As we look back at 2017, these are the top aviation stories from the viewpoint of Doctor Aviation
Breaking the Sound Barrier
The 70th Anniversary of Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier. A big celebration was held at Edwards AFB on October X with Chuck himself in attendance. The breaking of the sound barrier was one of the top aviation events of the 20th Century (up there with the first flight at Kitty Hawk and the first moon landing). For a recap of the day see: https://www.doctoraviation.com/70th-anniversary-of-chuck-yeager-breaking-the-sound-barrier/
The Retirement of the Boeing 747
It is hard to believe that the first jumbo jet, is being phased out of service. Delta Airlines flew their last scheduled flight in December from Seoul, Korea to Detroit (https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/flights/todayinthesky/2017/11/14/delta-announces-farewell-tour-its-boeing-747/864453001/).
United Airlines flew their last scheduled flight on November 7th from San Francisco to Hawaii. Apparently it was a flight to remember as they flew near the Golden Gate Bridge and other landmarks on the last flight. I highly recommend that you view the following story from USA Today. It has excellent photos of United’s history with the 747 as well as a photo gallery of the original 747 in a Museum. This Museum section includes photos of Joe Sutter, the designer of the 747. It also gives a glimpse of the “Boneyard” to which civilian airliners are flown upon retirement. (https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/flights/todayinthesky/2017/11/07/united-airlines-final-boeing-747-flight-today/838922001/).
Delta was the last US carrier to fly the Jumbo Jet. However, there are over 400 747s still in operation, primarily with overseas carriers. British Airways plans to fly the 747 until 2024 and Lufthansa still uses several of the wide body jets (see: https://www.avgeekery.com/united-747-fleet-retired-can-still-fly-queen-skies/). The reason for the 747’s retirement was given in a recent Doctor Aviation blog (https://www.doctoraviation.com/boeing-747-end-era/).
Airline Profits Remain High
Overall, United States air carriers recorded another profitable year (https://thepointsguy.com/2017/10/us-airlines-over-5-billion-profits-q32017/). Profits were down between 2015 and 2016, but still very high. Most irritating is the fact that American Airlines made over 1 billion dollars from baggage fees (http://fortune.com/2017/05/03/airline-profit-baggage-fee/). I am still stunned that airlines charge and customers pay to have their suitcases fly on an airplane. Hurray for Southwest Airlines, who have resisted the temptation to charge a passenger to bring their suitcase (see: https://www.doctoraviation.com/southwest-airlines-game-changer/)!
Airlines continue to be safe
It was another strong year for the US airlines when it comes to safety. No fatalities were recorded for the year. This continues the streak began over half a dozen years ago (see: https://www.forbes.com/sites/danielreed/2016/12/28/in-the-last-7-years-you-were-more-likely-to-be-run-over-by-a-car-than-to-die-in-an-airline-crash/#32690803428a)
Amelia Earhart Found?
The biggest news over the summer of 2017 was a photo and accompanied documentary by the History Channel on Amelia Earhart. The photo provided evidence that Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, may have survived their around the world flight. While the date of the photo was later in question, other evidence was presented. This evidence made a plausible case that Earhart survived her last flight and was taken into custody by the Japanese during World War II. Suspected of being a spy (and she may have had spy camera’s on board) she may have met her end on earth on the Island of Saipan, executed by the Japanese (https://www.doctoraviation.com/amelia-earhart-photo-a-critique/). If nothing else, the documentary renewed interest in the Amelia Earhart case.