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Final Flight

Japan Airlines retires last classic jumbo 747s

eTN Staff Writer  Jul 31, 2009

Today will mark the final flight of JAL Group's last classic jumbo jet, the 747. The aircraft will fly with a 3-man flight crew from Honolulu to Tokyo (Narita) where it will retire after 26 years of reliable service.

In the mid-1960s, unprecedented development in technology and the availability of large-thrust engines led to the creation of the giant 747, beginning with the 747-100, the first in the 747 Classics series, which also includes the 200 and 300 models. JAL first took delivery of a 747-100 in 1970 and was the launch customer of the 747-100SR in 1973. For its ever-expanding international network at the time, JAL owned the largest fleet of 747 Classics in 1984, and from 1987 through to 1989, it held the record number of 65 such aircraft - a figure that still stands as the most number of Classics owned by any one airline at a time.

Decommissioning the group's remaining 6 Classics, of which the earliest was delivered in November 1983, attests to the group's steady progress towards downsizing its fleet and operating more fuel-efficient aircraft such as the Boeing 777.

Special ceremonies are being held today to bring the curtains down on a long-standing service by the Classic Jumbo Jets in grand fashion. Flight JO073 will be draped in a giant Hawaiian lei before departure at Honolulu Airport, where an elaborate ceremony will be conducted. JAL is also being honored with a proclamation signed by State of Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle and Lt. Governor James R. "Duke" Aiona, Jr., which will be read at the ceremonies declaring July 30, 2009 as "Japan Airlines Classic Jumbo Jet Day" with local dignitaries in attendance.

Upon arrival in Tokyo (Narita), the aircraft will be received at the gate by its designer, the "Father of the 747," Mr. Joseph F. "Joe" Sutter and JAL staff, as well as members of the media. Mr. Sutter, who led the development of what would become the world's first wide-body airliner and who is now a senior advisor to the Boeing Company, will also grace this special occasion with a talk about the birth of the 747.

To memorialize the role of the popular Classic's in the history of JAL, a sell-out commemorative flight organized by JAL Tours flew fans of the Classic Jumbo Jet from Tokyo (Haneda) to Shimojishima on a round-trip day tour on July 5, 2009. A total of 449 enthusiasts, members of the media, and staff had the rare opportunity to go down memory lane, when cabin attendants who donned the 8 different uniforms in the history of JAL welcomed them onboard and served them during the flight.

Japan Airlines retires last classic jumbo 747s
Boeing 747-100 from 1970 / Photo from

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