- United Airlines, one of the first carriers to operate the Boeing 747, has retired its last model from service
- United Flight 747 flew from San Francisco to Honolulu Tuesday – the same route the first aircraft took in 1970
- Passengers were treated to a Seventies themed trip with a retro menu and cabin crew in vintage uniforms
- The 747 will now be taken to a boneyard in the Californian desert to be dismanteled and replaced with the 777
Published: 06:15 EST, 8 November 2017 | Updated: 06:16 EST, 8 November 2017
It is known as the Queen of the Skies – the world's first jumbo jet that forever changed the face of plane travel.
And on Tuesday United Airlines' last Boeing 747 was given a send-off befitting royalty as the last aircraft in the company's service completed its final flight.
United Flight 747 took off from San Francisco airport around midday bound for Hawaii, the same route the company's first version of the aircraft flew back in 1970.
Tickets for the specially chartered voyage sold out within hours of being released, according to USA Today, despite selling for upwards of $550 for a one-way trip.
United Airlines has retired its last Boeing 747 aircraft, 47 years after the world's first jumbo jet took to the skies bor the airline by flying from San Francisco to Honolulu
United Flight 747 chartered the same route on Tuesday with a special Seventies themed flight which included a retro menu, flight attendants in vintage uniforms and passengers in costume
United was one of the first airlines to fly the 747 which was designed as the world's largest passenger aircraft and heralded the start of the age of air travel for the masses
Passengers paid up to $550 for a one-way trip on the flight, and fully embraced the spirit of nostalgia with Hawaiian shirts and retro luggage as they posed alongside United stewardesses in vintage uniform
Others chose to dress as pilots in order to pose with the crew – recalling the golden age of air travel
These two men donned jumpsuits and fuzzy wigs, while one clutched a fake cigarette between his lips, recalling a time when it was acceptable to smoke on planes
The voyage the travelers took was not just across the Pacific Ocean but also back in time, as United put on a special Seventies-themed trip including a retro menu and cabin accessories.
Air crew were dressed in vintage uniforms while some passengers also came in costumes recalling the golden age of jet travel. One man even held a fake cigarette in his lips – a throwback to when smoking was allowed on board.
United CEO Oscar Munoz was even present for the occasion, speaking to passengers from the aircraft's bulbous upper deck – perhaps its most iconic feature – before takeoff.
'It’s a grand finale, no question,' he told those on board. 'A fitting send-off in the most dignified way for the "Queen of the Skies".'
The Boeing 747 was introduced in 1970 and completed its first ever flight with Pan Am, which had commissioned the airliner four years earlier to replace the diminutive 707 amid rising passenger numbers and airport congestion.
It was to be the first ever wide-body aircraft, nicknamed a 'jumbo jet', and designed to hold 150 per cent more passengers than the 707.
This was partly achieved by the introduction of a raised upper deck at the front which gave the aircraft its bulbous-nosed look. The extra weight would be carried by four jet engines – another distinguishing feature.
United Airlines aircraft Friend Ship is pictured at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport in 1973
For the final flight, United even kitted its last 747 out with vintage livery on the side, exactly as it appeared in the Seventies
United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz saw the plane take off Tuesday, saying it was a fitting send-off for The Queen of the Skies
Mr Munoz speaks with United Airlines captain Tom Spratt who was given the honor of piloting the airline's last 747 flight
Passengers, some decked out in retro Hawaiian shirts with flower garlands, wait to board the final 747 flight in San Francisco
On January 15, 1970, First Lady Pat Nixon helped christen the first 747 at Dulles International Airport in Washington DC, before the plane entered service on January 22 on Pan Am's New York to London route.
Initial omens were not good – the flight had been due to take off the previous evening but engine overheating rendered the original aircraft unusable and a second had to be brought in.
However, the aircraft would go on to defy all expectations. Boeing anticipated it would become obsolete before the Nineties, believing that supersonic jets would overtake conventional aircraft.
In fact the 747 is still in production with current orders placed by a number of developing countries which will potentially see it serving into 2030.
While the aircraft's life is limited in the US – with Delta the only airline still flying the craft and due to retire it later this year – other major carriers will continue operating it well into the next decade.
British Airways, which now operates 36 of the aircraft, more than any other airline, has confirmed it will be phasing it out – but will not part ways with it entirely until 2024.
Even once it has disappeared from passenger routes, it is expected the 747 will go on to serve many more years as a cargo plane.
New kid on the block: The efficient 747 replacement
The 747 was designed to provide seating for growing numbers of passengers and heralded the beginning of the age air travel for the masses.
Now its replacement, the Boeing 777, has been designed to tackle the problems of its own age – primarily fuel efficiency.
Improvements in jet technology mean it can carry around the same number of passengers as the 747 but only uses two engines to do so, drastically reducing the amount of fuel consumed.
A United Airlines Boeing 777 aircraft pictured earlier this year. The plane has only two engines, compared to the 747's four, making it more efficient and therefore less costly to run
That means the airline has to buy less fuel and pay less in carbon taxes – savings which can be passed on to customers, allowing carriers to remain competitive in the age of budget airline travel.
It also has a longer range than the 747, opening up the possibility of more direct routes. This was one of the hidden benefits of the original aircraft, and a reason it gained such popularity.
Entering service in 1995, it is the most successful jumbo jet ever made with almost 2,000 orders placed as of September 2017. By comparison, the 747 only passed the 1,000 order mark in 1993 and will likely never reach 2,000.
The biggest buyer of 777 aircraft has been Emirates which owns 161 of the planes operating on passenger and freight routes, which would have been unthinkable for a Middle Eastern carrier back in the Seventies.
However, it was United that was the first to fly the jet on its London to Dulles International Airport route, with the flight taking off on June 7, 1995.
The 777 is able to carry the same number of passengers despite having two less engines. Pictured above is the standard seat configuration for a United 777 aircraft
By the numbers: Boeing 747 and 777
First produced: 1968
First flight: 1970
Length: 70m (231ft)
Wingspan: 64m (211 ft)
Capacity (typical): Up to 396 passengers
Range: 7,260 nautical miles
Number ordered (as of September 2017): 1,553
Unit cost (most popular variant): $268million
Accidents (where aircraft was scrapped): 60
Deaths due to accidents: 3,722
First produced: 1993
First flight: 1995
Length: 74m (242ft)
Wingspan: 65m (213ft)
Capacity (typical) Up to 396 passengers
Range: 7,820 nautical miles
Number ordered (as of September 2017): 1,945
Unit cost (most popular variant): $320million
Accidents (where aircraft was scrapped): 6
Deaths due to accidents: 541
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Australia: Scott Morrison saga casts scrutiny on Queen’s representative
In the past fortnight, Australia has been gripped by revelations that former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison secretly appointed himself to several additional ministries.
The move has been labelled a “power grab” by his successor as prime minister, and Mr Morrison has been scolded by many – even his own colleagues.
But the scandal has also dragged Australia’s governor-general into the fray – sparking one of the biggest controversies involving the Queen’s representative in Australia in 50 years.
So does Governor-General David Hurley have questions to answer, or is he just collateral damage?
Governors-general have fulfilled the practical duties as Australia’s head of state since the country’s 1901 federation.
Candidates for the role were initially chosen by the monarch but are now recommended by the Australian government.
The job is largely ceremonial – a governor-general in almost every circumstance must act on the advice of the government of the day. But conventions allow them the right to “encourage” and “warn” politicians.
Key duties include signing bills into law, issuing writs for elections, and swearing in ministers.
Mr Hurley has run into trouble on the latter. At Mr Morrison’s request, he swore the prime minister in as joint minister for health in March 2020, in case the existing minister became incapacitated by Covid.
Over the next 14 months, he also signed off Mr Morrison as an additional minister in the finance, treasury, home affairs and resources portfolios.
Mr Morrison already had ministerial powers, so Mr Hurley was basically just giving him authority over extra departments.
It’s a request the governor-general “would not have any kind of power to override or reject”, constitutional law professor Anne Twomey tells the BBC.
“This wasn’t even a meeting between the prime minister and the governor-general, it was just paperwork.”
But Mr Morrison’s appointments were not publicly announced, disclosed to the parliament, or even communicated to most of the ministers he was job-sharing with.
Australia’s solicitor-general found Mr Morrison’s actions were not illegal but had “fundamentally undermined” responsible government.
But the governor-general had done the right thing, the solicitor-general said in his advice this week.
It would have been “a clear breach” for him to refuse the prime minister, regardless of whether he knew the appointments would be kept secret, Stephen Donaghue said.
Critics push for investigation
Ultimately, Mr Hurley had to sign off on Mr Morrison’s requests, but critics say he could have counselled him against it and he could have publicised it himself.
But representatives for the governor-general say these types of appointments – giving ministers the right to administer other departments – are not unusual.
And it falls to the government of the day to decide if they should be announced to the public. They often opt not to.
Mr Hurley himself announcing the appointments would be unprecedented. He had “no reason to believe that appointments would not be communicated”, his spokesperson said.
Emeritus professor Jenny Hocking finds the suggestion Mr Hurley didn’t know the ministries had been kept secret “ridiculous”.
“The last of these bizarre, duplicated ministry appointments… were made more than a year after the first, so clearly by then the governor-general did know that they weren’t being made public,” she says.
“I don’t agree for a moment that the governor-general has a lot of things on his plate and might not have noticed.”
The historian says it’s one of the biggest controversies surrounding a governor-general since John Kerr caused a constitutional crisis by sacking Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1975.
Prof Hocking famously fought for transparency around that matter – waging a lengthy and costly legal battle that culminated in the release of Mr Kerr’s correspondence with the Queen.
And she says the same transparency is needed here.
The Australian public need to know whether Mr Hurley counselled the prime minister against the moves, and why he didn’t disclose them
The government has already announced an inquiry into Mr Morrison’s actions, but she wants it to look at the governor-general and his office too.
“If the inquiry is to find out what happened in order to fix what happened, it would be extremely problematic to leave out a key part of that equation.”
Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – Mr Morrison’s predecessor – has also voiced support for an inquiry.
“Something has gone seriously wrong at Government House,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
“It is the passive compliance along the chain… that did undermine our constitution and our democracy… that troubles me the most. This is how tyranny gets under way.”
PM defends governor-general
Prof Twomey says the criticism of Mr Hurley is unfair – there’s was no “conspiracy” on his part to keep things secret.
“I don’t think it’s reasonable for anyone to expect that he could have guessed that the prime minister was keeping things secret from his own ministers, for example.
“Nobody really thought that was a possibility until about two weeks ago.”
Even if he had taken the unprecedented step to publicise the appointments or to reject Mr Morrison’s request, he’d have been criticised, she says.
“There’d be even more people saying ‘how outrageous!'” she says. “The role of governor-general is awkward because people are going to attack you either way.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has also defended Mr Hurley, saying he was just doing his job.
“I have no intention of undertaking any criticism of [him].”
A role fit for purpose?
Prof Hocking says it’s a timely moment to look at the role of the governor-general more broadly.
She points out it’s possible the Queen may have been informed about Mr Morrison’s extra ministries when Australia’s parliament and people were not.
“It does raise questions about whether this is fit for purpose, as we have for decades been a fully independent nation, but we still have… ‘the relics of colonialism’ alive and well.”
Momentum for a fresh referendum on an Australian republic has been growing and advocates have seized on the controversy.
“The idea that the Queen and her representative can be relied upon to uphold our system of government has been debunked once and for all,” the Australian Republic Movement’s Sandy Biar says.
“It’s time we had an Australian head of state, chosen by Australians and accountable to them to safeguard and uphold Australia’s constitution.”
But Prof Twomey says republicans are “clutching at straws” – under their proposals, the head of state would also have been bound to follow the prime minister’s advice.
“It wouldn’t result in any changes that would have made one iota of difference.”
Australia election: PM Morrison’s security team in car crash in Tasmania
A car carrying the Australian prime minister’s security team has crashed in Tasmania during an election campaign visit.
Four police officers were taken to hospital with “non-life threatening injuries” after the car and another vehicle collided, authorities said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison was not in the car, but the accident prompted him to cancel the rest of his campaign events on Thursday.
The other driver involved was not hurt.
Tasmania Police said initial investigations suggested the second car had “collided with the rear of the police vehicle, while attempting to merge”. It caused the unmarked security vehicle to roll off the road.
The two Tasmania Police officers and two Australian Federal Police officers were conscious when taken to hospital for medical assessment, the prime minister’s office said.
“Family members of the officers have been contacted and are being kept informed of their condition,” a statement said.
“The PM is always extremely grateful for the protection provided by his security team and extends his best wishes for their recovery and to their families.”
Australians go to the polls on 21 May. Mr Morrison – prime minister since 2018 – is hoping to win his conservative coalition’s fourth term in office.
Polls suggest the opposition Labor Party, led by Anthony Albanese, is favoured to win. However, Mr Morrison defied similar polling to claim victory at the last election in 2019.
Mr Morrison’s Liberal-National coalition holds 76 seats in the House of Representatives – the minimum needed to retain power.
Political observers say the cost of living, climate change, trust in political leaders, and national security will be among key issues in the campaign.
In recent weeks, the prime minister has faced accusations of being a bully and once sabotaging a rival’s career by suggesting the man’s Lebanese heritage made him less electable. Mr Morrison has denied the allegations.
Mr Albanese stumbled into his own controversy this week when he failed to recall the nation’s unemployment or interest rates.
Sydney airport warns delays could last weeks on third day of travel chaos
Long queues at Sydney airport’s domestic terminals have continued for a third day, with some passengers missing international connections, as the airport warns delays resulting from a surge in travellers and a shortfall in security staff could continue for weeks.
Chaotic scenes were reported in the departure halls as early as 4.30am on Saturday, with some frustrated travellers, many of whom heeded the pleas of airport chiefs to arrive at least two hours before their domestic flight was due to take off, claiming only one security line was operating.
While the queues that formed early on Saturday are understood to have cleared later in the morning, the airport apologised to affected travellers.
“Traffic numbers are picking up and the close contact rules are making it hard to fill shifts and staff the airport. We appreciate your patience,” Sydney airport said on its Twitter account.
A wave of families travelling as the term two school holidays begin this weekend, combined with close contact rules that are understood to be taking out about 20% of security shifts in any given day, are driving the problem.
Certis, the company that Sydney airport contracts for its security operations, is desperately trying to recruit personnel, while the airport has reallocated back office, IT and retail workers to the departure hall to comb queues so they can prioritise passengers at risk of missing their flight.
“We are working around the clock to resolve these issues and have teams in the terminals bringing passengers forward in order of priority,” a Sydney airport spokesperson said.
He added that the airport is “anticipating it will [be] busy right through the school holiday period and peak over the Easter and Anzac Day weekends, in some cases at 90% of pre-Covid passenger levels”.
“We’re deeply grateful to passengers for their ongoing patience and we’re sorry to everyone who has been inconvenienced,” the spokesperson said. “We would also like to thank passengers for getting to the airport early and treating staff and each other with kindness and respect.”
The Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce was forced to clarify comments he made on Friday that passengers were “not match fit” and that those forgetting to remove laptops and aerosols from their bags at the security check contributing to the delays.
“Just to be clear, I’m not ‘blaming’ passengers,” Joyce said. “Of course it’s not their fault,” he said.
Qantas shed thousands of staff during the pandemic, and outsourced ground crews in a decision that was challenged in court.
On Saturday, Qantas also apologised to a Melbourne family left stranded in Sydney, after domestic flight delays caused them to miss an international trip.
Javiera Martinez, her partner Daniel Capurro and their three children were supposed to be flying to Chile on Friday to visit relatives they had not seen in three years.
But after their 8am Qantas flight from Melbourne was delayed by half an hour, baggage handling and airport transfer delays in Sydney meant they couldn’t make their 11.30am LATAM Airlines flight to Santiago.
Martinez said the airline’s procedures at the airport were chaotic.
“We think Qantas didn’t behave appropriately. I got berated by the person at the counter – they never apologised, they never assumed any responsibility at all,” she said. “It was a rude conversation. We have been mistreated badly I would say.”
The PCR tests they need to travel have now expired and they will have to take them again as they wait for seats on the next flight to Santiago from Sunday.
The airline has apologised and paid for a night’s accommodation in Sydney.
“We sincerely apologise that the family missed their connecting flight on another airline due to delays moving through Sydney airport on Friday,” a Qantas spokesperson said.
The family is among many affected by hold ups amid the busiest travel period in two years, with Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane airports warning passengers to arrive two hours before domestic flights.
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