This really hits home for me. Joe was sort of the 'grandfather' figure interviewed every time the 747 was mentioned, and the 747 is the plane that truly ignited my interest and love for commercial aviation - when I was 8 years old. It was a flight from SFO on UA in June of 1992, SFO-IAD-MAD, on N147UA, Friendship One... I remember seeing the thing at the gate in SFO and my 8 year old brain went insane when I realized that ... that huge thing ... was to be my ride to Madrid. The first leg was a completely full flight, and I was ticketed in the middle of the middle - I couldn't have that. I managed to snag a window seat in the very last row of Y, which was only 2 seats wide instead of the standard 3 as the fuselage started to curve inward at that point, and I remember snaking my way along the sidewall in and out of the seat, so I wouldn't have to make my seatmate, a very pleasant businessman in his 30s get up to let me out. While enroute I explored the vast creature of the sky, up the spiral staircase to the second deck and was absolutely enchanted.
My last ride on a 747 classic was in 1997, again on UA, on a 747-100 (don't know the tail) when I was 13, on a leg from ORD-SFO. I had the opportunity to - when the flight attendant went up to the flight deck, I had asked her if I could stay behind and take a peek in. It was sunset, the instrument backlighting was on in the cockpit, which was an ethereal, almost Christmas-like atmosphere, as I looked out of the cockpit windows from the doorway - which she held wide open for me to see... I told myself that I wanted to be a pilot. I wanted to explore the sky at FL390 on the flight deck of a 747.
I couldn't make my dream happen, and I'm stuck in a mundane life now, but it is what it is... Joe, indirectly, brought so much joy to my life that those are among my most cherished memories of my childhood (of which there aren't many to choose from, I've blocked out most of it)...
I hope he snagged a lie flat first class suite (1A) on his journey home.
I'm certain he did. Do you figure it was on an 8i? Or one of his JT9D powered -100s?