An icon of the last decades of the Twentieth Century, the 747, the universally known Jumbo, took a giant leap forward in aviation, circling the globe in style from the 1970s and still flying today, only in decreasing numbers and Boeings production likely to end by 2020. Even so there should be some flying in the 2040s, even in 2050.
I flew countless miles in Jumbos in the 1970s and 1980s, little in comparison to their aircrews, but always an excitement to me. The late Pan Am was the launch customer, I watched with wonder as the first to land in Hong Kong picked its banking flight into Kai Tak. And it wasn’t long before I got my wish to share the comfort and elegance, 1970s style, of the great beast itself. In those days I was a frequent flyer throughout the Far East and whenever I could I opted for the 747s.
On one occasion I was on the leg from Tokyo to Hong Kong, TWA as I remember, on the last leg of its transpacific journey, when the were fewer passengers than crew, twenty crew and eighteen passengers. On another occasion my eastbound flight from Heathrow via Copenhagen to Tokyo was cancelled, but within an hour I was airborne westbound with Pan Am via New York and Fairbanks to Tokyo. I was impressed by the individual service a stewardess was giving to a couple sitting near me in the spacious First Class cabin. All was explained as we disembarked in New York – ‘Bye Mum, bye Dad, see you later’.
Yes, the 747 was a wonderful plane, a unique experience. I am glad to have shared in those early days in a small way. Well done, Boeing; you broke the mould.