MIAMI – As United’s Queen of the Skies are prepared for its retirement, the company is ensuring the iconic Jumbo flies away into the sunset with much fanfare.
United’s 747-400s called San Francisco (SFO) home during their last year of service. Enthusiasts at SFO are in a unique position to see the carrier Jumbos’ off through the very end.
Fleet Week is an annual celebration of U.S. Navy’s historical presence in the San Francisco area that takes place during Columbus Day week; festivities open with Parade of Ships under the Golden Gate Bridge, followed by an airshow capped off with Navy’s Blue Angels precision flying team.
United is a sponsor of the Fleet Week Airshow and as a consequence performs flybys with an aircraft from its fleet.
This is a unique element of the San Francisco Airshow since very few air displays worldwide feature commercial aircraft performances.
This year, United put the Boeing 747 in the airshow display giving the Jumbo a proper sendoff prior to retirement.
Aircraft performing, N121UA (msn/ln 29167/1211), unveiled a retro 1970s “747 Friend Ship” title as an ode to United’s original 747-100 livery, first worn on aircraft N4703U (msn/ln 19753/52) delivered in June 1970.
“United Airshow 1” performed high and low-speed passes as well as a high-performance climb out (black exhaust in trail) low over San Francisco Bay, much to the delight of the airshow audience!
United holds its annual Family Day Open House coincident with Fleet Week weekend at its San Francisco Technical Operations maintenance center. The 12th annual Open House this year featured a special tribute to the Queen of Skies.
Expecting much interest, the airline wisely put two 747s on display for tours. An unusually long line of employees, families, retirees, and guests snaked through the maintenance center parking lot prior to the 11 am opening.
While there were other events to partake, when the gates opened, all rushed to line up at one of the two 747s open for tours. A separate line for the upper deck and the cockpit required at least a two-hour wait.
Inside, tired and battle worn, the Queen was showing her age. Nevertheless, with three weeks remaining in scheduled service, this was saying goodbye for most attendees. They sat in the cabin, took photos, and reminisced prior to exiting the aircraft one last time.
Aircraft N118UA (msn/ln 28811/1201) joins N121UA with “747 Friend Ship” retro titles. For United’s final 747 commercial flight on November 7th, the airline is planning a “throwback” flight, re-creating the July 23, 1970, first 747 flight from San Francisco to Honolulu.
Flight UA 747, which quickly sold out in just one hour, will feature the 1970s inspired menu and in-flight entertainment as well as flight attendants in period uniform.
United is also sending the 747 on tour to its hubs in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston Intercontinental, Washington Dulles, Newark, Chicago O’Hare, and Denver for two-weeks starting October 12th.
At each hub, lucky employees chosen by lottery get to fly on two-hour flights to nowhere on the 747.
During these final weeks of 747 service, three SFO destinations remain on the United Jumbo timetable: London Heathrow (LHR), Frankfurt (FRA), and Seoul (ICN).
United will operate its last scheduled international flight on October 29th from ICN to SFO on flight UA 892.