Sad. I worked many of these in Anchorage, especially the 747 freighters, which NWA retired in 2009. Hundreds of my 747 freighter photos are in my Cargo’s Last Stand category.
From: Star & Tribune
Delta’s 747s, a vestige of Northwest’s heyday, will visit Minnesota for the final time
DECEMBER 16, 2017
For two generations, Northwest took Minnesotans around the world — and brought the world to Minnesota — on the 747. But Delta is the last U.S. airline that flies the planes, and now it is retiring the last four in its fleet. …
From the start, the plane awed. The 747 was about twice the height and length of any other plane then, and it still towers over most airplanes today. The second deck that extended from the cockpit back over the first third of the plane gave it a hump that made the 747 instantly recognizable and inspired a nickname, the Whale. …
Northwest in 1947 became the first U.S. airline to fly to Japan and, by the late 1960s, operated a Pacific route system that competed chiefly with Pan American World Airways. With its first 747s, Northwest rebranded itself Northwest Orient and used that name on some aircraft into the 1980s. Through the 1980s and 1990s, the 747s that flew in and out of Northwest’s hub at Narita moved about 5,000 people a day between the U.S. and major Asian cities.
“It was a very efficient system because you could go from any of six or seven cities in the U.S. to the Narita hub and then go on to eight or 10 Asian cities,” Nelson said.
It was also lucrative, delivering nearly half of Northwest’s operating profit in some years. For a time, Northwest owned and flew more 747s than any other U.S. airline….
About a decade ago, new widebody planes emerged from Boeing and its European rival Airbus with two engines instead of the 747’s four. They were more fuel-efficient and profitable.
After its purchase of Northwest in 2008, Delta began replacing the 747s with the newer widebody planes on the Pacific routes. In 2013, Delta executives announced they would phase out the 747 by the end of this year. …
Former Northwest employees and retirees, particularly those who spent years working on the plane, feel possessive of the 747 in its twilight moment. …
No Northwest 747 ever crashed. The most harrowing incident happened in 2002, when a flight from Detroit to Tokyo lost control over the Bering Sea west of Alaska. The lower rudder on the plane’s tail was knocked out of its position by a piston, a first for a 747. The senior captain, John Hanson, had just started to nap after relinquishing control to the second crew. But the second crew brought the first crew back into the cockpit. All four pilots then played critical roles keeping the plane in the air for the two hours it took to get back to Anchorage, the nearest airport.
Hanson, who retired in 2007, today remembers how a passenger leaving that flight threw her arms around him and gave him a kiss on the cheek.