Last Boeing 747 ever made leaves Easter egg in its flight path

Originally published at: Last Boeing 747 ever made leaves Easter egg in its flight path | Boing Boing


A crown! Good choice!


An absolutely legend of an aircraft and one of the greatest technological leaps of the 1970s. I thoroughly recommend chief engineer Joe Sutter’s book about the crazy 18 months it took to build the 747 to see what Boeing used to be before the McDonnell Douglas cabal destroyed the engineering culture that made it so great.

If anyone wants to fly a 747, hurry up - they’re disappearing from passenger service really quickly. I was lucky enough to get an upper deck seat on a British Airways 400 from London to Johannesburg before BA sent them to the scrap yard; and yes, there are quieter and more confortable jets out there - but the Jumbo is special.


TIL they were still making the 747. I thought they had stopped long ago.


When I used to work for Rail Freight, one of my colleagues often left work for the evening or weekend with his thermos and anorak, to ride trains being pulled by a specific model of diesel locomotive. The lococs were being retired, and he wanted to be pulled by everyone. This included using his junior position in the company to call in favours, so he could ride ones that were not accessible to the general public. In Pokemon and Trainspotting; you’ve got to catch 'em all.


Pre pandemic I flew Amsterdam to Nairobi on a 747. A cultural first for me, but as you say, perhaps for me a Jumbo last.

Many nervous people because the 737 Max 8 crashes had only just happened. So the creaking and groaning from that ancient 747 was not reassuring. That said, the flight was entirely memorable. The under-nose camera view especially gave the shakes and rattles some context. It felt like you were really flying.


Because of my age and the fact that I’ve been fortunate enough to have traveled a fair amount since I was young, I’ve also had the good fortune to have flown on 747s several times.
The last time was CDG>ATL in 2014 and it had been a LONG time since I’d been on one up till then. My wife thought it weird to be so excited about our flight, but man… when that thing takes off, there’s nothing like it.
The last one I’ve seen relatively up close was at through a window at HNL while she was at the gate. I didn’t get a chance to see takeoff, unfortunately:


The only time I have seen upstairs (or downstairs!) in person was here:

That aluminum is thin.


Flying into Nairobi is always a bit unsettling - the screen is reading something like 1800m and you’re whizzing over the rooftops. I always have to remind myself that East Africa might be largely flat - but it’s really high!

During the 1950s and 60s this was the UK aviation industry’s last great hope - the ‘hot and high’ routes all the way to Johannesburg were not economic for early jets like the 707, so Vickers went and designed the spectacularly good looking and powerful VC-10 whose advanced wings could lift it out of even the highest airports. An incredible aircraft, but BOAC got cold feet and nearly cancelled the plane. They were eventually told to buy it by the government, but spend years bad-mouthing it to anyone who would listen, so it never sold in huge numbers - and that was the end of large British airliners.

But what a plane!


I know what you mean about being excited by a Jumbo. My very first flight (Gatwick to Minneapolis) was on a NorthWest 747 and walking up the glass to see that gigantic machine looming over me was astounding.

For a long time, BA used the 747-400 on the long haul from Vancouver to London. In their later years they were getting a bit shabby and creaky (like a lot of the British Airways fleet), but I always got a kick out of seeing one waiting for me.


I’m not a pilot, but I’ve heard the VC-10 was a … cerebral plane to fly. “Twitchy” is an adjective I seem to remember.

I do love the look of it.


I had the good fortune to travel in the upper deck of a 747. This was when DVT was becoming a known thing, and companies were concerned about getting sued into a smoking crater if staff got a stroke after a flight, so long-haul flights were business class. I lived in Sydney, and work brought me to California for weeks at a time.

And yep, being high above the tarmac during a 747 takeoff feels pretty damn royal.


( … so others don’t have to look it up )


BA used to use the 747 for the once a day flight between SAN and LHR and a friend of mine was on it every other month for work because her company was based in London. Now it’s an Airbus A350-1000. I used to ask her about it all the time and she’s like “OMG, you’re a dork”. LOL.
At our old house, we sat high up on the street and could see certain flight paths including BA 272. Seeing that 747 come floating in was cool. My wife also thought I was a dork for breaking out the binocs…


Same for me… but only on LAX-JFK routes. Before that, our aircraft design course did afford our class the opportunity to spend a few hours aboard a parked 747 at JFK and take notes and internal measurements. We were denied entry into the cockpit and upstaris but were given free rein elsewhere… something which gave me a feeling for the true vastness and design cleverness that would have eluded me if I had been a passenger. We discovered several carpet-covered square hatches in the passenger compartment, all with ladders that led to areas such as the kitchen (way too big to call it a galley) and cargo compartment. (Our discovery involved one in our class surprising us by lifting a hatch and popping her head out! Peek-a-boo!) The first-class section was a revelation, and more than a few complimentary slippers ended up elsewhere.


Sweet lines!


The main bad weather approach to the local airport takes planes over my house. During the lockdown months, such as they were in my part of US, I became a bit … focused … on planes, and the 747 cargo flights (Atlas and Cargolux) are ones I still perk up to when I hear them. Such a distinctive sound, and if the weather allows I can watch them make the big turn to line up for landing. Sometimes the departure path takes them over me too, and they are just the most beautiful planes. Only flown coach on a Lufthansa 747 back in the 1970s, never made it to the upper deck and unlikely to now.

So, OMG I’m a dork too.


Can we dork out together over big old planes?


Joining Welcome Home GIF


The 47 is so overbuilt compared to modern jets. So much extra metal and high margins everywhere. I work on the 777X and we’ll get old-timers from the 47 who look at the engineering and you can tell they’re just asking themselves if this thing’s okay. It is. We have such better tools now to predict loads and design to those loads so we’re able to trim weight where it’s not needed.

In the '80s a full FEM would take a week to run. Now you can solve a 100x as many elements in an afternoon.