MUKILTEO — It was a final chance to say goodbye.
Delta Air Lines is retiring Boeing’s 747s from its fleet and flew one of the last ones — N674US — to Paine Field on Monday on a farewell tour. That plane and more than 1,500 others like it were all built at Boeing’s Everett factory.
Dozens of Boeing and Delta employees gathered for a ceremony at the Future of Flight Aviation Center.
“When Delta created the list of stops for this farewell tour, we knew Everett was going to be on that list,” said Tony Gonchar, Delta’s Seattle vice president.
He told the crowd that it’s about the people at Delta who flew, served, sold tickets, loaded and maintained the aircraft. He also said it was about the workers from Boeing.
“You are all the minds, hands and hearts that built one of the most advanced pieces of machinery known to man,” Gonchar said. “You sent this aircraft into the skies with a single mission, to bring the world closer. We’re here to say thank you and congratulate (you) on a job well done.”
Delta plans to fly its last 747 passenger flight — from Seoul, South Korea, to Detroit — on Wednesday.
After that, there will be no more U.S. airlines flying passenger 747s. United Airlines retired 747s from its fleet last month.
Boeing workers walked onto the tarmac to take selfies with the plane — the 1,232nd 747 to roll out of the factory, on Sept. 13, 1999 — pat it and sign their names on the exterior. One of the workers was Natialene Schopf, a quality assurance manager who works for Boeing. She spent years on the 747-400 line.
“It’s been so much of my career,” Schopf said. “It’s been a great ride.”
J.W. Allen was one of the passengers on the plane as it flew in from Detroit. He flew 747s as a pilot for Eastern Airlines for a couple of years. His son, Hank Allen, was the pilot on this flight.
“It’s a beautiful airplane,” J.W. Allen said. “It’s a little too expensive to operate it these days.”
Boeing delivered the first 747, with it signature hump, in 1969. It was nicknamed “the queen of the skies.” It revolutionized long-haul flying, connecting far-flung destinations with one flight.
Tim Frilingos, manager of exhibits at the Delta Museum in Atlanta, said at the ceremony the 747 belongs in aerospace annals alongside the Wright Brother’s Kitty Hawk, Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis and the Saturn V rocket that brought humans to the moon.
“One big difference between those planes and this one is this one turned a profit,” Frilingos said. “This made some revenue for Boeing and the airlines.”
Boeing continues to make a newer version — the 747-8, for passengers and freight. Since 2010, Boeing has made 76 747-8 freighters — the cargo version of the planes — and 46 of the 747-8 Intercontinentals — the passenger version. None of the buyers is a U.S. carrier.
Still, the 747 has made its place in history, said Bruce Dickinson, vice president and general manager of Boeing’s 747 program.
“The queen of the skies simply made us all better,” Dickinson said. “It got us to our meetings on time, it connected us with family and friends and it took us to distant lands. She’s an amazing airplane that connected us to the world and has brought the world to us.”