Sky-High Emotions; Nostalgia at 30,000 feet

Illustration of a plane flying by a globe

Having grown up in Detroit, I understand the affinity between car owners and their vehicles.  In many ways, automobiles mark key moments in our lives. There’s the first car, the post-college car, the cross-country road trip car and then there’s the car that symbolizes you can make it on your own.  Cars represent good times and bad times, successes and failures. It’s fair to say, we can love our cars.

But my transportation tenderness doesn’t lie with four wheels.  It lies with four jet engines. I have a fondness for flight. Always have, always will.  There’s something about defying gravity that excites me. Not to mention you can be on the opposite end of the globe in a mere matter of hours and minutes.

European aircraft maker Airbus recently announced it is discontinuing production of the double decker A380.  It’s a hefty machine, complete with two cabins, and, in some cases, a stand-up bar and showers. While the jet’s demise is causing some aviation geeks to shed a tear, I’m still in mourning over its precursor.    

In recent years, United Airlines and Delta Airlines retired its fleet of Boeing 747 aircraft.  The original jumbo jet equipped with an upper deck graced the skies connecting the United States with Europe, Asia and beyond.  But at the end of the day, business and common sense got in the way.

Both the 747 and the A380 operate with four engines.  Thanks to thrust and smart engineering, the four-engine jet has become obsolete.  Airplanes can cross the ocean safely and economically on just two engines. With uncertainty in the oil market and the constant need for repair and parts, the message became clear: it was time to say goodbye to the 747.

I have flown on the 747 as part of meaningful life adventures.  I remember flying a KLM Royal Dutch Airlines 747 between Detroit and Amsterdam for a college semester abroad.  My entire family flew on a Royal Air Maroc 747 to Morocco. I can still picture entering an Air France 747 at the Atlanta airport on my first international reporting experience overseas.  I also remember the thrill of boarding a United 747 that took me to a journalism fellowship in China.

And then there was the last 747 flight.  It was about a year and a half ago on a journey between Denver and Frankfurt to meet friends in London.  Well aware it was likely the last time ever I’d fly on a 747, I paid the extra money to fly Lufthansa business class. I sat in the coveted upper deck.  It was money well spent. For me, the ride to the destination is just as important as the visit itself.

In a few months I’m slated to fly to London to study Brexit.  Among the flight options: a 747. Good flight times, a good price.  One last chance to fly what’s been named “The Queen of the Skies.” But I declined in favor of a choice that would add a better deposit to my frequent flyer account.  It wasn’t a tough decision to make.

We sell and trade our cars when it’s time.  The same holds toward my emotional attachment to the 747. It was a great ride but there are more adventures to come on two engines instead of four.

By Marc Stewart