A Surprise Visit with the Queen of the Skies

At the beginning of 2017, it was announced that all the US airlines would be retiring the 747-400 from their fleets. United would be retiring their fleet in November and Delta would be following shortly behind in December. While I understand that the new twin engine planes are much more efficient, there’s just something special about the 747 and the golden age of air travel.

Before its final sendoff, United held a farewell tour to all their hubs to let all the employees to see the Queen one last time. As luck would have it, the plane happened to be in Chicago during my layover. Obviously, I had to pay her one last visit!

 

A Final Visit with the Queen

After making my way through customs upon my arrival in Chicago, I excitedly made my way over to the gate to see if I could get one last tour of the 747.

Fortunately, as it was late in the afternoon, most of the employees had already taken their tour and the agent was happy to let me onboard.

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747 farewell poster
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Model of the 747 waiting by the gate 

As I made my way to the gate, I saw a familiar face from Instagram. If you haven’t seen his photos, check out Joe Lammerman’s page. He takes some amazing shots.

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Meeting up with Joe Lammerman

Waiting right at C18, there she was. Tail number N118UA, the Friend Ship.

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The Queen waiting at the gate 

Once onboard, I strolled through the first class cabin in the nose of the plane before making my way upstairs.

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747 first class cabin
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Heading upstairs

There was only a short line for the cockpit, so I spent some time while I waited chatting with a few employees about their time with the plane. I think they would be missing her as much as I would.

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A few others eagerly waiting in line to visit the cockpit
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Business class on the upper deck

Finally, I made my way up front and took an obligatory cockpit selfie.

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Selfie in the left seat

Back downstairs, I made my way towards the back of the plane to the crew rest area.

This thing truly is massive. Right behind the A380, the 747 is one of the widest passenger jet in the sky with an interior width of 240 inches on the main deck.

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Heading towards the back of the plane 

I navigated the narrow staircase made my way up to check out the bunks. Although I got to see a good portion of the 747 at the event in San Francisco earlier in the month, this was my first opportunity to see the crew rest firsthand.

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Heading up the stairs 

Once upstairs, it made sense why they had this area closed for the tours at SFO. It’s tight! I could barely stand up and it was tough to move around if there were more than three people up here.

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Lounging in one of the bunks
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747 overhead crew rest area

Once I was done exploring, I had a few snacks at the Polaris lounge next door and quickly made the walk over to the other side of the terminal to catch my final flight home.

 

Headed Home to Norfolk

United flight 1055
ORD [Chicago] to ORF [Norfolk]
October 25, 2017
Depart: 5:45 PM
Arrive: 8:54 PM
Duration: 2hrs9min
Aircraft: A320
Seat: 1A

I was one of the last people on the plane for the ride home, but as late as I was, I still made it in time to have a pre-departure beverage 😉

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A320 first class seating

Once we were in the air, the crew came around with a snack and drink service. Sadly, most of the flights to Norfolk are too short for a real meal, so I’m glad I grabbed something in the lounge before boarding.

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Drink and snacks 

After a quick flight, we arrived back in Norfolk ahead of schedule, where I retrieved my luggage and saw that my fourteen bottles of wine arrived unharmed. So all in all, it was a very good trip indeed.

Well, that completes my trip report. Stay tuned for the next adventure!

Matt

 

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