End of an Era: The Last Commercial Boeing 747 Flight Is History


After nearly 50 years, the “Queen of the Skies” made its final flight this week after being operated by every major U.S. airline since its debut.

Delta Airlines’ final 747 landed at Pinal Airpark in Marana, Arizona, on Wednesday, making it the last one to commercially fly for an airline.

“For a long period of time, it was the mainstay of wide body, trans-Atlantic, worldwide operating aircraft, moving hundreds of people on a flight every single day,” president of Marana Aerospace Dave Querio told KTVK.

CNN Aviation Editor Jon Ostrower tweeted before the flight on Wednesday.

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Capt. Paul Gallaher flew Flight 9771, the 747s retirement flight. It departed from Atlanta, Georgia, and landed in the “airport graveyard” in Arizona.

Holly Rick and Gene Paterson, a flight attendant and pilot who met nine years earlier on a 747, got married during the flight and celebrated with champagne and chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting after.

“This is my dream wedding,” Rick told USA Today. “I’m on my favorite place to be in the world.”

People were also able to sign the 747 before it went on its farewell tour in December.

KSAZ reporter Ty Brennan took exclusive video from inside the last 747 in operation.

The aircraft was launched in 1966 by Boeing and Pan Am, and flew for almost every U.S. carrier since its introduction in 1970, according to Flight Global.

In 1990, there were about 130 commercial passenger 747s in the United States.

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In the last year, there were only 27 of the passenger jumbo jets in operation, and the last of them were gradually retired by Delta and United.

“It’s a bittersweet milestone — (the 747) with its unmistakable silhouette once represented the state of the art in air travel,” United president Scott Kirby said in a letter to employees, according to Flight Global. “Today, there are more fuel-efficient, cost-effective and reliable widebody aircraft.”

Many 747s will most likely be converted into cargo planes, and there is still a chance to fly on one with an international carrier, according to KTVK.

“Just because the air carriers of the United States stopped operating the aircraft doesn’t mean the aircraft is dying,” Querio said. “It has a life of many many years to follow whether it’s operating in cargo or with carriers around the world, there will still be carriers who will operate the 747 for years to come.”

According to Querio, airlines are now using the Boeing 777, 787 and A380 instead of the 747.

“It’s saying goodbye to an old trusted friend,” Boeing enthusiast Robin Boone told USA Today after one of the 747s final flights last year. “It’s so sad to see it go. But it was an incredibly wonderful career, and this airplane was the highlight.”

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Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. A University of Oregon graduate, Erin has conducted research in data journalism and contributed to various publications as a writer and editor.
Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. She grew up in San Diego, California, proceeding to attend the University of Oregon and graduate with honors holding a degree in journalism. During her time in Oregon, Erin was an associate editor for Ethos Magazine and a freelance writer for Eugene Magazine. She has conducted research in data journalism, which has been published in the book “Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future.” Erin is an avid runner with a heart for encouraging young girls and has served as a coach for the organization Girls on the Run. As a writer and editor, Erin strives to promote social dialogue and tell the story of those around her.
Tucson, Arizona
Graduated with Honors
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, University of Oregon
Books Written
Contributor for Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future
Prescott, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, French
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Health, Entertainment, Faith