Delta Air Lines concluded its farewell tour for the Boeing 747 at Minneapolis/St Paul International airport today, a fitting finale for the queen of the skies at the former home of Northwest Airlines.
Flight DL9771 arrived from Atlanta at 12:50 local time, landing on runway 12R/30L after a low pass at 45ft over the Minneapolis/St Paul airport to mark the final arrival.
The 747 at a hangar party in Minneapolis/St Paul after the flight
The flight was a homecoming for the 747-400 (registration N674US, MSN 30269), which was delivered new to Northwest in 1999, Flight Fleets Analyzer shows.
The aircraft, along with 15 more 747-400s, joined Delta's fleet when it merged with Northwest in 2009.
The arrival in Minneapolis/St Paul came a day after regularly scheduled passenger 747 flights ended in the USA, with Delta's final flight from Seoul Incheon to Detroit. The airline will operate a number of jumbo jet charters with its last four 747-400s through 3 January before retiring the type to the desert.
"We love this darn airplane, everything about it," Delta's chief pilot for the 747 fleet captain Steve Hanlon told FlightGlobal after landing in Minneapolis. "It was fun to be flying again but it was sad – it's a melancholy feeling."
Hanlon will begin training on the Airbus A350-900, which Delta describes at its new flagship, in January, he says.
"People ask me what I do and I tell them I used to drive an 18-wheeler. Now I will drive a bus," says Hanlon on his transition to the Airbus aircraft.
Hanlon will fly Delta's final 747 ferry flight to the desert on 3 January, he says.
Despite the melancholy feeling, Delta expects the shift to the A350 to be "immediately accretive into the Pacific operations with much, much better efficiency and much better revenue performance", executives said in October.
The airline debuted the widebody twin-jet on flights between Detroit and Tokyo in November. It expects to end the year with five A350s in its fleet.
Delta celebrated its 747 history with its "All Hail The Queen" farewell tour for employees and select frequent fliers. The tour took the jumbo jet from Detroit to Paine Field where it was assembled, Seattle Tacoma, Atlanta, Los Angeles and finally Minneapolis/St Paul.
Flight DL9771 carried 321 passengers who were excited to celebrate the 747s storied history. After a champagne toast to mark the final flight, passengers were able to explore the aircraft and participate in jumbo jet-themed trivia.
They marked the melancholy arrival in Minneapolis with applause before deplaning.
Updated with photo from Delta hangar event