Tuesday, April 1, 2014

End of an Era: ANA retires the Boeing 747.

On March 31st, All Nippon Airways (NH/ANA) flew the Boeing 747's last revenue flights, a round-trip from Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT) to Okinawa/Naha (OKA/ROAH) and back, ending 35 years of continuous 'Jumbo Jet' operations. It was flown by their last remaining airframe; Boeing 747-481/D JA8961, which was delivered to the airline back on May 13th, 1993, and had been plying Japan's domestic skies ever since.
Boeing 747-481/D JA8961 departs Haneda with Tokyo Skytree in the background. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Flight NH127 departed Haneda's Spot 60 with 497 passengers and 17 crew (2 cockpit crew and 15 cabin attendants) at 0850, and took off from Runway 34R (C Runway) at 0902. The aircraft touched down at Naha at 1117. Return leg NH126, the final flight, departed Naha's Gate 32 about 24 minutes late at 1259 with a full load of 569 passengers (including four infants) and 17 crew, and made its last landing at Haneda at 1513. It was piloted by Captains Takeshi Kanda, who is retiring after the flight, and Hiroshi Fujimura, Chief of B747 Operations. Upon arrival, Chief Purser Yoko Chiba announced "From now, the beloved B747 will continue to fly in everyone's hearts".
A water-cannon salute greets NH126 as it arrives at Haneda's Spot 408. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

A water-cannon salute along with a number of ANA staff, including President and CEO Osamu Shinobe, greeted as JA8961 arrived at Spot 408 and came to a stop at 1530. At the subsequent retirement ceremony, Fujimura-san handed JA8961's logbook to Mr. Shinobe, who formerly worked as an engineer with the jetliner. "From anywhere you look, you know it's a B747. I would like to thank not only our customers, but our crew, engineers, ground staff, and all who worked with the jetliner for the past 35 years. And now, we will build on our experience with the B747", said Mr. Shinobe.
Passengers of NH126 take part in the B747's retirement ceremony. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

In the Captain's announcement aboard NH126, Fujimura-san told passengers "Thank you for flying with ANA, and Japan's final passenger Boeing 747 flight. For a very long time, the Jumbo Jet has been loved by everyone... and I would like to express our gratitude for your love with this airplane. Although it is the trend of the times, I regret seeing the retirement of the Jumbo Jet as I really love them. I have spent most of my pilot career with the Jumbo. So now, I would like to hand on my deepest love for this jet to the next generation". After arrival, he added "The Boeing 747 brought me up and made me what I am now as a pilot. The Jumbo is like a family member, like my parents. I guess it will take some time for me to get used to the fact that the final flight has been completed".
'Thanks Jumbo!' banner with numerous messages written by ANA staff at Haneda. (Photo: ANA)

ANA's first 'Queen of the Skies', a B747SR model, was delivered on December 20th, 1978, and inaugurated service on the Haneda to Fukuoka (FUK/RJFF) and Sapporo/New Chitose (CTS/RJCC) routes on January 29th, 1979. Their first B747-400, dubbed 'Techno Jumbo' entered service in November 1990, and the high-capacity domestic B747-400D came on-line in February 1992. Japan saw its first B747 when Japan Airlines (JL/JAL) placed its first example in service in April 1970, opening an era of mass-transportation. JAL eventually acquired a total of 108 brand-new B747s from Seattle, while ANA also bought 45, and during the type's 44-year service in the 'Land of the Rising Sun', it became synonymous with, or even one of the icons of Japan's rise as an economic powerhouse.
Captains Fujimura-san, Kanda-san, and the 15 flight attendants wearing ANA's eighth-generation uniforms pose after the final flight. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

JAL retired its last B747 in March 2011, and ANA retired their last international-configured B747-400 in the same month. Although the commercial passenger 'Jumbo' will be gone, Government of Japan's two B747-400s will keep on flying until 2018, while the freighter remains in service with Nippon Cargo Airlines (KZ/NCA), which operates B747-8Fs alongside B747-400Fs.
Thanks Jumbo. (Image: ANA)

I've written a flight report on a recent flight on JA8961 (CoachFlyer NH126: OKA - HND on All Nippon Airways' Boeing 747.). I hope to pay a tribute to the B747 on this blog in the coming weeks.

Source: Aviation Wire, March 31st. (in Japanese)
Source: FlyTeam, March 31st. (in Japanese)

*Post edited/updated on April 1st.

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