S A D E N D I N G
most of you know, I believe airplanes are living things, and seeing
them parked in the desert after years of faithful service is very
painful. Seeing them scrapped - even more so. I
received this from a 747 pilot
"As you know, I flew the 747-400 out
of ORD during the last 3 1/2 years of my career with United. This is a
very a sad note from a friend..... a sad
day and story for me and probably many others. However, I had to share
the way, I flew this exact airplane many times to either
Hong Kong or
NON-STOP out of Chicago."
On Thursday I had the sad
duty of being first officer
on a one-way flight from San Francisco International
to Victorville Airport in
the Mojave Desert.
The purpose of this flight was
to retire a low-time perfectly good 747-400. I was called out for my
of reserve for this dubious ferry flight.
those who haven't flown it, the 747 series
probably the best flying most graceful machines the Boeing company has
produced. You can tell they got it right after your first flying leg.
pilot that has flown it likes an airliner better. There are a few that
agree, but most that fly it would, and always will, refer to the
their favorite airliner.
a forgiving bird. The pilots have the
and operations of any fleet yet I've rarely, if ever, seen a truly ugly
on it, even from the least proficient pilots. It was involved in a near
incident we all know about in the vicinity of San Bruno Mountain in the
Area. Somehow, miraculously, the 747 didn't let this stumbling crew
missed the threat and got her home safely. We all got a free lesson in
ahead about what we should do to prepare for the worst. That incident
ALL better at what we do. That aircraft forgave those pilots, and us.
pilot that has time on the 777 and the
this: a United 777, even the 90K engine aircraft, is limited to flights
12 hour range or less. It can hardly carry just passengers and their
flights to the edges of China.
A 747 can carry those passengers plus their bags plus extra fuel needed
revenue cargo to Hong Kong from Chicago
or to Sydney
LAX in the winter. If that 747 loses an engine over the North Pole you
a 3-engined airplane to take you to a safe airport in China vs.
single engine trek with low fuel temps to a questionable airport. The
777 is an
amazing airplane. But the 747 does many things better.
managers are making room. They're trying to
airline. They're not trying to make it better; they're trying to make
at least as we know it. They're hoping that a smaller -400 fleet will
seniority integration easier and will open up Glenn's chances of making
final stand: a merger with Continental Airlines. They are getting rid
airplanes that can carry more than every type of airplane on Earth,
a few copies of the A-380.
must be finding it tough these days. Maybe
in his PIN at the United ATM and didn't get enough back to satisfy his
So he'll sell the 737's and begin to sell all the 747's to be able to
that bigger yacht.
took a bunch of pictures of this airplane
before we left.
I felt sick to my stomach as we rolled down the runway for her last
setting the parking brake on a ramp in the desert. I was glad the
wanted to fly it down. I didn't want to be the one to fly it to its
as a United Airliner. The Captain flew a visual approach with all the
directors and purple lines out of view to a beautiful painted-on
this 15,000 foot runway in gusty winds. I saw the other dinosaurs and
proud airplane, that never let us down, being left behind. I swear to
watched me and the Captain get into the van and said "...how could you
leave me?" as we headed for Los Angeles
for our deadhead back to SFO. These machines take on a life to us.
than machines. United Airlines CEO and his top echelon have forgotten
airlines do and that the people who fly and maintain these airplanes
give a sh!t about them and care deeply about this airline.
Mr. Tilton: We are done with you. You've
taken what you
can take. You've done supreme damage to the morale of its people and
of the business of running what was once the premier airline in the United States.
Now, sir, you can get out. We don't want you here anymore. Go find
corporation to drag through bankruptcy and destroy. It's what you do
had your chance after September 11th, 2001 to lead us and instead you
up, opened the lid, turned us upside down and shook until there was
left. Keep your attorney friend Sprayragan on your Christmas card list.
guys make a great team.
Boeing 747-400 N196UA #8196 is a symbol
this dysfunctional management means to me and their ability and desire
this airline properly. 8196...I'm sorry I had to be the one to take you
I hope we get you back to where you belong: on a United route flying
passengers and cargo to United destinations. But, as long as Glenn and
friends are here, I'll have to bid to you what I bid to my friends
#8196...Aloha...and mahalo for
never letting me down.
a lot of 747-400
pilots who will concur with the above. And a lot of UAL
the pointed criticisms of management.
By way of
context, UAL is retiring ALL of their 737s, and a significant
number of 747s as well. The opinions are those
of the writer.
Copyright 2009 Robert Bogash.
All Rights Reserved.
Photos are Copyright
their respective Copyright owners.
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