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Delta's Second Farewell To The Boeing 747


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

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