The last Boeing 747 flight for El Al will take off tomorrow, carrying the final paying passengers on a journey from Rome back to its home hub of Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. To celebrate the end of an era, the 747 will ‘paint’ a 747 shape in the sky thanks to visual support from Flight Radar 24.
Who is El Al?
El Al is the flag carrier of Israel. It has a fleet of 43 aircraft (ranging from the very soon to be retired 747s and new 787-9 Dreamliners) flying to 60 destinations. The airline is known for its extra attention to security and the fact that their aircraft are the only ones in the world armed with missile countermeasures. All this is due to the politically turbulent place El Al and Israel find themselves in on the world stage, one effect of which is the lack of Middle Eastern routes that airline is able to operate.
Looking at their history in more detail, El Al’s 747s were integral to airlifting 14,500 Ethiopian Jews out of Addis Ababa during the Operation Solomon airlift in May 1991. The 747 has been such a big part of the airline for so long that the final retirement is a huge deal.
What are the details of the retirement?
El Al scheduled two special flights to Rome from Tel Aviv, with the return journey set to paint a very special outline in the sky with its flight path.
Flight LY1747 will be leaving Rome at 10 am local time today, and making its way over the Mediterranean sea to Israel. It will begin its special sky painting around 2 PM over southern Cyprus. The flight path will be broadcast on Flight Radar 24 (and assumably, automatically by other flight path trackers).
El Al plans to retire its 747-400 fleet with this flight, and replace all their services with Boeing 787 aircraft. They will be on most US-bound routes, with some operated by densified Boeing 777s.
The loss of the 747s also sees the loss of the El Al first-class cabin. The replacement Boeing 787 features the new business-first design for El Al. It is subjective if this is better or worse, but the new cabin does improve on the original with direct aisle access and is around the same dimensions (It is one inch shorter pitch, but at 78 inches you are barely going to notice).
El Al will also have to find a way to make up the extra capacity losing around 100 seats onboard between the two aircraft.
The special flight has just left Rome at the time of this article publishing, and you can check it out here.
Will you be on that special 747 flight? Let us know in the comments!