This week marked 50 years since the Boeing 747 started flying and soon thereafter arrived here in Hawaii. Does the photo above look like the last flight to Hawaii that you were on?
The “Queen of the Skies,” as it was known, was a plane that we grew up with and still remember fondly. It was totally amazing when we first flew the Pan Am 747 “Clipper” decades ago. Now we are in awe when we step aboard a perhaps also soon to be obsolete Airbus A380.
In its 50 years history, the 747 transported nearly six billion people, or 80 percent of the world’s population. It was a big gamble for now challenged Boeing, which paid off. The company constructed a new plant to accommodate the 747 and its half a football field length, six-story height and 20-lane highway width.
First Cheap Flights to Hawaii came with the 747.
Yes it’s true, with the 747 came some of the very first Hawaii deals. Suddenly, in the 1970’s Hawaii became an affordable destination from the west coast and beyond.
Now looking back, the 747 was luxury.
Air travel in the 1970’s was still considered an extravagance, and service aboard the 747 in those early days was quite elaborate compared with today’s no-frills, a la carte, and basic economy era of air travel. Just look at the above photo to see how people were dressed, the spaciousness and feeling evoked.
Which airlines flew the 747 in Hawaii?
Certainly the most famous and the first to start was Pan American. Their Hawaii flights began in 1970, shortly after the 747 began flying, and ended in 1985, when United Airlines acquired all of Pan Am’s Pacific routes including Hawaii. Continental Airlines followed Pan Am’s Hawaii entry with their own 747 “air cruises.” TWA flew the 747 to Hawaii. And there was also the short-lived Hawaii Express, an airline that existed in the early 1980’s.
In 2017, Delta Airlines, which also flew the 747 in Hawaii, became the last U.S. airline to use that aircraft.
Other U.S. airlines that flew the 747 to Hawaii included Northwest Orient and Braniff. Are there others that we missed?
United Airlines retired their Boeing 747 fleet in 2017 with a farewell flight.
That was from San Francisco to Honolulu, and was retro all the way, with passengers and crew in 1970’s attire, and a 70’s menu too. When United announced the farewell 747 in Hawaii flight, they sold out all tickets in 90 minutes. At the time, United Airlines said: “So many of our customers and our employees have flown on this plane, have serviced this plane, and they’ve served customers on this plane. So today was both an exciting day for us and a sad day for us.” United made its first Boeing 747 flight to Hawaii in 1970.
Boeing 747 in Hawaii incidents including a number of fatalities.
In 2011, a Delta 747 travelling from Honolulu developed a cracked windshield, and was forced to make a landing at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. It did so uneventfully.
United Airlines Flight 811 had a fatal incident on departure from Honolulu to Auckland on February 24, 1989. The 747-100 experienced a explosive decompression as a result of a cargo door failure. The door slammed into the fuselage, creating a gaping 10 x 40 foot vertical hole. It blew out several rows of seats, resulting in the deaths of nine passengers. The aircraft, with over 300 on board, then returned to Honolulu and landed safely.
Trivia Question: Who flew the last 747 in Hawaii?
Qantas was the last to fly the 747 to Hawaii. That flight was on August 27, 2019.