Oldest Boeing 747 in Active Service – a Former Pan Am Jumbo Jet – Makes Last Flight

By Paul Riegler on 18 August 2017
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A Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental in Lufthansa livery

A Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental in Lufthansa livery

An aircraft that is believed to be the oldest Boeing 747 still in active service made what was likely to have been its last flight earlier this year. Originally acquired by Pan American World Airways as Clipper Ocean Spray, the jumbo jet rolled off the assembly line in October 17, 1969 and made its first flight on March 3, 1970.

The plane, a Boeing 747-100 owned by General Electric, made its last flight on January 25, 2017 at GE Aviation’s Flight Test Operation in Victorville, California, although the company first reported the news this week on the GE Aviation blog.

To prepare it for use as a test bed, General Electric removed most of the aircraft’s coach seats but left the Clipper Class business-class cabin in tact on the upper deck as well as the aircraft’s First Class section in the nose of the plane.

“If you go downstairs and look around the airplane, we took out the seats and the things we had to [in order] to turn it into a test bed,” said retired GE chief test pilot Gary Possert in a video statement. “There are areas like the business class section up here behind you up on the upper deck or the first class section downstairs [that] we left that pretty much as Pan Am had it. You can walk down there: it’s like a little Pan Am museum.”

GE acquired the aircraft in the early 1990s after Pan Am ceased operations. Dubbed the Flying Test Bed, it began operations with GE in 1993 at its Flight Test Operation facility in Mojave, California. In its almost 25 years of service, it provided critical flight data on more than 11 distinct engine models and 39 engine builds, according to the company.

Boeing still makes the 747, now in its third generation and known as the 747-8 Intercontinental. It is notable being the largest 747 version ever, the largest commercial aircraft built in the United States, and the longest passenger aircraft in the world.

The two U.S. airlines that still operate 747s, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, plan to mothball their jumbo jet fleets towards the end of 2017 in favor of newer, more efficient aircraft.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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