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British Airways retires 747 fleet

Because of the crash in customer demand due to the Wuhan virus panic, British Airways has abruptly retired its entire fleet of 747s.

This retirement had been planned, as the 747 is expensive to operate. The airline had planned however to phase them out over several years. Now they simply don’t need them, as they are flying so few passengers.

I am fortunate that I got to fly on one in 2019, in a vacation trip to Wales with Diane. This might have been the only time I ever flew on a 747, and it was a remarkably smooth flight, both during take-off and landing. It is sad to see this magnificent American achievement finally leave us.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • LocalFluff

    So what will they use now, Airbus? There aren’t so many alternatives that I know of. Perhaps this is more about Brexit EU politics than anything else.

  • LocalFluff

    And who wants a smooth flight? Then one takes the railroad train. It’s the feeling of acceleration that makes my little Fluff tickle and become interested. On a smaller Swiss Air flight once the aircraft turned violently after take off. The attendant asked us to move to the seats furtherst back, to even out the weight load (a lady complained that she is not that fat). This is how it was to fly in the 1930s!

  • LocalFluff: I suspect they will not need to supplement their fleet in the slightest, using instead the smaller planes they already own. Their business model has crashed, as people are not flying from fear of the Wuhan flu.

  • john hare

    This might be a good opportunity for someone with finances and a business plan that involves discount 747s.

  • James Stephens

    A magnificent creature. I got to fly on one from Dallas to London Gatwick and back again in the late 1970s. Also from Chicago into Wichita in the 1990s. Many 747s were serviced in Wichita at that time and it was a pleasure to watch them take off and land or seemingly just hang in the sky. But to board something the size of a building then feel it accelerate like that as it hurls itself off the runway in seemingly a just few yards and have the sensation as you look out the window the ground is falling away from you rather then that of a climb, well…

    What has happened to Boeing?

  • A. Nonymous

    Many 747s were originally purchased not because they held so many passengers, but because they outranged everything that couldn’t do aerial refueling. Flights were made possible by the 747 that had never been possible before. It was also *fast* when it was introduced, pushing the edge of trans-sonic speeds.

    This has changed, with the introduction of the longest-ranged 777 variants and a few of their Airbus rivals (particularly the A350) aimed at the same market. Because the 747’s chief draw was always the range, and not the passenger capacity, these cheaper-to-operate twin-engine planes are set to just about eliminate the 747 as a passenger aircraft in regular service. This was already happening, for exactly the same reason that the A380 flopped; and Boeing, in perhaps their last fit of competence as a company, got ahead of the market by betting on the 787 and the upcoming 777X rather than a new jumbo, whereas Airbus lost billions in taxpayer euros. China’s Revenge just sped up the process.

    The 747’s story is not over, however. It was designed from the beginning to have a cargo variant (that’s why the hump exists–the best place to put the cargo ramp was in the nose, which meant moving the cockpit upwards, which messed everything up until somebody came up with the idea of stretching the upper deck out and adding special seating). It still has the largest commercial cargo capacity outside of fringe designs like the AN-225, and will continue in low-rate production for at least 2 more years. And, depending on how many hours of useful life BA’s older -400 airframes have left in them, it may be economically viable for someone to buy them and spend the millions to convert them into freighters.

  • Col Beausabre

    The B747’s ancestor was a loser in the USAF contest won by Lockheed’s C-5, so freighting is in its DNA (Nose loading was a USAF requirement so all three contestants had the cockpit above the cargo-passenger area, which is the reason for the trademark “hump”)

  • Ray Van Dune

    I flew in a 747 exactly once, LA to Chicago, so long ago I was in uniform, and in that era you flew free, standby, in uniform. Needless to say I was in coach. So about an hour into the flight, an attendant asked me if I would like to ride in first class! I naturally said yes, and she led me forward and upward to the first-class lounge!

    There a proverbial Texas oilman-type stood up and offered me his seat, and indicated that he would go back to coach and use mine. He was only concerned about one thing – he said “Son, can you hold your liquor?” I assured him I could, and he said the booze was free up here, and he didn’t want me making an ass of myself!

    I made some stupid remark about how could I repay him, etc. He said “You look like you might be sharp enough to be able to do this for some kid someday, so you just pass it on, hear?”

    Damned if I didn’t, and I enjoyed the hell out of it!

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