American Airlines’ Jumbo Years

American Airlines’ Jumbo Years

DALLAS – When Boeing launched the 747 program in 1966, many airlines ordered the new ‘Jumbo Jet’ as a status symbol to keep up with the competition. 

One such carrier was American Airlines (AA), which signed on the dotted line for 16 examples in 1966. The Dallas/Fort Worth-based carrier wanted to compete with United Airlines (UA) and TWA (TW), who had also ordered the 747 for their highly competitive transcontinental routes. 

A mock-up image of the Boeing 747 appeared in the airline’s 1966 Annual Report. Photo: American Airlines

The arrival of the ‘Astroliner’

Wanting to stay ahead of its rivals, AA leased a pair of Boeing 747s (N740PA and N743PA) from Pan Am (PA) while it awaited the arrival of its own airframes.

American’s inaugural Boeing 747 flight took off on March 2, 1970. Known as the ‘Americana Service’, the flight departed New York (JFK) bound for Los Angeles (LAX). San Francisco (SFO) was soon added to the Jumbo’s route network along with Chicago (ORD) and Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW).

AA first launched flights to London on May 17, 1982. The route from DFW to Gatwick (LGW) was operated five times weekly. N9670 is seen here pushing back at the London hub. Photo: Tim Rees (GFDL 1.2, or GFDL 1.2)

Dubbed the ‘Astroliner,’ AA’s first factory-fresh jets (N9661 and N9662) arrived in June and July 1970. A further eight airframes (N9663 to N9670) were delivered between June and December 1970. 

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Featured image: Boeing 747-123 (N9665) pictured at LAX in November 1970. The jet would go on to serve with rival United Airlines in 1987. Photo: Jon Proctor (GFDL 1.2 or GFDL 1.2 )

European Deputy Editor
Writer and aviation fanatic, Lee is a plant geek and part-time Flight Attendant for a UK-based airline. Based in Liverpool, United Kingdom.

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