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Aviation History: Looking back at the Beginning of the Wide-body era.

Today's long haul - and for that matter, 'big jet' shorter routes - are fast becoming, or even have already become, the preserve of twin-engine airliners. But it was not always so; as the 1960s drew to a close, aviation thinking and practice demanded four engines for long haul (as Virgin Atlantic once put it).


With the help of a number of aviation photographers from around the world, we look back at the three aircraft that heralded the start of wide-bodied airliner travel.

(above - the airline that started it all: Pan Am: Piergiuliano Chesi)


The Boeing 747


Pan Am were synonymous with the 747 and operated a number of their early aircraft right from delivery until the airline's closure in 1991.

Above: Clipper Ocean Telegraph, upon which the author made his first flight on a 747 between London Heathrow and New York John F. Kennedy (Kambui).

Below: Clipper Neptune's Car, also flown on by the author, this time on the reverse journey, although the aircraft was in the earlier paint scheme at the time before being repainted into the airline's final scheme (Konstantin von Wedelstaedt).

Trans World Airlines were the second airline to take delivery of the 747, although the first flight was a US transcontinental service before the airline deployed the aircraft on to international routes (Michel Gilliand)

Above: pictured at a muggy Los Angeles, like most of the big US carriers, Continental took delivery of the 747 before disposing of their fleet. The big Boeing made a comeback with the airline when it began Transatlantic services however (Clipper Arctic).

The only US airlines to consistently operate the 747 from start to finish were Pan Am, TWA, Northwest and - above - United. All four airlines saw the type fly in every colour scheme used by the carriers and United used the -100, -200 and -400 sub-types, as did Northwest (Jon Proctor).

Above: the end is nigh: United 747s share storage areas at Victorville with the smaller Boeing 767 and Delta L1011 TriStars (Konstantin von Wedelstaedt).


Below: a curiosity - Eastern leased three of Pan Am's aircraft for use on the New York to Miami route and subsequently arranged to buy this one from Qantas. Seen at Sydney, despite painting the aircraft in EA's colours and gaining a US registration, the sale fell through and it was never delivered to the American carrier (Daniel Tanner)

Above: BOAC's initial 747-136s sat at Heathrow for a while in 1970 due to a pay dispute with the airline's pilots. Once in service however, most of the early 747s stayed in use for the duration of their service lives and were seen in both the first and the later British Airways colours (Clipper Arctic)

The Lockheed L1011 TriStar

Below: Like American, Delta and others, Eastern found the 747 too large and went for the Lockheed L1011 Tristar in big numbers (Jon Proctor).