United Airlines employees bid farewell to Boeing 747 at O'Hare Airport

CHICAGO (WLS) -- United Airlines employees said goodbye Wednesday to the Boeing 747 airplane. The iconic jet - the "queen of the skies" - changed the way people fly.

The Boeing 747 has always been an eye-catcher on the runway and in the air.

"If you think about, when you are at an airport and you see a 747 come, you know it, instantaneously. It's just got that beauty, that hump at the very top. It's something that's just been around for so long. Many of us grew up on it, including myself," said Mike Hanna, who works for United.

The airline first started flying the jet in 1970. Nearly 50 years later, United is putting the aircraft in retirement.

"Very sad. Very nostalgic. You know, I was hoping the airplane would last until my retirement. It did not," said Tom Spratt, a United pilot.

In recent years, the planes have lost ground to more fuel-efficient aircraft.

"As it's continued to age, I think it's time to really replace it with new technology," Hanna said.

The 747 is flying into the sunset in style on a farewell tour for employees and retirees at hubs across the country. More than 200 people boarded the aircraft at O'Hare International Airport for a two-and-half-hour celebratory flight.

"Fortunately I have my wife joining me on this, so let's be nice," said United retiree Al Scaletta, laughing.

"I really grateful to United for putting on such a great show and giving the employees an opportunity to have one last hurrah," Spratt said.

The final international and domestic United flights on board a 747 will take place over the next couple of weeks. Both flights are sold out.
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