Are 747's over-rated?

What do you think? Are 747’s over-rated. I don’t think so, I’ve only gotten a chance to see one land in my life. It was a Northwest flight inbound in Minneapolis from Tokyo, a weekly route and MSP’s only scheduled 747.

An awesome piece of machinery to say the least! I attended a charity event at IAD called a “Plane Pull” where a bunch of us paid money for the opportunity to pull a FedEx 727 (the fastest group to pull the plane a certain distance won).

After our turn, there was a 747-400 parked on the tarmac nearby, and we were free walk over there - and I did! It’s one thing to pull a 727 with 19 other people - it’s quite another to just look at a 747 up close! Incredible!

I happen to have a B-747-400 type rating with 800 hours in the whale (at Atlas Air – all cargo). Of all the airplanes I’ve flown in the past 34 years, I’d have to rate the 747 as the “best”. Keep in mind that “best” is not only subjective but also mission-specific; i.e., “best crop duster”, “best trainer”, etc. For hauling massive quantities of stuff and people over incredible distances, fast and reliably, the 747 can’t be beat.

For as big as it is, it is amazing how nice the 747 is to fly – no fly-by-wire, just honest nimble handling characteristics. Also amazing is to think about the Boeing engineers who designed the original 747 with slide rules and stubby pencils, before the age of CAD/CAM!

The modern cockpit and systems on the 747-400 make it a dream to fly. Auto-everything and electric seats too! My longest flight in the 747-400 was from JFK to Seoul, Korea, non-stop in 15.9 hours (with 4 pilots and 66,000 pounds of cargo).

The most unique thing about the 747 is the landing picture. Despite the many hours in the simulator, on my first landing in the airplane, I thought we were over-flying the airport at traffic pattern altitude when the radar altimeter started calling “50…30…20…10”.

What a great airplane!

You are really lucky that a 747-400 is your office.

I left Atlas to go fly for American (it seemed like a good career move at the time)…now I fly a desk, thanks to 9/11 and Don Carty. But I don’t make a habit of whining – I feel very fortunate to have done the things that I’ve done.

I also vote for the C-17 as “best military transport of all time”. I flew those for 6 years in the USAF.

Today I fly a Cessna P210 (Pressurized Centurion, single engine piston) for business and pleasure – just call me one lucky guy.

So you just sit at a desk?? Can you fly for them again or no?

I was so hoping that no one would take this poorly worded poll seriously, but I have to tell you how much I enjoyed your post, which is in keeping with what I’ve heard from every other 747 driver I’ve ever spoken with.

For the record, the design of the 747 with “slide rules and stubby pencils, before the age of CAD/CAM” is hyperbole kept alive by the engineeers at Boeing. They certainly had mainframe computers when it was designed, which provided a ready means of performing all of the millions of calculations necessary to get the 747 off the drafting tables and into the air.

But, what the heck, the B-17, B-29 and even the B-52 were designed with far less. There’s nothing a computer can do that a well trained draftsman can’t do as well, given enough time.

James the Elder

I have several neighbors who fly those as well as the C-5 and the old reliable C-141s. They all seem to agree with your opinion, except for a friend who’s a wing commander of the 141s at McGuire and still holds them in high regard.

According to him you fly the 141, but you’re just along for the ride in the C-5 and C-17.

Are the modern 744’s still without the fly-by-wire, or did they upgrade it somewhere along the line?

AFAIK none of Boeing’s creations are fly-by-wire. That’s pretty much an Airbus characteristic, as far as airliners go.

B777 is full digital fly-by-wire.

Thanks for the clarification, Mark. I stand corrected. Does Boeing plan on putting joysticks in the cockpit anytime soon? :unamused:

The 141’s were retired in 2004 and are now rotting and being dismantled out in Davis-Monthan.

Yeah, I know, but Bob always loved them.

His wing converted to C-5s and he hardly talks about flying anymore.

I don’t even know what he’s flying commercially anymore.


i hope not, cause prefer the standard, old fashion control yoke, rather then a sidestick

Shouldn’t the third answer be revised to say “I live in a hole, shut off to the world, therefore, I have never seen one. I just stumbled on this website by accident and think it’s cool.”?

In my opinion the B747-400 is definitely not over-rated. Its a forgiving aircraft to fly and gives a feeling of safety and confidence. An engine failure on the B747 is almost a non-event (at least on the simulator never had one for real on a jet ). On two engines a bit of a handfull but still flyable in most circumstances. Nice to know when over the Pacific in the middle of the night.
The automatic flight systems are a delight to use as they can be de-selected and the aircraft can be flown on a visual approech fully manually like a cessna 172 or on one of those days you feel more laid back then it can be flown hands free from just after rotation in Asia to 14 hours later turning off the runway in LAX. Several other modern large aircraft are capable of this: but this one has mechanical/hydraulic systems as mentioned in an earlier post, ( except for the throttles which are computer controlled by FADEC) Gives one who was brought up on mechanical systems a secure feeling for when all the electrons get lost from the systems.
Gusty conditions on approach are less of a problem because of the inertia. A bad landing should never happen on a B747, it really is easier to do a smooth landing with the B747 than on a Cessna (but maybe I was a lousy Cessna pilot) Watch how they land its not just great piloting skills.
It’s not a "sports car ", my personal large jet favourite “sports car” being the B767-200 when empty with only 10 tons of fuel but it can perform surprisingly well at light weights without thrust de-rates. Besides it is very impressive to do a walk-around. I thought the B767 was big untill I converted to the B747. Look up into the wheel wells at the spars and undercarriage attachment points, like components from a ship rather than an aircraft. To stand at the rear of the maindeck of a freighter version with the nose door opening is memorable. I’ll miss them after my last 5 years and 4000hrs flying for EVA and now in early retirement.

I think the most impressed I have ever been by a 747 was in DTW in line for take off after a heavy snow watching one barrell down the runway blowing so much snow that it actually whited out my window. Have never flown in one, the biggest I have ever been is a 764er, but my grandfather says United Business Class from LA to Sydney is awsome.

Hello all,

As a little different spin to this thread I will tell you about the WORST 747 flight I have ever had.

My first 747 flight was to England - all very proper. Great first time experience. Several happy 747 flights came through the years that followed.

I was asked by Chevron to go to Angola in 2000 to teach an engineering seminar (all first class travel). I flew Pittsburgh to Paris in a US Airways 767. In Paris I was surprised to see groups of French soldiers carrying machine guns roaming the terminals (pre 9/11). I got a very late evening Angolan Airways flight on a 747 from Paris to the Angolan capitol Luanda. In Luanda there were no jet ways and once the passengers deplaned to the tarmac they were “herded” into a group and surrounded by soldiers with machine guns. Once in the Luanda terminal (terminal windows were all broken and the suspended ceilings were history) we stood waiting for the flight to Cabinda (an enclave “owned” by Angola) via company owned 727. The 727 went west to get over the ocean so as to be out of range of rebel surface-to-air missiles. Then it went north and then back in, straight east, to land at Cabinda airport. The twenty days in the armed camp of Malongo (triple barbed wire fences with mine fields between the fences) was depressing. But anyway, the 747 flight from Paris was SOOOOO bad - nothing worked even in "first class. The fabric was thread bare and there was obviously little money spent in maintenance (Air France maintained the mechanicals). We were told ahead of time that you carried on all your luggage as it would disappear if you checked it in. My seat would not go to the erect position so by the end of the flight my back was hurting. Nine hours in the air and there were no operating rest rooms. We in first class were given bottled water but nobody seemed to be too thirsty. I was NOT looking forward to an Angolan Airways 747 flight back to Paris.

BUT, surprise - the (first leg) flight back from Luanda to Paris was my first flight in an Air France 777!! (Turns out that one of the Angolan Airlines 747’s was in Paris and the other was grounded in Luanda by the pilots). Again, no jet ways so the SIZE of the 777 (and especially its engines) could be appreciated when standing next to it. Absolute luxury. We were boarded early (to get us away from the armed guards) and cocktails were served for two hours before the takeoff. In first class the electronic “toys” were great. Watch the movie (3 choices and translated into 5 languages) if you wanted or just let the flight information console (located at each first class seat) keep you informed of: airspeed, altitude, groundspeed, temperature, miles behind you, miles ahead of you, …wow. You could just keep “clicking” to choose what you had up on the console. The US Airways first class (aka Envoy class) 767 flight Paris to Pittsburgh was just “nice” by comparison - for the first time in my life I slept most of that flight.

That trip yielded lots of US Airways miles.

Regards, John.