Saturday, August 30, 2014

Philippine Airlines Prepares for Last Boeing 747 Flight

The end is drawing near as Philippine Airlines prepares to permanently retire its former flagship aircraft, the Boeing 747-400 on September 1. The last remaining aircraft in the fleet is set to end its service with the airline operating a flight from San Francisco to Manila.

pal 747 retirement last flight
Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
The last Boeing 747-400 flight to San Francisco took off from Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Friday, August 29. The aircraft registered, RP-C7473, is due to arrive back in Manila on its last flight early on the morning of Monday, September 1. 

When the flight, PR105, arrives at Ninoy Aquino International Airport, it will be provided with a water-canon salute by the airport's fire trucks, signalling the end of an era that spanned 35 years of service filled with memories from passengers and crew of Philippine Airlines. 

Philippine Airlines began retiring the last remaining 747 aircraft in the fleet shortly after the United States Federal Aviation Administration made an announce that Category 1 status had been restored to the Philippines. The designation enabled Philippine Airlines to begin deploying their new modern and fuel-efficient Boeing 777 fleet to the United States, gradually replacing the Boeing 747 fleet that had been plying the routes. 

PAL held an official ceremony at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City earlier this year on May 12 to symbolically retire the Boeing 747-400, and to pass the title of flagship aircraft to its successor, the Boeing 777-300ER. The first Boeing 747 aircraft to join the PAL fleet was the Boeing 747-200, which arrived in Manila in December 1979. As it was the largest passenger aircraft in the fleet, several modifications had to be made at the airport in order to adequately service and accommodate it. The new aircraft also enabled PAL to introduce new products and services for passengers. Philippine Airlines was one of the first carriers to pioneer the concept of the full-flat bed on board aircraft, when it introduced its "Skybeds" product for first-class passengers. It was installed on the upper deck of the original Boeing 747 fleet. 

Image Source: Flickr
Over its 35 year career with Philippine Airlines, the aircraft has been used primarily on the airline's long-haul routes to North America, Australia, Europe, and the Middle East. Some passengers have even had the privilege of flying on board the aircraft on domestic routes to Cebu and regional flights to Hong Kong. However, as Philippine Airlines began scaling back its international operations, the aircraft primarily flew the carrier's two high density routes to the United States operating flights from Manila to Los Angeles and San Francisco. 

Philippine Airlines operated as many as five Boeing 747-400 aircraft since the aircraft type first joined the fleet in November 1993. PAL had originally ordered eight Boeing 747-400 aircraft and one combi variant. However, due to the carrier's economic and financial problems, only three of the eight aircraft plus one combi variant was delivered. The airline later added an additional Boeing 747 in 2003 that was part of the original order. 

The final Boeing 747-400 aircraft in the fleet, RP-C7473, joined Philippine Airlines on April 1, 1995. It was delivered straight from the Boeing plant in Seattle, Washington carrying former Philippine President Fidel Ramos, who was in the city to attend the APEC meeting. When the Boeing 747 operates its final flight from San Francisco to Manila, the Boeing 777-300ER will officially take over all flights between Manila and San Francisco. 

Philippine Airlines is not the only carrier to begin retiring the ageing, fuel-efficient Boeing 747 fleet. Eva Airways and Cathay Pacific are also scheduled to permanently retire the fleet later this year in favour of the more fuel efficient Boeing 777, which helps airlines to significantly reduce fuel and maintenance costs. PAL placed an order for Boeing 777 aircraft in 2006 with the intention of deploying the aircraft to the United States. However, the airline was banned from using the Boeing 777 fleet in the US for more than six years after the Philippines was downgraded to Category 2 status. 

The Boeing 777 fleet is currently operating daily flights to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and select flights to Vancouver and Toronto. Philippine Airlines has six Boeing 777 aircraft in the fleet. The type previously flew to London before being replaced by the Airbus A340-300.

Reference: Business Mirror

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