.

  2. Many years ago I flew back from Chicago to Boston on a 747 in first class, with the upstairs bar and lounge and being treated as a paying customer and not a number. That was wonderful and unlikely to be repeated these days.
    What is the giant four engine Airbus like I wonder? A380, think, does BA fly those?

    1. The A-380’s are being removed from service, and not mothballed: They are being scrapped. Apparently Airbus doesn’t want to have to support them.

      And they simply didn’t make any sense, economically. Far too big, required special airports and handling facilities, and took far too long to turn (get one load off, another on).

    2. I’ve flown on Air France A380s. BIG. Even by my standards, which are shaped by a decade working lighter-than-air (which gets truly enormous very quickly). Their Premium Economy class was an excellent cross between room and cost.

      Having said that, the A380 demands specialized gates…the ones at CDG and IAD are set up for two-gate boarding, loading each deck separately.

  3. I too will miss the superb 747. Only the L1011 was better, in my opinion, and there weren’t many of them about.
    However, time for BA to either refurbish them or put them out of their misery. The last time I flew across on a BA 747 a year or so ago, both aircraft were very tired indeed. Dirty, leaky, and perhaps the most worn out seats ever. Cabin staff tried their best, but not much was working properly.

    1. The L-1011 was my preferred Jumbo Jet…it was faster, and not quite as big.

      Too bad Lockheed made a very, very bad decision to only use the RB-211 engine from Rolls Royce, and when Rolls went on strike they were unable to get engines…the airframes piled up at Palmdale, CA with them swapping engines around from one airplane to another for flight testing: This cost Lockheed $$$$ and prevented them from delivering airplanes.

      The only downside to them was a weird, low-frequency rumble in the mid cabin…

      1. I got to fly a round trip from Dallas to Germany and back on an L-1011 a long time ago. I really enjoyed it. Handsome plane, with cleaner lines than the DC-10. Even got a free upgrade to business class, filet mignon for dinner instead of the chicken served in coach class, and very comfy seats.

      2. I had thought that the L1011 was the one where the compressor fan of the center engine dislodged and took out all the aircraft’s hydraulics, but that was a McDonnell Douglas DC10. Bad design. Only heroics in the cockpit saved as many as they did.

  4. Flying First Class from Singapore to Honolulu a Singapore Airlines 747 has ruined me on air travel .

    The lovely air hostess (they were all lovely, pulled straight off the Miss Singapore pageant), addressing me by Mr. Last Name, “what would like for dinner, sir?” What do you have? I asked. “Anything you like sir. We have an executive chef on board and he can make you anything you like.”

    I decided on a Kobe Beef filet with a Matsutake Mushroom Reduction and a Grilled Thai River Prawn with Chili-Garlic Sauce. Oh yeah, a bottle of champagne to choke it down. About an hour before we land in Honolulu, I go to the upper deck bar area and get a back/neck massage with hot stones, then a mint/lemon facial wash.

    It’s been all downhill since. I flew to Wales last year on BA and got a cold smashed sandwich, a warm beer and some dirty looks from the hooligans posing as stewardesses every time I got up to go stand in a long line for the filthy pisser.

    1. Blame the unions for the scraggy stewardesses. Back in the day of really expensive air travel every stew was just in it until she could nab a rich businessman, doctor, or lawyer or a pilot. In fact most of the airlines had rules about married stews and heaven forfend if she got pregnant. Then flying got relatively cheap and the pickings were slimmer and being a flight attendant became a career. Ergo unions, bumping, seniority and route selection blah, blah, blah.

    2. I have never been able to figure out whether the warm beer is Brit culture or the fact that all the refrigerators are made by Lucas.

  5. On my first transcontinental flight on a 747 in 1967 or 1968 there was a stand up bar and a grand piano in the tail.

    1. Very good … I wonder how many of today’s “yoots” would understand this reference.

  6. Even the cattle car sections of the 747 were superior to “first class” in most of today’s Greyhounds with wings.

    Flew 747 to Seoul for my remote tour and one home from Osan on the Freedom bird, basic seating paid for by Uncle Sugar.

    Of course my previous trips to and from the ROK were in the back of C-141’s with my feet propped up on cargo pallets, so my bar is not set very high 😉

    1. The only good seats on military transport (aside from the V-s) are up front…

  7. Back in my working years I had to do a lot of intercontinental travel, so I flew in a lot of 747s. It’s my favorite long haul aircraft.

    I had a gold card on an airline in all of the major alliances, and was senior enough to rate business class tickets from the company. The company let us keep our miles, and I peaked at well over a million miles, so Mrs and I made many trips to Asia in business or first class using miles. When they eventually ran out flying coach for a trans Pacific flight was a shock.

  8. ‘Bout ten years ago, Iris and I flew to Sydney, Australia, out of LAX on Quantas Airlines. Airbus A-380 in the cheap seats.

    It was still a phenomenal Magic Carpet of an airplane ride. Wide, comfy seats, ample legroom, great comfort. Cadillac on new asphalt grade of smooth, quiet flying. And Quantas was pouring from a bottomless bottle of whatever I wished, but I moderated that lest I stagger off of the plane on arrival.

    Best thing about the ‘380 though, is it’s higher cabin pressurization. A standard Boeing product will fly with a cabin pressure being roughly equal to about 7,000~8,000 ft. up in the mountains. Thin air, if you’re skiing or hunting mountain goat. The A-380 pumped up the pressure to be more approximate to a 5,000~6,000 ft. mountain equivalent.

    The benefit being, having more oxygen concentration throughout the flight and less physical dehydration up arrival. We got off the plane in Sydney, hardly feeling the effect of the 16 hour flight. Boeing’s 788 carbon-fiber airframe features the same great pressurization, too.

    Return flight was aboard a Quantas 747. It was also old, tired, creaky, tight, narrow seats, and a punishing 17.5 hour return to LAX.

    The most interesting flight though? ‘Bout 1981, the Pilot of a TACA Airlines DC-9a, invited me to ride in the Observer’s Jump Seat, soon as we got out of U.S. airspace, departing IAH Houston for San Jose, Costa Rica. Landed and took off from 3 Mexican airports, Guatemala, Managua, Nicaragua, San Salvador/El Salvador, British Honduras and then finally, San Jose.

    He called me up ’cause he’d seen the bags of Nikon gear I was lugging, and wanted to talk cameras. Which we did, but talked airplanes, too. And that old DC-9 was OLD, even then. The “Glass Cockpit” hadn’t yet made it’s way to old birds like this, and it was Steam Gauges, all the way. Hell, the radar had the old eyecup viewing cone over it, just to see the low-res monochrome 4″ diameter round screen.

    Post 9/11, that’s a flight that’ll never happen again.

    Sunk New Dawn
    Galveston, TX

  9. My first flight ever was in 1958 on a TWA Super Constellation from Chicago to Phoenix. For years I thought that was the absolute best there could be. Until the day I had the privilege of crossing the Pacific Ocean From Southeast Asia to San Francisco in 1972. The plane was fully staffed, but there were only three passengers on the first leg to Honolulu, and sixteen passengers going on to California. For a G.I. headed home on emergency leave, there was nothing the crew would not do to make my flight the best they could.

    My last flight was some ten years ago from Orlando to Phoenix, on Delta. If I could have found an appropriate weapon, I would have settled scores with each and every refugee returning to the desert from Rat World, then I would have gone after the moronic imbeciles who decided to see how many seats they could cram into an aluminum tube.

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