Tag Archives: Boeing 747

1 September 1983

A Soviet Sukhoi Su-15 interceptor armed with R-98MR air-to-air missiles. (Department of Defense)
Подполковник Г.Н. Осипович. Майкоп, середина 1980-х гг.
Подполковник Г.Н. Осипович. Майкоп, середина 1980-х гг.

1 September 1983: At approximately 1826 hours UTC, Lieutenant Colonel Gennadiy Nikolayevich Osipovich of the V-PVO, (Soviet Air Defence Forces—Войска ПВО, Voyska Protivovozdushnoy Oborony) flying a Sukhoi Su-15TM interceptor, fired two Kaliningrad R-98MR air-to-air missiles at a Korean Air Lines Boeing 747 which was in international air space over the Sea of Japan at an altitude of 35,000 feet (10,668 meters). Both missiles’ 40 kilogram (88 pound) warheads were detonated by proximity fuses 50 yards (45 meters) behind the airliner and blast fragmentation shrapnel caused severe damage. Over the next twelve minutes, the 747 spiraled downward until it crashed into the Sea of Japan near Moneron Island. All 269 persons on board were killed.

The airliner, KAL Flight 007, had departed Anchorage International Airport enroute to Seoul, Republic of Korea. In command was Captain Chun Byung-in. The co-pilot was First Officer Son Dong Hui and the flight engineer was Kim Eui Doing. There were a total of 29 crew members and 240 passengers on board.

After leaving Anchorage airspace, the airplane, a 12-year-old Boeing 747-230B, registration HL7442, continuously deviated from its planned route to the north. It entered Soviet airspace, crossed over the Kamchatka Penninsula, and then flew over Sakhalin Island. Based on these two airspace incursions, the Soviet military chain of command specifically ordered Lieutenant Colonel Osipovich to shoot down the airliner, even if it was over international waters.

A Korean Alr Lines Boeing 747-200, HL2464, similar to the aircraft flown as KAL 007. (Wikipedia)
A Korean Air Lines’ Boeing 747-2B5B, similar to the 747-230B flown as KAL 007, 1 September 1983. (Wikipedia)

It is believed that the KAL 007 flight crew had placed the autopilot in the heading mode when it should have been in the Inertial Navigation Mode. From review of cockpit voice recorder tapes that were later recovered, it is not believed that the crew was ever aware that they were flying north of their course.

The intended and actual track of KAL Flight 700.
The intended and actual track of Korean Air Lines Flight 007. (Central Intelligence Agency)

When interviewed by The New York Times for the 9 December 1996 edition, Colonel Osipovich, by then retired, said, “I saw two rows of windows and knew this was a Boeing. . . I knew this was a civilian plane. But for me this meant nothing. It is easy to turn a civilian type of plane into one for military use.”

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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16–17 August 1989

Qantas' Boeing 747-438 Longreach VH-OJA, Spirit of Australia. (Aero Icarus)
Qantas’ Boeing 747-438 Longreach VH-OJA, City of Canberra. (Aero Icarus)

16–17 August 1989: On its delivery flight, Qantas’ first Boeing 747-438 Longreach airliner, VH-OJA, City of Canberra, was flown by Captain David Massey-Green from London Heathrow Airport, England (IATA: LHR, ICAO: EGLL) to Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport, Australia (IATA: SYD, ICAO: YSSY), non-stop. Three other senior Qantas captains, Ray Heiniger, George Lindeman and Rob Greenop completed the flight deck crew. Boeing Training Captain Chet Chester was also aboard.

The distance flown by the new 747 was 17,039.00 kilometers (10,587.54 miles) at an average speed of 845.58 kilometers per hour (525.42 miles per hour). The flight’s duration was 20 hours, 9 minutes, 5 seconds. This set a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Distance and World Record for Speed Over a Recognized Course.

The crew of Qantas Flight 741. Front row, left to right: FSD David Cohen, FSD Mal Callender. Back row, left to right: Captain Ray Heiniger, Captain David Massey-Greene, Captain George Lindeman, Captain Rob Greenop.
The crew of Qantas Flight 7741. Front row, left to right: FSD David Cohen, FSD Mal Callender. Back row, left to right: Captain Ray Heiniger, Captain David Massey-Greene, Captain George Lindeman, Captain Rob Greenop. (Unattributed)

FAI Record File Num #2201 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1t (Landplanes: take off weight 300 000 kg to 400 000 kg)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Distance
Performance: 17 039.00 km
Date: 1989-08-17
Course/Location: London (United Kingdom) – Sydney, NSW (Australia)
Claimant David Massy-greene (AUS)
Aeroplane: Boeing 747-400 (VH-OJA)
Engines: 4 Rolls Royce RB 211

FAI Record File Num #2202 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – current record
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1t (Landplanes: take off weight 300 000 kg to 400 000 kg)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 3 : turbo-jet
Type of record: Speed over a recognised course
Performance: 845.58 km/h
Date: 1989-08-17
Course/Location: London (United Kingdom) – Sydney, NSW (Australia)
Claimant David Massy-greene (AUS)
Aeroplane: Boeing 747-400 (VH-OJA)
Engines: 4 Rolls Royce RB 211

Boeing 747-438 Longreach VH-OJA, City of Canberra at Sydney, Australia, August 1989. The motto, WE FLY FURTHER has been painted on the fuselage in recognition of the new airliner's distance record. (John McHarg)
Boeing 747-438 Longreach VH-OJA, City of Canberra, at Sydney, Australia, August 1989. The motto, WE GO FURTHER has been painted on the fuselage in recognition of the new airliner’s distance record. (John McHarg)

VH-OJA was the first of four Boeing 747-400 airliners ordered by Qantas more than two years earlier. The company named these “Longreach” both to emphasize their very long range capabilities, but also as a commemoration of the first scheduled passenger flight of the Queensland and Northern Territories Aerial Services Ltd. at Longreach, Queensland, 2 November 1922. Qantas named the new airliner City of Canberra. The new 747, the twelfth -400 built, with U.S. registration N6064P, it made its first flight at Seattle with Boeing’s test pilots on 3 July 1989. It was turned over to Qantas on 9 August.

Planning for the record setting flight began almost as soon as the airplane had been ordered. Although the airplane was complete and ready to enter passenger service on arrival at Sydney, certain special arrangements were made. Shell Germany refined 60,000 gallons (227,000 liters) of a special high-density jet fuel and delivered it to Heathrow. Rolls-Royce, manufacturer of the RB211-524G high-bypass turbofan engines, had agreed to specially select four engines to be installed on VH-OJA at the Boeing plant at Everett, Washington.

On the morning of the flight, City of Canberra was towed to the Hold Short position for Runway 28 Right (28R) so as not to use any of the precious fuel while taxiing from the terminal. Once there, its fuel tanks were filled to overflow. The airport fire department stood by as the excess fuel ran out of the tank vents. In the passenger cabin were two Flight Service Directors, FSD David Cohen and FSD Mal Callender, and eighteen passengers including senior executives from Qantas, Boeing, Shell as well as representatives of the Australian news media. The flight crew planned the engine start to allow for the mandatory three-minute warm-up and at approximately 0840 local, called the Tower, using the call sign Qantas 7441, and said that they were ready for takeoff.

After climbing to altitude they began the cruise portion of the flight at Flight Level 330 (33,000 feet or 10,058 meters). As fuel was burned off the airliner gradually climbed higher for more efficiency, eventually reaching a maximum altitude of 45,100 feet (13,746.5 meters) by the time they had reached the west coast of Australia.

QF7441 touched down at Sydney Airport at 2:19 p.m, local time (0419 UTC) in—well, let’s just call it rain and leave it at that. (There is more to the story. . . .)

City of Canberra, Qantas' first Boeing 747-400-series airliner, touches down at Sydney Airport, 2:19 p.m., local, 17 August 1989. (Qantas Heritage Collection)
City of Canberra, Qantas’ first Boeing 747-400-series airliner, registered VH-OJA, touches down at Sydney Airport, 2:19 p.m., local, 17 August 1989. (Qantas Heritage Collection) 

For a more detailed description of this flight and its planning, see John McHarg’s article, “The Delivery Flight of Qantas Boeing 747-438 VH-OJA” at:

http://www.aussieairliners.org/b-747/vh-oja/vhoja%20article/vhojastory.html

City of Canberra, VH-OJA, remains in Qantas service twenty-four years later. Its distance record stood until 10 November 1995 when another Boeing airliner, a 777-200LR with Captain Suzanna Darcy-Henneman in command, set a new distance record.

Qantas' Boeing 747-438 Longreach VH-OJA, City of Canberra, on takeoff, 2011. (Aero icarus)
Qantas’ Boeing 747-438 Longreach VH-OJA, City of Canberra, on takeoff from Sydney, 1999. (Aero Icarus)

The Boeing 747-400 airliner can carry between 416 and 660 passengers, depending on configuration. It is 231 feet, 10 inches (70.6 meters) long with a wingspan of 211 feet, 5 inches (64.4 meters) and overall height of 63 feet, 8 inches (19.4 meters). Empty weight is 394,100 pounds (178,800 kilograms). Maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) is 875,000 pounds (396,890 kilograms). While the prototype was powered by four Pratt and Whitney PW4056 turbofan engines, production airplanes could be ordered with PW4062, General Electric CF6 or Rolls-Royce RB211 engines, providing thrust ranging from 59,500 to 63,300 pounds. The –400 has a cruise speed of 0.85 Mach (567 miles per hour, 912 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 0.92 Mach (614 miles per hour, 988 kilometers hour). Maximum range at maximum payload weight is 7,260 nautical miles (13,450 kilometers).

A Qantas Boeing 747-438 Longreach, VH-OJU, Lord Howe Island, leaves contrails across the sky. (Unattributed)
A Qantas Boeing 747-438 Longreach, VH-OJU, Lord Howe Island, leaves contrails across the sky. (Unattributed)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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12 August 1985

Japan Air Lines’ Boeing 747-146SR, JA8119. (Robin787)

12 August 1985: The worst accident involving a single aircraft occurred when a Boeing 747 operated by Japan Air Lines crashed into a mountain in the Gunma Prefecture, killing 520 persons. There were just 4 survivors.

JAL Flight 123 was a Boeing 747-146SR, registration JA8119. It departed Tokyo International Airport enroute Osaka International Airport. There were 15 crewmembers, led by Captain Masami Takahama, with First Officer Yutaka Sasaki and Second Officer Hiroshi Fukuda. There were 509 passengers aboard.

Flight 123 lifted off at 6:12 p.m., 12 minutes behind schedule. 12 minutes after takeoff, as the 747 was at its cruising altitude, the fuselage rear pressure bulkhead suddenly failed, causing explosive decompression of the cabin. Cabin air then rushed into the unpressurized tail section. The resulting overpressure caused a failure of the APU bulkhead and the support structure for the vertical fin. The airliner’s vertical fin separated from the fuselage. All four of the 747’s hydraulic systems were ruptured. The hydraulic system was quickly depleted, leaving the crew unable to move any flight control surfaces.

JAL 123 following loss of its vertical fin.

Control of the airplane began to quickly deteriorate and the only control left was to vary the thrust on the four turbofan engines. The flight crew began an emergency descent and declared an emergency.

For the next 32 minutes, JA8119 flew in large uncontrolled arcs. The 747 rolled into banks as steep as 60°, and at one point, the nose pitched down into a dive reaching 18,000 feet per minute (91 meters per second). The crew was able to bring the 747 back to a nose-high attitude at about 5,000 feet (1,524 meters), but again lost control. At 6:56 p.m., JAL 123 disappeared from air traffic control radar.

Mount Takamagahara, 1,978.6 meters above Sea Level. (Σ64, via Wikipedia)

The airliner struck a ridge on 1,978.6 meter (6,491.5 feet) Mount Takamagahara at 340 knots (391 miles per hour, or 630 kilometers per hour), then impacted a second time at an elevation of 5,135 feet (1,565 meters). The aircraft was totally destroyed.

Investigation of the accident determined that the 747 had previously been damaged when its tail struck the runway during a landing, 2 June 1978. The rear pressure bulkhead had cracked as a result of the tail strike, but was repaired by a team of Boeing technicians. After the crash, it was discovered that the repair had not been correctly performed. Boeing engineers calculated that it could be expected to fail after 10,000 cycles. It was on the 12,219th cycle when the bulkhead failed.

Boeing 747-146SR JA8119 had accumulated a total of 25,030 flight hours by the time of the accident, on 18,835 flights.

Computer-generated image depicting the damage to JAL Flight 123. (Anynobody via Wikipedia)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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27 June 1988

Boeing 747-400 N401PW lifts off the runway at Moses Lake, Washington. (Boeing)
Boeing 747-400 N401PW lifts off the runway at Moses Lake, Washington. (Boeing)

27 June 1988: During flight testing of the first Boeing 747-400 airliner, N401PW, serial number 23719, test pilots James C. Loesch and Howard B. Greene took off from Moses Lake, Washington and climbed to an altitude of 2,000 meters (6,562 feet). The total weight of the airplane was 405,659 kilograms (894,325 pounds). This set a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Greatest Mass Carried to a Height of 2,000 Meters.¹

N401PW, the first Boeing 747-400 airliner. (Boeing)
N401PW, the first Boeing 747-400 airliner. (Boeing)

The 747-400 was a major development of the 747 series. It had many structural and electronics improvements over the earlier models, which had debuted 18 years earlier. New systems, such as a “glass cockpit”, flight management computers, and new engines allowed it to be flown with a crew of just two pilots, and the position of Flight Engineer became unnecessary. The most visible features of the –400 are its longer upper deck and the six-foot tall “winglets” at the end of each wing, which improve aerodynamic efficiency be limiting the formation of wing-tip vortices. At the time of its first flight, Boeing had already received orders for 100 747-400s. It would become the most popular version, with 694 aircraft built by the time production came to an end 15 March 2007.

The Boeing 747-400 airliner can carry between 416 and 524 passengers, depending on configuration. It is 231 feet, 10 inches (70.663 meters) long with a wingspan of 211 feet, 5 inches (64.440 meters) and overall height of 63 feet, 8 inches (19.406 meters). Empty weight is 394,100 pounds (178,761 kilograms). Maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) is 875,000 pounds (396,893 kilograms). While the prototype was powered by four Pratt and Whitney PW4056 turbofan engines, production airplanes could be ordered with PW4062, General Electric CF6 or Rolls-Royce RB211 engines, providing thrust ranging from 59,500 to 63,300 pounds. The –400 has a cruise speed of 0.85 Mach (567 miles per hour, 912 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 0.92 Mach (614 miles per hour, 988 kilometers hour). Maximum range at maximum payload weight is 8,355 miles (13,446 kilometers).

Northwest Airlines' Boeing 747-451 N661US on approach to Osaka Kansai International Airport, 11 June 2007. (Photograph courtesy of Dennis Lau)
Northwest Airlines’ Boeing 747-451 N661US on approach to Osaka Kansai International Airport, 11 June 2007. (Photograph courtesy of Dennis Lau)

After the test program was completed, the prototype 747-400 was outfitted for airline service configured as a 747-451. It was operated by Northwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines. It was been re-registered as N661US, and carries the Delta fleet number 6301.

Boeing 747-451 N661US, Delta Air Lines, landing at Tokyo-Narita International Airport, 25 July 2009. (Photograph courtesy of Kazuchika Naya)
Boeing 747-451 N661US, Delta Air Lines, landing at Tokyo-Narita International Airport, 25 July 2009. (Photograph courtesy of Kazuchika Naya)

N661US flew its last revenue flight 9 September 2015, from Honolulu (HNL) to Atlanta (ATL). It was then withdrawn from service. The first 747-400 will be displayed at the Delta Flight Museum near Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Atlanta, Georgia.

¹ FAI Record File Number 2203

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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24 February 1989

United Air Lines' Boeing 747 N4713U, photographed at Los Angeles International Airport, 14 April 1982. (Ted Quackenbush via Wikipedia)
United Air Lines’ Boeing 747-122 s/n 19875, N4713U, photographed at Los Angeles International Airport, 14 April 1982. (Ted Quackenbush via Wikipedia)

24 February 1989: At 01:52:49 HST, United Airlines Flight 811 was cleared for takeoff from Honolulu International Airport (HNL), enroute to Auckland International Airport (AKL) and onward to Sydney, Australia (SYD). On board were 337 passengers and 18 crew members. The airliner was under the command of Captain David Cronin, with First Officer Gregory Slader and Second Officer Randal Thomas. The airliner was a Boeing 747-122, serial number 19875, registered N4713U.

16 minutes after takeoff, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) south of Honolulu, the 747 was climbing through an altitude of 22,000 feet (6,705 meters) at 300 knots (345 miles per hour/556 kilometers per hour) when, at 02:09:09 HST, the cargo door on the lower right side of the fuselage, just forward of the wing, failed, blowing outward. Explosive decompression blew a huge hole in the fuselage. Ten passenger seats were carried away along with nine passengers. A flight attendant was nearly lost, but was dragged back inside by passengers and crew.

Debris damaged the two engines on the right wing, causing them to lose power. Flames were visible. Both engines had to be shut down. Flight 811 declared an emergency, began descending and dumping fuel to reduce the airliner’s weight for an emergency landing. The 747 turned back toward Honolulu.

Because the wing had also been damaged, the flaps could not be fully extended and this required a much higher than normal approach speed. The 747 touched down at approximately 200 knots (230 miles per hour/370 kilometers per hour). After coming to a stop, Flight 811 was completely evacuated within 45 seconds. Every flight attendant suffered some injury.

The cause of the cargo door failure was determined to be a faulty design, combine with a short in the 747’s electrical system. The door was recovered by a U.S. Navy deep sea submersible from a depth of 14,100 feet (4,298 meters).

N4713U made its first flight 20 October 1970 and had accumulated 58,814:24 flight hours  and 15,027 cycles prior to takeoff from Honolulu. It was repaired at a cost of $14,000,000 and then returned to service, re-registered N4724U. In 1997, 19875 was sold to Air Dabia and assigned registration C5-FBS. It has since been scrapped.

The 747-100 series was the first version of the Boeing 747 to be built. It was operated by a flight crew of three and was designed to carry 366 to 452 passengers. It is 231 feet, 10.2 inches (70.668 meters) long with a wingspan of 195 feet, 8 inches (59.639 meters) and overall height of 63 feet, 5 inches (19.329 meters). The interior cabin width is 20 feet (6.096 meters), giving it the name “wide body.” Its empty weight is 370,816 pounds (168,199 kilograms) and the Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) is 735,000 pounds (333,390 kilograms).

The 747-100 is powered by four Pratt & Whitney JT9D-7A high-bypass ratio turbofan engines. The JT9D is a two-spool, axial-flow turbofan engine with a single-stage fan section, 14-stage compressor (11 high- and 3 low-pressure stages) and 6-stage turbine (2 high- and 4 low-pressure stages). The engine is rated at 46,950 pounds of thrust (208.844 kilonewtons), or 48,570 pounds (216.050 kilonewtons) with water injection (2½-minute limit). This engine has a maximum diameter of 7 feet, 11.6 inches (2.428 meters), is 12 feet, 10.2 inches (3.917 meters) long and weighs 8,850 pounds (4,014 kilograms).

The 747-100 has a cruise speed of 0.84 Mach (555 miles per hour, 893 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters). The maximum certificated operating speed is 0.92 Mach. The airliner’s maximum range is 6,100 miles (9,817 kilometers).

The Boeing 747 has been in production for 48 years. More than 1,520 have been delivered to date. 205 of these were the 747-100 series. The U.S. Air Force has selected the Boeing 747-8 as the next presidential transport aircraft.

Captain David M. Cronin died 6 October 2010 at the age of 81 years.

A surprisingly poor quality image showing teh damage to Boeing 747 N4713U resulting from the failure of the cargo door. (Unattributed)
A surprisingly poor quality image showing the damage to Boeing 747 N4713U resulting from the failure of the cargo door. (Unattributed)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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