Recently, the Blue Angels made their last formation flight with the F/A-18 Hornet. The team is transitioning to the Super Hornet ahead of 2021 and they have started working up with the new jets. It has been a while since I last saw the Blue Angels demonstration so I thought a few shots with their aging legacy Hornets was in order. They always got the oldest jets in the fleet so I hope they are happy to have some slightly newer airframes to work with.
The Air France A380s have gone away. Their retirement had already been identified prior to the COVID-19 outbreak but it accelerated their departure. I had shot them on a few occasions with SFO and LAX being regular destinations. Since I won’t be seeing them again, here is a farewell tribute to the Air France A380. Hope one or two of the airframes find a second life.
These shots aren’t particularly nice but, at the time I took them, I didn’t realize that they would be a bit more significant for a friend of mine. He was a skipper for Virgin Atlantic and making his first run to Seattle. I went out to get his arrival despite it being a bit gloomy. We met up afterwards for a beer and some food. He flew back the following day.
Since that time, the airline business (along with many businesses) has taken a bad turn and Virgin Atlantic has been getting rid of staff. My friend was eligible for retirement and decided to take it. Consequently, this flight turned out to be the last landing he made in his commercial flying career. The return leg landing was made by another member of his crew. It would have been nice if the conditions were better but I am glad I was there to see it. Happy retirement Chris and see you soon I hope!
Another airline retiring another type. This used to be an occasional topic on the blog but the massive reductions in airline service means I could probably almost pick one a day. In this case it is American Airlines and the Boeing 767. The 757s have also been grounded but they are not definitely retired yet so we’ll wait for a while. Of course, by the time this post hits the page, that might have changed!
The 767-200 fleet went away a while back but I am going to include them here. The 767-300s have been around until now. I didn’t travel in them very much but have made the occasional trip. I think I took one from Chicago to Manchester in the UK and definitely had a ride from SFO to JFK once. There have probably been other times that I don’t now recall. It has been quite a while since I was a regular with American.
All that aside, the fleet is now done. Some may find a second life – possibly as freighters – but probably the majority will end up being parted out. We might suddenly find 767 parts are not as in need as they were until recently but there is still a sizable fleet of freighters and there are still in production so maybe there is some value.
I posted here about KLM retiring their 747s early as a result of the COVID-19 related pummeling that the airlines have taken. It wasn’t long before another airline made the same announcement – this time it was Qantas. Qantas has operated the 747s since the beginning and it is quite a shame to see that they are no more. Here are some of my Qantas 747s from over the years. I should note that there is a rumor that they may not be gone for good and could return. That would be great but I suspect it will not be the case given that they didn’t have long left anyway and things are going to be rough for a while for the airlines in all probability.
The massive reductions in air service as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has put airlines in a tough spot. One of the first things they have done is ground a significant portion of their fleets. For some airlines with types that were due to go out of service before too long anyway, this just accelerated the plans. The KLM 747s were due to last until 2021 but they have been grounded and are not expected to return. As I have done with the end of 747 operations for other airlines in the past, this is a small tribute to the KLM 747 fleet. An interesting livery amongst a world of white jets.
As a small boy, the new thing in British trains was the Intercity 125. Known in the industry as the HST, this was a step forward in fast train travel for the UK. When I started working in the rail industry many years later, the HSTs were a big part of our fleet. They had been in service a long time by then but were still the backbone of certain corridors and were getting further investment. Move on another 20 years and now the fleet is finally disappearing.
Some are still being reconfigured for a future on new routes, but the majority of the fleet is being replaced by a new generation of trains and it is a surprise just how long it has taken to find their successors. The HSTs have been a solid fleet with strong performance, a level of redundancy and a ride quality that was impressive. I figured I would through in a couple of shots I have of them. I have very few, sadly. One is an old one in British Rail colors from the 80s and the others are from the days of GNER. What a shame I don’t have more. Given the amount of time I spent traveling on them or inspecting them at depots and overhaul facilities, I should have tons. Oh to have had had phones in our cameras then!
There will be much online about the retirement of the Tornado from RAF service. Global Aviation Resource has been putting together some great information on the history of the jet in service and I would recommend you take a look there if you are interested. I am not going to repeat the information about the history of its service. However, I do have a history with the jet. It was entering service just as I was getting very in to aviation. Then I ended up working on the program undertaking handling clearances for different configurations and clearing urgent changes that were implemented for the first Gulf War.
I figured I would share a few pictures of Tornados. These are all the IDS version of the jet be they GR1 or GR4. I haven’t included the ADV jets since they went away a while back. Some of these shots are scans of old negatives and aren’t the greatest quality but they are part of the early life of the jet. Some others are more recent.
I will always have a soft spot for the Tornado. It remains in service in Germany, Italy and Saudi Arabia but for the RAF, the service that drove the aircraft to be a more complex jet than the other partners initially wanted, it is now history.
Hawaiian Airlines had a reasonably large fleet of 767s for its long haul services. They introduced A330s to expand the fleet and more recently have added A321neos to serve destinations on the west coast of the US. The arrival of these planes has meant the 767s are no longer needed. Consequently the fleet has been run down and the final flights have taken place. It won’t be an Airbus only fleet for the longer flights for long though. 787-9s are on order so Boeing will return to the long haul fleet before too long.
The disappearance of the 747 from the world’s airline fleets continues apace. The most recent company to bid the Queen of the Skies farewell is Delta. Delta did operate 747s in the early days but its current fleet was acquired as a result of the takeover of Northwest. Northwest has operated plenty of 747s over the years and was the launch operator of the 747-400. They continued to operate older generation freighters for a number of years too.
Delta carried out a farewell tour for the type and it included a visit to Seattle. Prior to going to SeaTac, the plane stopped off at Everett, the place where it, and every 747 before or since, was built. It was a dismal day with low cloud and rain. The plane emerged from the clag on final approach and zipped low over the threshold to touch down before reversing thrust in a cloud of spray. It parked up at the Boeing facility next to the Future of Flight Museum where it stayed for a few hours before heading to SeaTac.