As a child, I stood for hours on end – sometimes the entire weekend, watching planes take off and land at our local airport. I was young, naive, and didn’t even know planes flew based on predetermined schedules.

42698081 - boeing 747 jet preparing to land wheels down on final approach

In 1994, I took my first ever ride in a Boeing 747 – a transatlantic flight. I’d saved for years for the ticket and was like a kid in a candy factory on board. I didn’t notice the seat layouts, meal choices or anything else that people complain about today when flying commercially. I was just numb inside with excitement.

Since Pan Am’s inaugural flight in 1970, the “jumbo jet” has captivated flyers around the world. To this day, I watch passengers stop what they are doing as one passes, taxiing to or from the runway. How does a fully laden plane weighing 485 tons take off and land so gracefully? A truly amazing engineering feat.

In the last 46 years since that inaugural flight, a lot has changed in the airline industry. The original “innovators” such as Pan Am and TWA have long stopped flying, and we now have a landscape dominated by US mega-carriers, middle-Eastern airlines such as Etihad and Emirates, national carriers, and the discounters like Ryan Air and Southwest Airlines. We’ve also witnessed Airbus become a viable global competitor to Boeing, and the introduction of the A-380. If you really want to learn about legroom, try sitting on one of those planes on the lower deck for a 10-hour flight from Frankfurt to Johannesburg!

I now find myself increasingly reading about airlines retiring their 747-fleets for fuel economy reasons and the expanding number of planes in 747 graveyards in places like Victorville, California. While I recognize that change is the one constant in this world, I don’t feel the same emotional connection to a Boeing 777 or a Dreamliner as they pass by, as when watching a 747.

Call me sentimental, but I am hoping that jumbo jets keep flying as long as possible, as there will always be something special about one of the coolest, earliest examples of technological genius in our world.

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– David Sly, President