Delta's Second Farewell To The Boeing 747

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Delta is saying goodbye to the Boeing 747 later this year, but this farewell is Delta's second for the iconic aircraft having already disposed of the type once before in 1977.

According to Aviation Week Intelligence Network's Fleet Discovery, Delta ordered three 747-100s in 1967 then two more in 1968. First delivery took place in September 1970 with service beginning the following October on Delta's Los Angeles-Dallas-Atlanta route. The flight replaced two DC-8 flights westbound and one DC-8 flight eastbound (AW&ST November 2, 1970, p. 26). Configured with 370 seats, Delta said at time that the new 747 flights were averaging 100-150 passengers westbound and around 200 eastbound, suggesting low load factors.

By 1974, Delta had decided that the 747 was too big and put its five aircraft up for sale. Then-Senior VP Finance and Corporate Treasurer Robert Oppenlander at Delta said, "The fact that we're selling our 747s doesn't mean that we don't like them. Our customers and most anybody's like to ride the 747. It just so happens that it's too big for us for the type of operation we run." (AW&ST September 16, 1974, p. 28). After Delta sold their last 747 in 1977, the smaller Lockheed L-1011 became Delta's only widebody jet until Boeing 767s began arriving in 1982.

Fast forward to today and the shift in types looks very similar to the shift made back then. Delta's 376-seat 747-400 fleet, inherited from its merger with Northwest Airlines in 2009, is being disposed of with smaller 306-seat Airbus A350-900s being used as replacements. Compare this to Delta's withdraw of its 370-seat 747-100s to focus on 298-seat L-1011s 40 years ago.

Delta currently has seven 747-400s remaining in service and is scheduled to withdraw the last one before the end of 2017.

A Delta 747-100 is seen here in service in the 1970s. Photo credit: Denis Norman

 

Inherited from its merger with Northwest Airlines in 2009, a Delta 747-400 is seen here at Nagoya. Photo credit: Nigel Prevett

Discuss this Blog Entry 45

on Sep 26, 2017

They appear to know their market.

on Sep 26, 2017

"You must remember this
A kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh
The fundamental things apply
As time goes by..."

on Sep 27, 2017

Play it again Sam

on Sep 26, 2017

Delta was the only airline to operate 747s, L-1011s and DC-10s at the same time in the 1970s.

on Sep 26, 2017

Didn't Delta also levitate folks in that beautiful DC8 during the 70s?

on Sep 26, 2017

"Yes, and into the 1980's!" I flew on one into Reno that landed at least three times before the wheels stuck to the tarmac on a trip from DFW to visit the folks in California.

on Sep 27, 2017

UAL also operated 747's, DC-10's and L-1011's at the same time. We got the L-1011's from the purchase of Pan Am's Pacific flying.

on Sep 28, 2017

...as well as Pan Am in the early 80's...

on Sep 26, 2017

The 5 DC-10s were leased from UA pending delivery of the L-1011s

on Sep 26, 2017

Delta is symptomatic of the mistake that both manufacturers made in the wrestling match of point-to-point (PTP) vs hub and spoke in the early 00s. Boiling put its money on PTP but hedged its bets with the Dash 8 upgrade while Airbus bet on the 380 but after the rush to to PTP and the 787 was forced to modernize the 330 and build the 350. Strange how it has worked out driven by $50 oil which no one foresaw at any time AFAIK. It does illustrate how difficult it is to be right in aerospace. The time span is so long and the decisions so expensive that any number of factors in a variety of configurations render decisions by boards and management to appear idiotic (757 vs MTM) but the option of doing nothing is seldom available either. Getting it right is a 51% result it seems.

on Sep 26, 2017

Correct. 757 got a second lease on life when it was allowed expanded ETOPS operation, giving it a lot more viable routes, but this was some time after 757 production ended. I hope the extra time Boeing is taking to arrive at MTM is because of getting it right, but as you seem to suggest, if they delay too long the market might change on them again.

on Sep 26, 2017

I well remember the L-1011s on the KATL-KBOS route - every Friday evening for months! Very comfortable plane to relax in after a long week.

And just like many routes, the same group of "commuters" and cabin staff always seemed to be on that Friday evening flight, just like commuter rail.

on Sep 26, 2017

I was a passenger on that route for about a year. It seemed most every week we were delayed.

on Sep 26, 2017

Those kind of flights were great. Nobody needed to speak. The bar was well stocked and sometimes complimentary if the captain felt like it. And, everybody knew the way of doing things just to get home with minimum fuss after a long week!
I used to do KDFW to LHR almost weekly in First Class on American and the crews were really good till the US Air merger. Then, attitudes, service, comforts and just about everything else went down hill fast.
But I have mostly fond memories of those Friday night flights home in the 80''s and 90''s up until 9/11 made a mess of everything.
The L-1011 was indeed a sweet ride and the crews seem to like them too. I guess noise fatigue and smoothness must of helped.
The 747 was always very noisy to my way of thinking and when compared with the incredible 787 it really seems from another age now.....which of course, it was.
But almost anything is better than any version of the horrid 737 in all its manifestations. Cramped, noisy, and ugly!

on Sep 26, 2017

Yet another vestige of comfortable travel we have to say goodbye to. The 747 is without a doubt the most comfortable plane I've ever flown on.

on Sep 26, 2017

That big Delta triangle on the tail and forward fuselage are hard to miss and still look good unlike the current scheme which looks boring and missing some color and excitement for the eye to take in.

on Sep 26, 2017

I still periodically pause and watch the 747 freighter conversions depart DFW - which are also phasing out apparently: great looking aircraft and a piece of aviation history.

on Sep 27, 2017

You should pause and watch the 747-F's that fly out of DFW, not conversions. I love watching the CX 747-8 that is here most days.

on Sep 29, 2017

747 freighters aren't going anywhere. UPS just ordered 13 new -8Fs and companies like Kalitta, ABX, and Atlas are picking up -400s.

on Sep 26, 2017

My brother is a Delta 747 Captain...for a little while longer.

on Sep 26, 2017

The two airlines operating the 747 will go into 2018 without a 747 in their fleet. This leaves the 747 without a domestic carrier operating one. The Boeing 747 has been the queen of the Skies for over 50 years it is shame that an American Carrier will not be operating one.

It is understandable even comparing the dash 8 to the more efficient 2 engine aircraft it just makes sense to invest rather than a gas eater.IT is the difference between a Humvee and a Chevy Cruz.

The A380 on the other hand was and is a giant mistake on the part of Airbus. They wanted to build something bigger and better than the Boeing 747. It is definitely bigger but is it better? I can't say since they only have a handful of airlines flying them and only one real customer of note. The A380 also came to market at the wrong time when there was a depression in the market and Boeing introduced the 787. Airlines rethought the PTP approach and now fly direct to many cities that were on the hub and spoke system making the A380 obsolete before it actually hit the ramp.

on Sep 26, 2017

Wait for Boeing to blame the Delta 747 retirement on Bombardier's CSeries.

on Sep 26, 2017

Bombardier should have called it the BailoutSeries. Because it wouldn't exist without bailouts from the Canadian taxpayer.

on Sep 27, 2017

And you think that our tax dollars haven't overpaid Boeing for military procurement for decades?
What do you think the KC-46 is, other than a freebie to Boeing?
And satellite launches whose (Boeing) prices have mysteriously dropped by well over half since Space-X arrived on the scene?

on Sep 26, 2017

There will still be a 747 flying with the call sign "Air Force One" for many years into the future. One good thing is The President does not use it for short flights to New York etc.

on Sep 26, 2017

As with all things that age they at some point must pass on.

on Sep 26, 2017

Wasn't Delta the last major with an all-American fleet -- all-Boeing after retiring the L1011's -- until the commuter jets and buying Northwest? Alaska of course was all Boeing (not counting Horizon) until buying Virgin. I guess that leaves Southwest as the last man standing.

I still fondly recall the TWA and Delta L1011s, the peak of coach comfort -- without the cattle car feel of the 747, and before airlines discovered the 29" seat pitch.

on Sep 26, 2017

I couldn't agree more. We flew ATL-HNL round-trip on Delta's L-1011s, and JFK-LGW R/T on TWA's TriStars. They were equal to 747s in terms of comfort (except the one STL-HNL trip for which we were able to upgrade to First Class on TWA's 747s). After surviving the fiery crash of a TWA L-1011, a good friend wouldn't fly any other wide body until he was forced to by their retirement.

on Oct 8, 2017

Those were the days. I was your Captain.
I am still going. 32 years at Delta, 15 years on the L'1011, 24 years on my Falcons.
The Tristars were the best of the wide bodies to fly.
Lockheed knows aerodynamics.

on Sep 26, 2017

parking more 747s to the long line at Marana

on Sep 26, 2017

The 777-9 will have roughly the same capacity of the 747-100 with a fuel burn and "in the shop" time airlines couldn't have even dreamed of in 1970.

on Sep 26, 2017

I fondly recall Len Morgan's tribute to Braniff's single 747, dubbed "Big Orange," that flew (IIRC) daily round-trips between DFW and Hawaii for years. In an era when all of BN's fleet were painted in bright colors, many observers wondered "why all our 747s were orange," recalled Captain Morgan. That aircraft's reliability (and many other examples, I'm sure) was legendary.
I always booked my own travel out of the D.C. metroplex and enjoyed flying the 747s' stub flights from Europe out of IAD to ORD or DFW; they were usually half-full or less. Not to mention on coast x coast flights. I had an FAA cockpit pass in the '70s and riding jump in a 747 was memorable. Sigh.

on Sep 26, 2017

During the Vietnam War I flew from Bangkok-Hong Kong-Japan-Honolulu-San Francisco and back on a B-747. I was stationed at Korat RTAFB, and the airline sold me a roundtrip ticket for $450 in 1971. The airlines did this for military people and their spouses. The 747 was comfortable and from Bangkok to Hong Kong I was able to stretch out and sleep in the middle section. From Hong Kong to Japan I slept on three seats. From Japan to Honolulu and on to SF there were no open seats. I am still grateful to Pan Am for the low fare I got and to TWA for the low fare for my wife. The public probably doesn't know how these airlines helped us active duty military folks.

on Sep 26, 2017

How soon they forget.... Delta also operated DC-10's first under lease (as hedge against late L-1011 deliveries due to the RB-211 debacle) and later after acquiring National.

Cheers..DP

on Sep 26, 2017

Delta's second batch of DC-10s came from their merger with Western, not National.

Pan Am acquired National (a very misguided decision) and became another operator of DC-10s alongside 747s and L-1011s simultaneously.

on Sep 26, 2017

Had the good fortune to fly on a 747 from Bangkok to the old Hong Kong airport on another airline that was quite the experience, & also an ex-ex Flying Tigers 747 coming back from Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Also flew on a Delta L-1011 from Atlanta to Brussels & return from Temporary Duty over @ SHAPE back in '96.

on Sep 26, 2017

It appears British Airways will continue to operate its 747-400s for several more years at least.

on Sep 26, 2017

I am wondering about the 747 which is a HUGE bird. While converting them to cargo might keep them flying. HOWEVER how many cycle do these birds have left? Further, could they be used for a discount feeder carrier with say, 11 or 12 U.S. hubs to feed (Honolulu, Seattle, San Francisco, L.A., Denver, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Miami, Atlanta, Newark, Boston) and a others elsewhere on the planet.

The range and the current prices of the existing older 747's will make them in to the new DC-3 as it is durable, long range, huge load with plenty of pilots, crews and maintenance personnel.

In fact, as a crazy idea, converting existing 747s to both freight and passenger for out of the continental U.S. use would be something I would like to hear comments about. (Think 737-400 "combi" as an example."

on Sep 26, 2017

The 747-400 Combi exists. Asiana and KLM were two notable operators. The economics just aren't there any more.

on Sep 27, 2017

if I rember, delta was in a knock down drag out with the pilots with the first 74s. delta promised them hughe pay raises for the 74 capts. greed overcame sense and so did the demise of the first 74 fleet at dl how bout some remarks from some of our senior capts now who were very junior then in the 70s

on Sep 27, 2017

Greed? The initial pay for the 747 reflected Decision 83 from the 1930's. It was based on weight, speed, in other words... productivity. You can afford to pay more for one backhoe driver because he will out produce 10 laborers with shovels. The wide-bodies put many junior pilots on the street, but cruel as that was, it set the principle that we get paid for what we produce (at least in the private sector). The airline CEO's understand this and believe it justifies their own compensation, so it was not much a problem to extend the concept to their pilots.

on Sep 27, 2017

Bye bye Boeing 747, we will never forget how you have change air comfort and relationship between passengers, but what impress me the most is 1968, I remenber precily the Herald Tribune's headline (Europe edition) on his first flight with a large photo. But most of all, AIR FRANCE (Boeing's client since the 707 and still now) has celebrated his last 747 farewell in 2015 (or 2016 ?) in such a way that it looks like his first commercial flight !!! Thank you Boeing, thank you Delta !!

on Sep 27, 2017

Yah, but don't forget that Delta under took North West (then in 1970s, North West Orient), and had Pacific Routes with 100 and 200 before getting 400. Also, some Cargo ones.

Funny History was TWA order 747-SP x 3, and sold too to American and were used for Dallas to Tokyo. 3rd one I am not sure where it went.

Pan Am sold Pacific Routes to United, United swapped Pan Am's 747-SP with their B747-100. And then United needed longer ranged but not as far as SP, so took Quantas' B747-200s and was using them for European and West Coast to Asia.

Then JT9D-7R4G engine was made and United had 2 x B747-200 with extra fuel Tank behind the Forward Cargo Bay, and was using them for JFK-NRT only. I flew more times on those two crafts, and when one was in a long maintenance, used SP for JFK-NRT.

Those 2 special B747-200s were not in use during arrival at 4-5 pm from NRT at JFK, till next noon out of JFK to NRT, often the configuration was similar to the AirForce one, so they ferried the planes to Andrews AF Base, and AF pilots used it over night for take off and landing practice, and then came backi in the morning from D.C. to JFK.

For a while United had two flights to NYC to Tokyo, and SPs were used, but once B747-200 Special came in, EWR-NRT was replaced to SP, but later when B747-400 came in EWR-NRT was using 200 special, and JFK route was mainly 400s. Funny thing was once a week, they swapped the plane and one 400 went to EWR-NRT-JFK and 200 NRT-JFK-NRT-EWR. EWR flights were not full during the mid week flights, but United then had a Cargo contract so, they were carrying more cargo than passengers sometime. But when this contract ended, EWR-NRT was canned. What happen to those special JT9D-7R4G? They were sold to then North West and was converted to Cargo. I am sure they are gone by now.

Also, American, B747-SP used for Tokyo flight from Dallas, was no longer needed, as replaced by MD11 or B777 (not sure), they were using 2 for JFK-LHR, but one had serious operational error (I think at JFK), and put Revers too long and killed 4 engines and after that they were retired or sold?

One funny B747-SP was owned as a private jet, and Lufthansa Technick converted the cockpit to B747-400 type. I am not sure if they still around.

Funny thing was why United ordered B747-200 special with JT9D-7R4G, because Boeing was selling B747-300 with same engine and same long distance capability, configuration could be made the same to B747-400 later ordered a lot. But now they are being replaced by B777s, and now with Continental blood in them, they placed B777-300 orders sometime ago, until the merger United only had B777-200.

Trivia: United no longer allow the Fire Engine Water Arch on their operation. Why? About 15 or 20 years ago, one B777-200 at IAD had Water Arch as the Captain was reiring, but Dulles Airport Fire Dept. made a mistake, and forgot to use water and used the regular Fire Fighting Forms, and Engines sucked them and lost two engines, and also, some none metal parts exposed (plastic or rubber) they had to be replaced along two new engines.

So becareful when you retire the plane. Make sure that Water Arch by Fire Truck is using Water and not the Form!!

Japan Airlines did have same JT9D-7R4G 200s x 3 or so, but ANA elected GE, and 200(LR), and had the same performance. Lately almost all heavey jets with long haul are either GE or RR Trent. PW with geared engine, i.e. A320neo, have some much problem and I see many A320neo without enigine parked at the airport, while taxing out, and along aside B787 with RR Trent engine missing under repair.

Good old days of JT9D even had a problem with the first flight of Pan Am from JFK to Paris? had Hot Start, as wind was blowing from tail end of the engine.

There are so many sotry to tell.

on Sep 28, 2017

Big old jet aeroliner . . .

on Sep 29, 2017

Lets see if there is a market for more 747 retrofit freighters...

It is probable the low acquisition costs might convince worldwide airfreight companies (IE. FedEx , UPS etc.) that purchase and conversion could make them a lucrative investment.
Some of these outstanding birds could fly another twenty years and continue earning their keep.
No doubt FedEx makes a strong case for this concept with their converted DC-10's to MD-11 freighters.

Those remaining unfit 747's could be scavenged for parts
Or given their due for future future generations to marvel at them in the Smithsonian aviation museums.

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