As some of you know, my dad is a 747-400 captain for NW - or I guess I should now say a 747-400 captain for DL. He's been with the company since early 1983 and has been a captain on the 747-400 since 1999. Some months back, DL announced a program to the pilots - a sort of an early retirement buyout - offering cash incentives for pilots to retire early in order for DL to avoid having to layoff pilots. My old man eventually decided to take it. After the details of the program were worked out, Delta told him that his final bid month for the company was February 2010. He got the details of his final trip mid-way through January, so after several weeks in the making of organizing trips for myself, the rest of our family, and some of his closest friends, we all got a few rides on some of his final flights.
Thanks to all the people involved in taking pictures for me along the way, since I couldn't be along the whole way myself. I'll do my best to write the TR from both a first and third person perspective, so bear with me haha. My personal final trip itinerary was:
DEN-DTW: DL 320
DTW-NRT: DL 744
NRT-KIX: DL 75A
KIX-HNL: DL 744
HNL-LAX: UA 763
LAX-DEN: WN 73G
My dad's final trip at NW/DL was:
09 February 2010
Block Time: 13 hours, 30 minutes
747-451, N665US, ship# 6305
Seat: 12K, main deck BusinessElite
Photo © Kazuchika Naya
I was extremely lucky in getting on his first flight of the trip. On 08FEB and 09FEB, DL ran an additional flight on DTW-NRT each day, essentially as a ferry/positioning flight for two 744's out to NRT given the schedule changes on NRT-HNL and KIX-HNL. DL decided to run the ferry flights as quasi-revenue flights, despite attracting very low load factors given how you could book them only about 10-11 days before departure. So as for me, the nonrev, it worked out VERY nicely, haha.
Gate sign for our departure out of DTW. My first time on an officially-Delta 744.
Looking down the main concourse in the Detroit World Gateway. This was taken about 1 hour prior to departure - the gate area was a ghost town.
Washington DC area still getting hammered by the blizzards.
My dad on the right, one of the FO's on the left. I had met the FO several times previously in NRT on other trips - REAL nice guy. When I found out he'd flown L-1011's previously in his career I had a TON of questions for him
Since I was only 1 of 3 nonrevs listed on the flight, the gate agents cleared all three of us very early. The other two nonrevs asked for seats on the upper deck, while I was the lone-ranger and asked for a seat on the main deck. As it turned out, I truly was the lone ranger sitting in the aft section of the main deck. I had rows 9 through 12 totally to myself. Talk about quite the experience - felt like flying on a 747 BBJ!!
DTW was getting quite the winter storm itself. Next to us was N829MH, the 767-400 operating DTW-LHR.
Looking directly aft from the cockpit. Pilot bunkroom on the immediate right in the photo. Part of the preflight routine of the 2nd crew is to get their bunks ready before departure.
With the purser from DTW-NRT. One of the nicest and most professional pursers I've ever come across in my travels.
A rare moment of calm in the cockpit before doors closed
Takeoff and crew briefing. The captain in the left seat was on IOE - his first flight ever on the 747-400. The captain in the right seat was the instructor captain. My dad and the FO (in the jumpseats) would fly the second half of the flight.
After the door closed and I went down to my seat, 12K, in the aft business cabin, the first captain made a PA that the aircraft would have to be deiced given the significant snowfall. I was rather interested to see how it was done as I had never been deiced in a 747-400 before. It actually went surprisingly fast, for as big of an airplane as it is.
A332 seen during pushback & engine start
Given the blizzard and near-whiteout conditions, I didn't get any good pictures or videos from our takeoff or climbout. The first good pictures I got were once we passed above the overcast cloud layer on climb.
Just punched through the overcast layer
The dinner service began very quickly after takeoff and went very fast as well, in both cabins, given the VERY light load factors. The FA's loved it, given how they could complete the services pretty fast then get significantly longer crew rest breaks.
I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Private cabin on a 747-400 and "TOP GUN" showed up on the AVOD selection.
Soup, salad, appetizer, and bread. AA's premium cabin meal services remain my favorite but DL still offers a very competitive product, outpacing UA by a long shot.
Quick look out the window flying over Canada
Chicken entree. Loved the lemon sauce!!
Dessert. There were fruit, cheese, and crackers but I ate them before I remembered to take the picture, haha
Final look out the window before going to sleep for the next 7-8 hours
In mid flight, we did get some relatively strong turbulence. I don't mind turbulence at all myself, but I'd imagine that for those that don't fly a lot it was probably pretty unsettling.
Moving map image of our route of flight
Awake over Alaska - continuous light turbulence to occasional moderate turbulence
Pretty cold outside over the Arctic
Twilight over Russia / Siberia
Impressive headwinds on our last few hundred miles into NRT
We ended up arriving into NRT at about 715p local time which was my first ever time landing at NRT in the pitch dark. Definitely a different perspective!!
Anyhow, from here on out I'll only be posting pictures in a bit of a random sequence. I compiled all the pictures from about 7 different cameras so it's hard to get everything in a correct sequence. They should still tell the story fine in [mostly] chronological order.
Me on the layover in NRT, taking the hotel bus to Narita City. The "Radisson" sign for the NW/DL crew hotel partially visible in the background
Personally I really enjoy Narita. It is kinda boring, I will say, but at the same time it's also serene and relaxing, which I really like about it. Though, I can imagine, after 10 years of going to the same place every trip, it probably gets pretty old haha.
BusinessElite cabin on the 75A for NRT-KIX
Unfortunately I don't have any other pictures from my flight on NRT-KIX as I was jetlagged and the walking dead by the time I boarded the plane. Once I sat down, I was fast asleep long before pushback. Interesting for me though was how both NRT-KIX and NRT-NGO are scheduled to be operated with the beach-market 75J's but on the day I flew it, we got a 75A on a substitution. Rather nice though, it was my first time flying on a 75A.
Best picture I could get of our plane, ship# 6308 (N668US), sitting at the gate in KIX
Cockpit preflight before the flight to HNL. This flight was only operated with a single crew - rather rare for a flight of that duration, especially given it's 8+ hour return back to KIX mandating a 1.5 crew
Placard inside the cockpit showing the maximum weight limitations of the 747-451
174,000# of fuel for the KIX-HNL flight. The center and stab tanks were completely empty, just wing tanks only for this flight.
Upper deck galley. Very nice FA's!!
Moving map en route at cruise
The flight to HNL was relatively uneventful. I slept almost the entire time, right up until the landing. The HNL layover was awesome. I've been to Hawaii a couple of times previously but I've never stayed more than a few days. Not a huge loss though, you can do and see so much in just a short amount of time in the islands.
NW/DL crew hotel in HNL, the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani
Sunset over the Waikiki beaches
After a few days in HNL, I had to pack up and head home to get back to school so I didn't miss too many classes. So, I personally didn't get to fly on my dad's final flight, HNL-NRT, but at least got a ton of pics from everyone taken along the way.
744 sitting at the gate in HNL
Slightly different angle showing the huge wingspan
Under the wing looking at the two Pratt & Whitney PW4056's
"Kicking the tires" one final time. 6306 (N666US) was the ship for the final flight.
Plane still closed up before cargo loading
Standing in front of engine #3
Final picture with the plane before going back on board
Before departure, the two FO's were great and got a few more pictures for me from the official pre-departure walkarounds. Here are a few:
Looking out toward ship 6315 (N675NW) operating DL277, HNL-KIX
FO inspecting the main landing gear, barely visible under the starboard body gear
Again ship 6315 next door
Tail and winglet
Looking back over the wing and fuselage, taken from the jet-bridge staircase
One of the FO's completing the walkaround
Again, on the walkaround. That is a HUGE wing
Ship 6306 (N666US) seen head-on at the gate
Crew for the final flight, just before doors closed and pushback
Taken during cruise about 1 hour out of HNL
The final landing in NRT turned out to be a bit more than an "average" final landing. Shortly before the top of descent the FA's called the cockpit to say there was a severe medical issue with one of the passengers. The doctors on board that responded to the PA said that the man would die very soon if he didn't receive immediate medical attention. They ended up having to declare an emergency, flying a maximum velocity descent down to the marker. For obvious reasons, I don't have any pictures or videos of the final landing.
Come the end of the month, he'll have to turn in his crew ID badge to DL at which time his active employment for Northwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines will come to an end. For those interested, I think he's happy to finally be retiring. He got to go out at the top of his game, having flown captain the 747-400 for 10 years - half the life of most of the airplanes themselves and even longer than some of the younger ships in the fleet, flying them when they were brand new.
A sentiment both of us share though - we are really glad to see the 747-400 continue to soldier on in the Delta fleet. It's not the youngest or the most efficient, but the 747 will always be the queen of the skies.