After nearly 50 years, the venerable Boeing 747 is being retired in the United States as a commercial airliner.
Once hailed as the “Queen of the Skies,” the workhorse been embraced by every major U.S. carrier since the first model rolled off the line in 1968. At one point in 1990, there were 130 of the jets in operation throughout the country, but many airlines gradually retired their fleet with cheaper, more efficient models including Airbuses or newer Boeings in more recent years, Flight Global reports.
And on Wednesday, Delta Air Lines is flying the last of the country’s 747s from its hub in Atlanta to Pinal Airpark — an “airport graveyard” — in Marana, Ariz.
It’s saying goodbye to an old, trusted friend
This particular plane, a 747-400 model operating as Delta Air Lines 9771, will reportedly be piloted by Delta Capt. Paul Gallagher, per a report by The Points Guy. Aviation editor Jon Ostrower confirmed on Twitter that its passengers will include a mix of Delta employees and reporters.
The flight doesn’t come without its share of bittersweet fanfare, of course. In anticipation of its final Boeing’s retirement, Delta’s last Boeing aircraft embarked on a farewell tour in December that made stops in Atlanta, Minneapolis and Los Angeles following a final trip to the Boeing factory in Everett, Wash., allowing fans and admirers one last voyage.
“It’s saying goodbye to an old, trusted friend,” said pilot and Boeing enthusiast Robin Boone to USA Today, following one of the aircraft’s farewell flights in December. “It’s so sad to see it go. But it was an incredibly wonderful career, and this airplane was the highlight."
Delta had previously flown its last commercial passenger flight aboard a 747-400 on December 19, from Seoul to Detroit.
Prior to Delta, United Airlines was the last major carrier to utilize Boeing 747 aircraft. Its fleet was retired in Nov. 2017.