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Aircraft

Where Did the Queen of the Skies Go?

Where Did the Queen of the Skies Go?
Taylor Rains

As the industry continues to phase out the Boeing 747 passenger jet in favor of more fuel-efficient airliners, one has to wonder where all these aircraft end up. Are they scrapped for parts or recreated into something totally new? Well, the answer is both, and although many of the double-deckers have been sent to the boneyard, a few have been put to good use in the form of education and even hospitality. Here is what happened to some of the world’s 747s.

 

pinal airpark boneyard

Flickr/Alan Wilson

Pinal Airpark Boneyard

What was once the “Queen of the Skies,” the 747 has slowly disappeared from commercial aviation. As a matter of fact, no carrier in the United States operates the jumbo jet anymore, with Delta retiring the last one in December 2017. In general, many aircraft end up in one of several different desert boneyards across Arizona, New Mexico, California, and abroad. The desert locations are favorable because they do not suffer from high humidity or heavy rainfall, which prevents the corrosion of the aircraft’s aluminum hulls. As for Delta’s 747s, they ended up in Pinal Airpark in Marana, Arizona (just outside of Tucson). The aircraft storage facility has over 50 clients, including GOL, Northwestern, TWA, and Lufthansa, and can hold up to 400 aircraft across its 2,080 acres of land. You can find the list of worldwide active, abandoned, and post-WWII aircraft boneyards here.

According to Jack Keating, the Chief Commercial Officer of one of the companies that maintain the aircraft at Marana, some aircraft are resold, others repaired, but many are disassembled and scrapped for parts. For those that are destroyed, they are killed at the hands of a Caterpillar excavator appropriately named “The Cruncher.” The machine is fitted with large, sharp claws that can rip into the fuselage of a plane and tear the wings right off. Keating explained the sight, “It takes so long to build an airplane, and it only takes eight or nine hours to break it down. The first time you see it crunched, it’s sad.” As of early 2019, nearly 900 of the world’s 747s had been permanently retired or scrapped.

The Delta Flight Museum

Delta Museum

Although Delta sent a majority of its 747s to the boneyard, it held onto one special aircraft to be displayed at its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. The 747 Experience is parked outside the Delta Flight Museum and allows curious minds to get up close and personal with Delta Ship 6301, the first Boeing 747-400 ever built.

The interior walls of the aircraft’s fuselage have been lined with facts of the jetliner and a timeline of its history. Furthermore, the ceiling has been left uncovered and in full view, and clear paneling has been placed where carpet once was, so everyone can see the true inner workings of an aircraft cabin, including all the wiring, cabling, and tubing.

The Delta Flight Museum

If you take a walk up to the upper deck, you will find it has been fitted with Delta One seats, giving visitors the chance to experience what it feels like to travel in luxury. Other areas open for viewing are the lavatories, crew rest areas, and even the cockpit. If you ever get a chance to visit this av-geek paradise, be sure to take a walk under the belly and out over the wing to see how truly massive the aircraft is.

JumboStay Hostel-Hotel

JumboStay Hostel-Hotel

When retiring a 747 aircraft, one would not think that it could be successfully transformed into a place of hospitality, but alas, the world continues to surprise me. A former owned and operated Pan Am 747-200 has been converted into the JumboStay Hostel-Hotel, which is located in Stockholm, Sweden next to the Stockholm Arlanda Airport. The hostel-hotel features 33 rooms, a cafe & bar, an observation deck situated on the wing, and a phenomenal view of the airport’s runway right next door. Luckily for those just passing through the city, you do not need to be staying at JumboStay to take a tour.

 

JumboStay Hostel-Hotel, The Double Bed Ensuite Cockpit

The Rooms

The 33 rooms are comprised of basic dormitories, interestingly placed standard rooms, and three unique suites. The dorms are shared with other travelers and start at $46 (450 SEK).

There are a few options when it comes to standard rooms. You will find most of these rooms inside the main body of the aircraft, but will also see them placed underneath the jet and in the engines of the aircraft. The WheelHouse Room is literally placed in the wheel well of the aircraft and you enter via stairs under the wing. The Engine Rooms are small hobbit-like pods with beds inside each of the aircraft’s four engines. The WheelHouse and Engine Rooms each go for $72 (700 SEK) a night.

 

JumboStay Hostel-Hotel, The Cafe & Bar

The Cafe & Bar and Observation Deck

The hostel-hotel would not be complete without the onsite cafe & bar and observation deck. The cafe serves breakfast, sweets, and warm meals (which I’m sure taste much better than regular airplane food), and the bar has a great selection of beer, liquors, and wines. Take your meal and drink out onto the observation deck to wave to planes as they land and take off from the nearby Arlanda Airport runway.

 

Although the 747 has been slowly fizzling out, you can still find a good number of them used for cargo and a handful still in service as passenger aircraft, including British Airways which plans to operate its jumbo jet fleet until 2024.

Have you seen any of these retired Boeing 747s in person? Tell us about your experience in the comments!

View Comments (7)

7 Comments

  1. yeldogt

    March 6, 2020 at 4:47 am

    My dad was a big PanAm flyer and I got to see the first one delivered to PanAm at JFK …. my dad was on the second flight. The first was delayed … he loved seat 1J. It was always special to fly on the 747 .. gave a sense of strength and power. I guess the last was with SA’s a few years ago –one of the few passenger/ cargo variant buyers. I took the SP to Japan many times (JAL First) … used to like BA 2nd floor all business class.

    Interesting hostel … years ago Stockholm had an old ship in the main harbor near “old town” as the hostel .. was very cool.

  2. small em

    March 6, 2020 at 12:36 pm

    Another easily-accessible one is the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft N905NA at Johnson Space Center. I very much enjoyed poking around it last week. (More interesting than the Shuttle on top of it, if you ask me)

  3. BC Shelby

    March 6, 2020 at 1:52 pm

    ..I remember the first 747 to land at MKE. It was a Pan Am flight from Frankfurt to Chicago (N742PA “Clipper Rainbow”) that was diverted because of weather and oil pressure loss in tow of the engines. in May of 1970.

    When I saw a lot of ground service crew personnel gathering at he end of the old A-Concourse (now the E-Concourse), I asked if there was an emergency and l;earned that a diverted 747 was going to land (several other diverted aircraft including some from airlines that didn’t serve MKE at the time, like American, Delta. TWA, and Braniff, had already arrived and parked). Then, out of the low clouds (we also had severe weather warnings) the huge aircraft appeared, and touched down effortlessly. It was quite a sight to see one in person and it dwarfed the emergency vehicles which escorted it to the tarmac just west of the old C-Concourse (which was still the original metal walled 1955 construction). News of the arrival spread fast and as it was a Saturday, so locals flocked to the airport creating traffic jams on the surrounding streets and filling the car park (which was still an outside lot at the time) to catch a close up glimpse of the largest airliner in the world (twice as large as the Northwest 707s or United DC-8s that served MKE),

    The airport was definitely not ready as it didn’t even have air stairs tall enough (let alone jet-way) that could reach the door, so a, ladder extension had to be used. As MKE also did not have customs at the time, none of the passengers were allowed to disembark and had to remain on the aircraft for the 5 hours it sat there while mechanics (who were dispatched from Chicago) tended to the engines. At about 21:30 the door was closed the engines spooled up, the aircraft taxied to runway one-niner right and took off for the 25 min flight to ORD. . Never heard such a sound as instead of the usual loud rumble all you could hear were those huge forward fans that made it sound more like a large prop driven than jet powered aircraft. As it receded into the distance it was almost whisper quite in comparison to the older jetliners (particularly the 727s) that served the city.

    My first flight on a 747 was on Lufthansa to Germany a couple years later and it felt more like being on a cruise ship than an aeroplane. By the mid 70s, we had both passenger and cargo 747s landing at MKE regularly on Northwest, and since that first trip, I had also flown on 747s domestically several times including to/from Hawai’i.

    Yeah with airlines downsizing most operations primarily with 737s/A320s (even RJs in some cases) on long flights, the “Queen” is certainly missed. Was glad to have experienced flying on her.

  4. browell

    browell

    March 7, 2020 at 6:52 am

    One of the more interesting versions is the Global Supertanker…… a Fire Fighting Behemoth…… and AWESOME!!!

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/747_Supertanker

  5. mot29

    March 7, 2020 at 9:08 am

    I‘ve not visited 6301 at the Delta museum but have flown on it a few times. Back when it was NW and post- merger.
    Have also had the opportunity to fly on 747s of SQ, JL, and KL.

  6. 91lsc

    March 11, 2020 at 5:44 pm

    Flew on SA from ATL-JNB. Never forget as we were taking off from Hartsfield the wings were boeing (sic)and swaying and we used every bit of runway because there was so much fuel packed into it. On another note UPS just purchased a large order of the747-800 series.

  7. DManzaluni

    March 12, 2020 at 5:49 am

    My most enduring memory of a 747 was when I flew business class upper deck on a PA102. It wasn’t a 400 and the upper deck was quite small, and the feet of the pax DIRECTLY behind me stunk to high heaven! I complained and aircrew commiserated but essentially told me that there was nothing they could do in this unusual situation. We did eventually arrive in LHR and they cleaned up the plane, turned it around and it got as far as Lockerbie. It was called the Maid of the Seas and i suppose I was one of the last people to get off that plane.

    A few years later, I was on the last Pan Am flight out of LHR and to commemorate, the pilot actually buzzed the aerodrome!

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