The time to replace an appliance, a car or a musical instrument has happened to everyone. From one day to the next, shop windows and advertisements are filled with the latest model of the mobile phone, kitchen mixer or tablet that we bought just the other day and that is still working perfectly.
Incredible as it may sound, for better or for worse, technological progress is so fast that it is difficult for common mortals like ourselves to keep up-to-date with the "technological friends" that are so important for us today. We are sometimes forced to abandon them suffering the trauma of separation from an object which in one way or the other was part of our lives for years.
So the trip to the scrap yard with your beloved old car is sure to be a gloomy affair. However, when you look out into the worlds of novelties, you are sure to be charmed by the most recent technological gems and gladly give up the memory of the past for a new innovative reality, satisfied to feel abreast of the times. From the most minute everyday activities to the highest levels of corporate management, everything must be continuously refreshed to achieve increasingly better performance, improve the quality of life and inspire future advances.
This is the case of a famous giant of the skies that is about to give way to its more innovative, environment-friendly and capacious heirs. The Boeing 747 will soon be leaving its last contrail before being phased out.
The majestic four-engine airliner has been used as passenger or cargo aircraft and has held the record for the most transported passengers for 37 years. The Boeing Company, the undisputed aerospace leader, made the Jumbo Jet that would be launched with its first commercial flights in the United States. Boeing operates in the civilian, military and space sectors.
The famous Boeing 747 took to the sky in 1970 marking nothing short of a revolution for commercial aircraft. It was designed from the start with a double deck (that confers its typical hump-like appearance), the limited area of which was created for faster evacuation in an emergency. At first, the double deck was used as lounge for first class passengers and only later were seats added, which could be easily removed to convert the Jumbo 747 into a cargo aircraft.
The highest loading capacity is achieved by the 400 model capable of 660 passengers with a cruising speed of 920 kilometres per hour.
The cockpit was also arranged on the upper deck allowing a front cargo door to be fitted in the nose cone.
One by one, the Boeing 747-400s are reaching the California desert depots to enjoy their well-earned rest.
After having been certified in 2011 by the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA, the Boeing 747-8 (which is the most recent version of the Jumbo Jet) is still flying worldwide although its age is about to end and the time has come to let aircraft like the Airbus 380 or the 747 Dreamliner take the stage. These commercial airliners are capable of complicated manoeuvres that the large frame of the 747 made impossible. The incredible slowness of the latter can be observed during take-off.
The 747 has played a prominent role in the history of our planet witnessing changes and contributing to producing new ones. It starting flying before the Concorde, before man stepped on the Moon and when today's US President was but a child.
The United States Air Force has been working for years with Boeing engineers on the replacement for Air Force One, the legendary aircraft that flies the President of the United States and his staff of reporters, doctors and Special Service agents everywhere in the world. Presidential air travel officially entered the jet age under John F. Kennedy when the president took a Boeing 707 for his first European trip to Berlin and soon after would beat the record of longest nonstop flight from Moscow to Washington. The contracts for transforming two 747-8 Jumbo Jets into state-of-the-air airliners have already been approved.
Air Force One, with its unmistakable cyan and white livery and the words 'United States of America' clearly printed on the side of the fuselage, is the true emblem of the most powerful country in the world. The current presidential fleet ordered while Ronald Reagan was in office includes two Boeing 747-200s. The first was delivered in 1990 and for this reason spare parts are more and more difficult to come by. If one breaks a new one has to be built from scratch! Furthermore, these two giants require more frequent maintenance and each operation takes longer and longer. The reasoning for these agreements is essentially economic but the outlined plan is certainly realistic. The strategic importance of Air Force One has as the US President's headquarters, together with the White House, became clear in escaping the terror attacks on New York and Washington on the sadly famous September 11th when the President was forced to head to Louisiana instead of returning to base after having flown out to visit a school in Florida. Precisely for this reason, the presidential aircraft has aerial refuelling capabilities and a safety system that protects it from external attacks. Both presidential aircraft implement state-of-the-art technology to protect from explosions and in case of attack the President can keep working mid-flight. President George W. Bush even had a treadmill installed to exercise.
Air Force One can withstand the effects of nuclear, bacteriological and chemical attacks. It has an auto-pilot and electronic countermeasures to identify and confuse heat-seeking enemy missiles preventing them from locking onto the contrail. On-board there is the President's suite, his office, a meeting room, medical facilities and a galley capable of preparing one hundred meals a day! The sleeping quarters and office are on the right side of the aircraft and for this reason Air Force One always lands with the left side facing the public. Air Force One is also the air traffic control call sign for any aircraft on which the President of the United States of America is travelling.
The new aircraft will available for use in 2020, or maybe later in 2024, and it is already known that the amazing cruising speed achieved by the early 747 will be bettered and touch 1136 kilometres per hour. While Air Force One is the Jumbo Jet carrying the President of the United States, the other aircraft of the fleet on which the Vice President flies is called Air Force Two. For obvious security reasons, the President and the Vice President never fly on the same aircraft.
So the Jumbo 747-200s will soon be reaching their hangars to join the other decommissioned aircraft of the presidential fleet. Like the SAM 26000 that took President Kennedy to Dallas where he would be assassinated on that fateful November 22 and which was replaced by a SAM 27000 that flew for the last time on September 8, 2001.
Another airliner that made history in the 1970s with the 747 was the supersonic Concorde that entered service on the Paris-Dakar-Rio de Janeiro and London-Bahrain routes. The Concorde was a long range flight aircraft engineered to reach fast cruising speeds in the order of 2,179 kilometres per hour and capable of flying from London or Paris to New York or Washington nonstop without refuelling. Fuel optimisation was made possible by the delta wings designed to obtain a good power-to-air-friction ratio. Furthermore, it was relatively light and had large fuel tanks. However, maintenance - and consequently the cost per flight - was very high and the original prospect of building five hundred Concords remained a dream. The project was drastically reduced over the years and only twenty were actually made. Only two major airlines, Air France and British Airways, went through with their orders.
With Concorde, the London to New York route took an average of just three hours and a half! Amazing speeds like these came at the detriment of passenger comfort. The seats were narrow and could be neither turned or reclined. Despite this, the fascination of supersonic flights was peerless: passengers could clearly observe the curvature of the Earth out of the window from their seats and the pilot would proudly announce when they broke the sound barrier.
These thrills were for the lucky few, but the high cost, the general slump in the economy, the dwindling number of customers and the shadow of the Air France Concorde 4590 accident on July 25, 2000 sealed its fate (the aircraft caught fire during take-off from Paris en route to New York, 100 passengers and nine crew members lost their lives). The Concord flew for the last time on November 26, 2003.
Another unforgotten great of the skies is the DC9, that was decommissioned January 7, 2014. This aircraft had written the history of commercial aviation and is sadly known in Italy for the Ustica Massacre of 1980 in which 81 people were killed. The maiden flight of the DC 9 was on February 25, 1965. Italians fondly remember a photograph of popular President Sandro Pertini playing cards with coach Bearzot and footballers Zoff and Causio next to the newly won FIFA World Championship Cup on a DC-9 in 1982.
This piece of history and culture firmly set in collective imagination as one of the most symbolic images of the win fired by Paolo Rossi's unforgettable goals. Alitalia has put this legendary aircraft on display in Volandia, which is the only location where it could be properly preserved. The Aviation Museum located near Malpensa airport also hosts Clark Gable's two-engine DC-3 passenger liner built between the thirties and forties. The flight logs show that many celebrities flew in this aircraft, including Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra and the brothers Bob and John F. Kennedy.
Besides presidential trips, revolutions of the century, breaking of the sound barrier and covering huge distances in a few hours, there is a journey that has allowed science to make great leaps forward towards mind-blowing discoveries. The Space Shuttle performed no fewer than 135 missions from 1982 to 2011. Through the TV screens we all dreamt of travelling into space in this powerful vehicle. The last mission took place on July 8, 2011 and since June 29, 2013 the Shuttle has been housed at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.
Other retirees of the skies will enjoy their well-deserved rest in the Arizona desert. The Davis Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson is where these aircraft that made history are lined up next to one another in a perfect order than enhances their streamline perfection.
The charm of these airliners has been a major inspiration for film-makers over the years. Famous is the 1995 remake of Sabrina featuring Julia Ormond and Harrison Ford who flew to reach her Paris on the Concorde. The USA presidential aircraft has inspired many a spy movie and thrillers, like Air Force One in 1997 also featuring Harrison Ford, the plot of which revolved on an act of terrorism. A commando got on-board during a trip in which the President is travelling with his family and hijacked the plane.
In films, presidential history, culture and tradition, these aircraft have left a profound impression on a glorious past and cannot but announce a future that honours the splendour of an age in which technology had already proven all its vital importance.