On January 15, 1970, First Lady Pat Nixon christened Pan Am’s first 747 named Clipper Young America at Dulles International Airport in the presence of Pan Am chairman Najeeb Halaby.
The aircraft was 225 feet long and its tail was five stories high.
Red, white, and blue water was sprayed on the 747 aircraft instead of champagne.
At the time there were concerns that many airports would not be able to accommodate the large 747, so the inaugural flight was scheduled for Pan Am’s New York to London route at 7:00 pm EST on January 21, 1970.
Then due to loading problems, the inaugural flight pulled away from the gate 25 minuets late.
Captain Robert M. Weeks noticed engine overheating in the new 747 which made the aircraft unsafe and returned to the terminal.
The backup 747 named Clipper Victor with tail number N736PA was called up and renamed Clipper Young America.
Jumbo Jet N736PA arrived around midnight at the John F. Kennedy International Airport to prepare for Pan Am’s delayed maiden voyage.
Although technical problems also occurred on this 747, they were relatively minor and quickly solved.
Pan Am loaded some 30,000 pounds of container and bulk cargo aboard the 747.
The 20 member crew prepared for the flight’s 362 passengers.
Boarding began with 30 fewer passengers than planned, as many had canceled due to the delay or took an earlier flight to London.
Once the 352 people were in place, the 747 taxied onto the tarmac and officially lifted off at 1:52 am EST.
The flight to London lasted 6 hours and 10 minutes.
Pan Am’s Clipper Young America landed at Heathrow Airport at 2:20 pm (8:02 am EST) and pulled into its terminal pier.
Four minutes later, the happy passengers disembarked.
After the 747 aircraft’s introduction with Pan Am, other airlines that had bought the 747 to stay competitive began to put their own 747s into service.
Boeing estimated that half of the early 747 sales were to airlines desiring the aircraft’s long range rather than its payload capacity.
While the 747 had the lowest potential operating cost per seat, this could only be achieved when the aircraft was fully loaded.
In its first year of service, 747 Clipper Young America N736PA also became the first 747 to be hijacked, when it was forced to fly to Cuba on August 2, 1970.
Following this incident, the aircraft’s name was changed back to Clipper Victor.
Then on March 27, 1977, Clipper Victor N736PA was destroyed in the world’s deadliest aviation accident, the Tenerife airport disaster, when a KLM Boeing 747 attempted to take off at Los Rodeos Airport, Tenerife, Canary Islands without clearance from the airport’s air traffic controllers and collided with Clipper Victor on the runway.
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