back to article Oldest flying 747 finally grounded, 47 years after first flight

The oldest Boeing 747 capable of flight has been shelved. The 747-100 was the 25th to roll off the production line and entered service in 1970 with long-defunct Pan American Airlines, which flew it more than 18,000 times before selling it to GE Aviation in 1991. GE used it as a flying testbed for new engines, a role the 747 …

  1. Updraft102 Silver badge

    "The 747-100 was the 25th to roll off the production line and entered service in 1970 with long-defunct Pan American Airlines, which flew it more than 18,000 times before selling it to GE Aviation in 1991."

    That's a lot of flights for a long-defunct airline. What could they have possibly been doing?

    1. Blake St. Claire

      >> ... Pan American Airlines, which flew it more than 18,000 times...

      > That's a lot of flights. What could they have possibly been doing?

      At one flight per day that's 49 years. Pan Am went out of business in 1991, so three flights per day for 20 years would more than cover it. If they count each leg as a flight, a R/T JFK to SFO with a stop in somewhere in the middle – which doesn't seem far fetched – is four flights per day right there.

      1. Sampler

        It's a grammar joke Blake St. Claire - as in they were long-defunct when they bought it, not now.

      2. Dave 15 Silver badge

        But there would have been downtimes for maintenance so I think I agree, the number sounds too many.

    2. dmacleo

      if the 18K was ACTUALLY TAC (total airframe cycles) then half the number.

  2. Blake St. Claire

    Puny fifth engine in that pic

    I was living in Johannesburg (Sandton) in 1971 when SAA took delivery of its first 747. It brought its replacement engine with it, attached to the wing. Somewhere I have a picture of it flying over our flat on its approach to JNB.

    1. TReko

      Re: Puny fifth engine in that pic

      The original 747's actually had a fifth engine mount under the wing for ferrying spare engines.

      More info here:

      https://www.google.com/search?q=747+extra+engine+mount

    2. I3N
      Pint

      Re: Puny fifth engine in that pic

      Maybe that explains what I saw in 1969 - a 747, flying at altitude, heading off the Washington State coast with an instrumentation boom and contrails.

      Fun times in Seattle for a newcomer ... 75% jobs lost in Boeing's commercial aircraft business ... wasn't too good back home at Motorola either ...

      Boom and bust ... churn and burn ... tech business for you ... don't tell the kids ...

    3. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: Puny fifth engine in that pic

      @Blake St Claire, all 747 models up to the 747-8 had the fifth-engine ops capability. QANTAS still does this occasionally when (in fact they did it recently for a stranded jet in Johannesburg).

      The 747-8 models exclusively use the GE engines, which split between the fan and the remainder of the engine and hence can be shoved into a freighter, so they no longer have fifth-engine ops support.

  3. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    A venerable workhorse

    A good ROI for GE Aviation I imagine.

    1. Tom 64

      Re: A venerable workhorse

      Indeed. Always enjoy flying on 747s, it always feels like an occasion. I've yet to try the airbus A380, but the modern 777s flying now are a little dull by comparison.

    2. bazza Silver badge

      Re: A venerable workhorse

      A good ROI, but also a harbinger of enourmous problems for GE, RR, NASA, USAF, and a few other niche operators of the 747. For some jobs; you really do need 4 engines.

      For GE and Rolls Royce, they absolutely need a 4 engine aircraft for engine testing. Everyone has been using 747 because it is ideal. Yet with today's trend for large twin jets, one day there will be no large 4 jet airframes left flying. Even the A380 will one day stop operating. So how then would GE and RR flight test an engine?

      NASA uses an old 747 as a flying telescope, SOFIA. This is a remarkable piece of kit, extremely useful for a lot of astronomers across the world. The higher it flies, the better it works. A 747 can fly surprisingly high, thanks in part to having 4 engines (lots of surplus power). I don't think that any modern 2 jet airliner gets anywhere near as high, so SOFIA will one day be diminished.

      Airforce 1 is supposed to have 4 jets for all sorts of reasons, mostly related to the USA's nuclear chain of command.

      Anyway, there's a few operators for whom 4 engines is an imperative, who have been able to pick up 747s (and maybe A340 and A380s) cheaply and easily, and who have gone on to have a truly beneficial impact on our lives (please feel free to reserve judgement about the merits of AF1). When we stop flying 4 engine aircraft commercially, those niche operators are going to be in difficulty; where's their next one coming from?

      Anyone got a plan for that?

      1. Bubba Von Braun

        Re: A venerable workhorse

        Same way they tested them in the beginning, lots of ground testing, taxi testing and then flight test. 747 had a wicked problem with the initial P&W JT9D-3's as the engine case deformed and caused blades to touch the case, never good thing. Fix was a revised engine mount.

        Most twins especially the 767/777 have great single engine performance. Given your doing flight test in a lightly loaded aircraft I would expect a few more air-frames kicking around.

        BvB

        1. caffeine addict Silver badge

          Re: A venerable workhorse

          Well, anyone round Cambridge (UK not USA) will probably have seen/heard Snoopy knocking around. It's a C130 that for a long time (still?) had a huge engine on it as a testbed for Airbus.

          The number of 747 and C130s knocking around, I think we're safe for a year or two...

          http://www.qsl.net/g3tso/images/Aviation/SnoopyE.jpg

          1. Shart Tank

            Re: A venerable workhorse

            > Well, anyone round Cambridge (UK not USA) will probably have seen/heard

            > Snoopy knocking around. It's a C130 that for a long time (still?) had a huge

            > engine on it as a testbed for Airbus.

            Airbus uses an American-made C130 for testing? Don't they have any of their own planes they can use for testing?

            1. caffeine addict Silver badge

              Re: A venerable workhorse

              IIRC, Airbus outsourced the testing of the engine for the A400M to a UK company, who bolted it onto the biggest thing they had handy.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A venerable workhorse

          It used to be known as ETOPS - Extended Twin OPerationS.

          Until someone realised the self-loading cargo might get a bit worried when they realised that one engine failing might make your average 4-engind bird slow down a bit but you would still have some spare capacity in case another stopped, whereas one engine failing might make your 2-engined aeroplane very, very vulnerable to becoming a very expensive glider...

          Of course there were cases of 4-engined aircraft losing all 4 engines - the most famous being the BA 747 being flown by Capt Ron Moody through a cloud of volcanic ash - but there are very few.

          1. J__M__M

            Re: A venerable workhorse

            Of course there were cases of 4-engined aircraft losing all 4 engines - the most famous being the BA 747 being flown by Capt Ron Moody through a cloud of volcanic ash - but there are very few.

            Eric Moody, not Ron. And he made the best in flight emergency announcement in the history of aviation, by the way.

            "Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get them going again. I trust you are not in too much distress"

      2. big_D Silver badge

        Re: A venerable workhorse

        They have the newer 747-400 that is mentioned in the article.

        And they are still being built at a rate of around 6 per year, according to a Register article from January this year.

        1. hammarbtyp Silver badge

          Re: A venerable workhorse

          Also the cargo versions will be around for some time to come.

      3. defiler Silver badge

        Re: For some jobs; you really do need 4 engines.

        The military tend to like having more than two engines in their big jets. I daresay there'll be surplus, retired tankers (for example), or even the option for approved customers (like those testing engines for air forces, for example) to buy these aircraft new.

        (Although I don't expect the engine manufacturers give a damn about having a new plane so long as the thing flies safely.)

        1. Luiz Abdala

          Re: For some jobs; you really do need 4 engines.

          The B52 is the next best thing. It can even land sideways, should a test engine 'freeze' with its throttle open, the BUFF can land with a heavy yaw application, as if was suffering from crosswinds.

          And it already runs on 8 engines in 4 pylons. A whole pylon could be spared for the test engine, and the aircraft would still have 6 good engines.

      4. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: A venerable workhorse

        @bazza, it's not a problem... Remember that most of these jets are the old -100 or -200 models, which were cheap to get (or were donated by their old owners, in the case of SOFIA). There is a plethora of -400 series jet available given that Cathay and Air France have recently retired their last -400 bodies, and British Airways still has over 30 of them in daily use.

        GE and Rolls Royce (and NASA) will have *plenty* of jets to borrow/buy/gut/Frankenjet. The Airbus A340 is also still a usable airframe.

        Air Force 1 (actually, you mean the VC-25A, the military designation of the B747) is not a problem either because there's an existing requirement from the USAF to Boeing to produce a copy or three as a replacement for the existing airframe. It will likely be a -8 model.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: A venerable workhorse

          "There is a plethora of -400 series jet available given that Cathay and Air France have recently retired their last -400 bodies, and British Airways still has over 30 of them in daily use."

          I think Delta retired a few -400s several years ago when they closed certain transoceanic flights (like Detroit to and from Manila via Nagoya Centrair).

      5. Luiz Abdala

        Re: A venerable workhorse

        The B52 has 8 engines in 4 pylons. The US Air Force is not giving up on the BUFF anytime soon, and an airframe could easily re-purposed for engine testing, even if it meant taking off 2 engines and leave an entire pylon for the engine testbed purpose.

        Fully unloaded, I doubt the B52 would face the same problems the 747 can already counter, such as the heavy yaw effect due to the uneven thrust. In fact, the B52 can even LAND way off the center line, since it has "crab landing gear", as in, the landing gear can also be twisted to make a heavy rudder landing, designed primarily for heavy crosswinds situation. The bomber is so reliable and the model so old, that in fact, the children of the first pilots already qualified and joined the Air Force and flew the bomber themselves.

        Even so, nothing prevents them from building a whole new fresh 747 for the sole purpose of engine testing, even if the model has no longer any commercial application.

        1. DasBub

          Re: A venerable workhorse

          The BUFF can even get by without a tail, on occasion...

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJuEAQbxWRo

      6. Tom Samplonius

        Re: A venerable workhorse

        "Yet with today's trend for large twin jets, one day there will be no large 4 jet airframes left flying"

        The 747-8 is still being manufactured. While large twinjets represent the majority of commercial aircraft, there is no indication that four engine aircraft will disappear.

        "NASA uses an old 747 as a flying telescope, SOFIA. This is a remarkable piece of kit, extremely useful for a lot of astronomers across the world. The higher it flies, the better it works. A 747 can fly surprisingly high, thanks in part to having 4 engines (lots of surplus power)."

        That isn't entirely correct. SOFIA uses the 747SP jet, of which only 45 were made. The 747SP is a special performance version of the 747-100 with a shortened body, so it is much lighter but with the same power as the 747-100. Any normal commercial jet, twin or four jet, is not going to have the service ceiling of the 747SP. But if NASA needs to replace the SOFA jet, they can just chop the fuselage of any large twinjet, and get the same effect. Power to weight ratios aren't rocket science.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: A venerable workhorse

          "But if NASA needs to replace the SOFA jet, they can just chop the fuselage of any large twinjet, and get the same effect."

          Not quite. The SP has a _huge_ tail in order to cope with engine-out conditions (shorter distance between engine and empenage == smaller moment of force unless the rudder is made bigger)

          That huge tail requires a bunch of structural mods at the back end of the aircraft. You can't just shorten an aircraft and plonk on a larger rudder. (unlike lengthening one, where the larger tail is normally left intact as it's too expensive to resize it)

      7. pavel.petrman

        Re: A venerable workhorse

        Just to add to the other options mentioned here by commenters: retired model or old airframe is a problem for airliners but not so much when one does need a special purpose aircraft. Look up "Basler Turbo BT67" - originally a DC-3 which ceased to be produced in 1950, yet the Basler conversion is still actively marketed today and is deemed very useful for some special purposes. Repurposing of readily available 74X frames with perhaps new engines may require a bit more effort than doing the same for a DC-3, but than again, 70 years from whenever Boeing decides to retire the 747 model the converters will perhaps be assisted by much more advanced technology. I wouldn't worry.

      8. dmacleo

        Re: A venerable workhorse

        yes.

        punt....

  4. Nolveys Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    Poor Design

    It's hard to blame them for making such a poorly designed aircraft, it was only the 1970s. Today we understand that making things that last for extremely long periods of time and that can be properly maintained is just not effective for the manufacturer's cash flow.

    Aircraft manufacturers are starting to learn proper design techniques from the automotive sector, but the uptake is slow. Complex and unreliable systems are the way to go. Said systems should be almost impossible to replace and third parties should not be able to produce similar components due to government legislation. Insufficient numbers of replacement parts should be produced prior to manufacturing being shut down.

    Is that the smell of burning electronics? No, it's the smell of a vibrant and functional economy.

    1. bazza Silver badge

      Re: Poor Design

      Are yes, the passing of Properly Built Kit, something to mourn indeed.

      Though with aircraft, the limiting factor is primarily fatigue life. Commercial airliners have to be built strong otherwise they'd be useless in service. There's A320s and 737s with way more cycles on them than this 747; they're strong. They're often stronger than military aircraft, which tend to do far less flying.

      With 787 and A350, carbon fibre is the primary construction material. Provided it's not abused, this looks like it will last forever. Quite literally. No fatigue. Airlines buying these today will likely never replace them (at least not until something radically better comes along). Upgrades, refurbs, certainly but the airframes themselves should last forever. Boeing and Airbus are building aircraft that will mean they're not building so many in 20 years time.

      Today's 787s and A350s will. Scone our grandkid's older-than-us engineering marvels.

      1. bazza Silver badge

        Re: Poor Design

        Today's 787s and A350s will. Scone our grandkid's older-than-us engineering marvels

        I hate this keyboard.

        1. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

          Re: Poor Design

          Funny thing: the keyboard hates you, too. ;)

    2. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

      Re: Poor Design

      Can you imagine if Apple made a plane? Fuck me.

      1. Ralph the Wonder Llama

        Re: Poor Design

        Thank you. This made me LOL :)

      2. Mage Silver badge

        Re: if Apple made a plane?

        Glued on engines and buy a new plane if an engine needs replaced?

        Need iTunes to load flight data?

        1. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: if Apple made a plane?

          @Mage,

          No, no, the engine is replaceable. But to do so you need to de-install the wing. De-installing the wings starts by removing the captain side windshield. Followed by the autopilot altitude hold knob. Then work your way back from there.

      3. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        Re: Poor Design

        They kind of did.

        1. LeeE Silver badge

          Re: Poor Design

          "They kind of did."

          That aircraft - The Kelvin 40 - is one of the most ugly that I've ever seen - right up there with the G.A.L.38 Fleet Shadower.

          1. caffeine addict Silver badge

            Re: Poor Design

            it looks like a plane made by one of those car modifiers who get rid of everything that's not important - without actually wondering why it was there in the first place.

            "it's not been tested, but it should fly because it looks like this other plane that flies"

            That's horrible logic. And the plane it "looks like" is significantly different...

        2. Allonymous Coward

          Re: Poor Design

          So a "designer" comes up with something that looks like it should be a plane, but doesn't actually perform any of the useful functions of a plane. And, subjectively, doesn't even look all that nice. I don't hate on Apple, but I can see how this is a great analogy.

          (How does one become one of these designers? Seems like nice work if you can get it.)

          I remember reading an article once about how Concorde looks so amazing, futuristic etc. Particularly compared to the cars of its era. Someone else with more sense pointed out that Concorde's design was a stark and direct result of its functional requirements, rather than following some fashion whimsy. All the more appealing because of it.

          1. Mark 85 Silver badge

            Re: Poor Design

            Exactly... XB-71, Concorde, and few designs all look very similar due to form following function and not some fanciful design or a "designer". Cars are like that now that the designers of the monstrosity of 50's are all gone and the industry has had a re-think.

            1. Down not across

              Re: Poor Design

              Cars are like that now that the designers of the monstrosity of 50's are all gone and the industry has had a re-think.

              You say that like it's a good thing.

          2. Tom Samplonius

            Re: Poor Design

            "Someone else with more sense pointed out that Concorde's design was a stark and direct result of its functional requirements, rather than following some fashion whimsy. All the more appealing because of it."

            Debatable. Because the Concorde design so completely ignored safety concerns, such that a single tire blow out during landing or takeoff could kill everyone on-board. Was safety not one of the functional requirements? Seems like fundamental engineering was ignored, for someone that looked nice.

            1. ArrZarr Silver badge

              Re: Poor Design

              Err, no.

              It was a combination of the tyre blowing out (due to a strip of metal on the runway) and sending one of the biggest chunks of rubber up into an area of the fuel tank, rupturing it after the time where a launch could have been aborted.

              so your "Completely ignored safety concerns" were actually a combination of four things - The strip of metal leading to the tyre shred which lead to the ruptured fuel tank at a point where stopping was impossible.

              The solution from the aircraft investigators was merely to add extra reinforcement to the underside of that fuel tank in case this massively unlikely event occured again.

              1. not.known@this.address Bronze badge

                Re: Poor Design

                Err, no. :-)

                British Airways fitted the spall liners at the cost of a couple of passengers due to weight; Air France decided to put profits first. And this was done years in advance of the fatal Air France accident. I still wonder why the execs and beancounters responsible were not brought up on charges of corporate manslaughter.

                1. Dave 15 Silver badge

                  Re: Poor Design

                  mm, didn't realise BA had already made the mod... strange then that they used the provided excuse to kill the best plane of all times. Still, you are right, not one of the bean counters who could have acted went to jail for not

            2. Dave 15 Silver badge

              Re: Poor Design

              As I recollect the problem was a piece of stuff that was bounced into the wing, punctured a fuel tank which then leaked fuel into the jet, which ignited and boom.

              This could have been fixed with a self sealing tank.

              I wonder though just how many other planes of the same era have essentially the same issue... perhaps even todays planes - they store fuel in the wings right next to the big hot engines. I would hazard more than a small bet that the tanks aren't self sealing.

      4. fruitoftheloon
        Happy

        @J R Hartley: Re: Poor Design

        JRH,

        even worse, if Microsoft built a car, the handbrake would be in the boot [trunk] and you could only turn left if you had a pink bobble hat on and yellow socks...

        Cheers,

        Jay.

      5. caffeine addict Silver badge

        Re: Poor Design

        Can you imagine if Apple made a plane? Fuck me.

        It would crash as rarely as any other plane, but pilots would look at the crash stats for DC-10s and assume that theirs never crashed in comparison. There would be a lot of unscheduled landings at sea due to pilots "flying it wrong".

        And it would only be able to land at Apple's own circular runways, of which there was only one - the roof of their donut headquarters...

      6. TheElder

        Re: Poor Design

        If Apple made a plane? Fuck me.

        If you flew on it it could be fuck you....

    3. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: Poor Design

      'It's hard to blame them for making such a poorly designed aircraft, it was only the 1970s.'

      There is a certain element of poor design in the 747, the forward section, with the hump, is an oval cross section. You'd probably noticed. Every time it gets pressurised it's basically trying to become circular which must have required quite a bit of excess weight to get the fatigue life out of them that they've managed.

      I'm not sure how the A380 compares, although Singapore Airlines are retiring the first one they got 10 years ago to be and returning it to the leasing company.

  5. M7S

    Spinal Tap (inspired) Airways

    Five engines? - pah!

    Ours go up to eleven

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Spinal Tap (inspired) Airways

      The Spruce Goose had 8 engines. It only managed to fly at about 50 feet for a very short run - once.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Spinal Tap (inspired) Airways

        "only managed" -> "was only contractually obliged"

      2. Alan Edwards

        Re: Spinal Tap (inspired) Airways

        B36 had 10, 6 piston pushers and 4 jets.

        If you include the NB36 experiment, that really did have 11, it had a nuclear reactor too. Never actually powered anything, but still...

        1. Steve the Cynic Silver badge

          Re: Spinal Tap (inspired) Airways

          "B36 had 10, 6 piston pushers and 4 jets."

          Pfft. The Dornier DO-X had 12.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dornier_Do_X

      3. Allonymous Coward

        Re: Spinal Tap (inspired) Airways

        The Spinal Tap Goose would have 11 engines. It would only manage to fly at about 50 inches for a very short run.

      4. Tikimon Silver badge

        Re: Spinal Tap (inspired) Airways

        The Goose could have done better than a 70-foot, 1-mile flight but was not allowed to. It was not supposed to fly at all the one time it did, it was only out for taxiing tests. Hughes lifted off for a short flight anyway. The Goose might have flown nicely, but we'll never know because they canceled the flight test program. The war was long over and the Goose design was no longer needed.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Spinal Tap (inspired) Airways

          "The Goose could have done better [...]"

          I thought that Hughes struggled to maintain control due to the strength needed to operate the flap etc surfaces. Were the control surfaces powered by hydraulics or steel wires?

    2. hammarbtyp Silver badge

      Re: Spinal Tap (inspired) Airways

      Reminds me of the old joke about the BAe 146 regional airliner

      Why does the BAe 146 have 4 engines?

      The wings were not big enough for 6

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Spinal Tap (inspired) Airways

        I like the BAe146

      2. Tom Samplonius

        Re: Spinal Tap (inspired) Airways

        "Reminds me of the old joke about the BAe 146 regional airliner

        Why does the BAe 146 have 4 engines?

        The wings were not big enough for 6"

        You'd want four engines too, if you could not restart an engine during flight. The BAe 146 was not something anyone should emulate.

    3. GitMeMyShootinIrons

      Re: Spinal Tap (inspired) Airways

      The late model Convair B36 had 10 engines, six props, four jets - hence the line crews used on engine start of "six turning, four burning".

      1. cray74 Silver badge
        Alert

        Re: Spinal Tap (inspired) Airways

        hence the line crews used on engine start of "six turning, four burning".

        And on landing the crews often described their engines as (per B-36 Captain Banda): "two turning, two burning, two joking, and two smoking, with two engines not accounted for."

        The B-36 was impressive, but it had some reliability problems compared to the 747. ;)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rock Lobster

    "Of the 744 B-52s Boeing built between 1952 and 1962, 76 remain in active service" and some might still be operational when 100 years old :

    https://www.wired.com/2016/04/gods-green-earth-b-52-still-service/

    1. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

      Re: Rock Lobster

      The A500 only flew at 7MHz.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Rock Lobster

        "the A380-800 is certified for up to 868 passengers", but surely 640 ought to be enough for anybody ?

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seat_configurations_of_Airbus_A380

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Rock Lobster

      1950s and 1960s engineering by people who had been exposed to the pressurised but near unrestricted environment of wartime engineering, using sliding rules and creating amazing things.

      747, Concorde, Saturn V, SR71, Raleigh Chopper.....

    3. graeme leggett

      Re: Rock Lobster

      Martin Baker are still (to the best of my knowledge) using a Gloster Meteor built in 1949 and one built in 1952.

      1. CliveS
        Thumb Up

        Re: Rock Lobster

        WA638 was built in 1949 and WL419 in 1952, both T7 conversions. WA638 was mothballed in 1977 before being returned to service in 2001 making it the oldest flying military registered jet in the world. Both of the Chalgrove Meteors are still in use today, as are three other airworthy examples

  7. Davidwall

    "The plane even flew with five engines"

    We 'emigrated' from UK to Australia in June 72 & traveled from Frankfurt to Hong Kong with a 5th engine tucked under one wing as a spare for another 747.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      I read "as a spare" and instantly had the mental image of the flight engineer, out on the wing adjustable spanner clutched in his mouth. A roaring 500mph wind blowing his hair all over the place.

      Unbolts the burning engine, and watches it plummet into the sea thousands of feet below. Then swings the new engine across, nearly losing his grip and falling off himself, tightens a few bolts. Thumbs up to the cockpit window, it starts up. Film score goes from dramatic chords back into a major key for some 'success' music. He gets back in the plane, shuts the door, issues a wisecrack to the stewardess, and casually walks back to the cockpit.

      1. Allonymous Coward
  8. SteveCarr

    Don't forget the DC3

    There are still commercial DC3 flights being flown on aircraft built in WW2

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't forget the DC3

      In the 1970s a DC3 on an internal flight in South Africa crash-landed in the sea near a beach. One of the passengers said they were a bit apprehensive before take-off when the pilot asked them to give him a hand to straighten a propeller.

      Older artefacts tend to be preserved longer in working order as their technology is relatively simple. Parts can generally be repaired or replaced economically.

  9. JJKing Bronze badge
    Thumb Up

    Post correction and update.

    The bomber is so reliable and the model so old, that in fact, the children grandchildren of the first pilots already qualified and joined the Air Force and flew the bomber themselves.

    There, FTFY.

    1. Luiz Abdala

      Re: Post correction and update.

      Thanks, forgot to account for about 20 years between those trivia facts regarding the B52.

      I bet the 4th generation is in the works. And they never saw Top Gun, or listened to Danger Zone.

  10. arctic_haze Silver badge

    An artifact from the peak of our civilisation

    The plane was built when men still walked on the Moon!

  11. Networking Dude

    Still amazing that it lasted for so long.. Like the B-52 from the late 50's and still flying full force...

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