Smoking in the cockpit and rugby tackling passengers - Former pilot remembers Boeing 747
PUBLISHED: 13:45 12 October 2020 | UPDATED: 13:45 12 October 2020
A retired Norfolk pilot has revealed the jumbo-sized place the Boeing 747 has in his heart after it was taken out of service.
Ian Turner, 67, from Antingham near North Walsham retired two years ago after 26,000-plus hours and 38 years of flying passengers around the world as captain or co-pilot.
The last Boeing 747 ‘jumbos’ recently retired after ferrying millions of businessmen and holidaymakers through the skies since they came in to service in 1969.
Their demise comes as airlines seek quieter, more fuel-efficient planes but their retirement from service, planned for four years’ time, was hastened by the pandemic causing a huge drop in passenger numbers.
Mr Turner said seeing the final flights, from London to aircraft scrapyards, was emotional because they had played such a large part of his flying career.
He said: “I suppose it’s progress, but it’s sad, particularly because they came to such an abrupt end. I hope they keep at least one as a museum piece.
“The 747 was the absolute favourite of passengers because its size provided a really stable ride, and for those lucky enough to fly first class the separate cabin provided total privacy.
“For pilots, they could be demanding because of their size, which means they were not so manoeuvrable coming into airports needing tight turns but very rewarding and enjoyable when you did everything right. It was an elegant, terrific aeroplane.
“The early ones were underpowered and noisy in the cockpit, which has left me a bit deaf, but having four engines, and 16 main wheels left plenty of room if something went wrong with any of them.”
Mr Turner’s first Jumbo flight was from London to Lagos in Africa in 1985, and his final one from Miami to London in June 2018.
His final flight was an emotional event: “I announced over the PA it was my last one, and when we landed I went and shook the hands of every passenger as they left. There was a huge round of applause as I walked through the aircraft. I felt like an Oscar winner.”
In 1987, Mr Turner even met his wife aboard a 747 when he was captain and she was part of the cabin crew.
During his flying days, Mr Turner remembers welcoming VIP visitors to the flight deck – ranging from rock bands to royalty – before 9/11 security measures closed the cabin door, as well as some stunning sights from the cockpit in the day and night.
Anecdotes from Ian’s pilot’s log
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There’s no smoke...
At one time smoking was allowed in the cockpit – even when it wasn’t in the rest of the plane: “The captain would often smoke a cigar and the flight engineer a pipe. I didn’t smoke – but I didn’t need to, because I got a good dose of theirs.
“The cockpit was a popular place for cabin crew to visit, saying they wanted to speak to the aircrew – but they really just wanted to have a cigarette.”
Sleeping in the cockpit
Bunk beds and en-suite toilets were located in the cockpit.
It meant that on long-haul flights, where there were two crews, the resting ones could sleep between shifts, unless they had to deal with an emergency: “Before the days of secure flight deck doors, I did have one first class passenger stumble into my bunk room looking for the loo.”
Mr Turner said: “I had first class passenger flip and start running around the aircraft saying he was going to kill the captain – me.
“Luckily we had a steward who was a former met police officer who rugby-tackled him before he got up the stairs to the flight deck.
“The passenger was restrained, handcuffed and collect from Heathrow by another eight policemen.”
Diversions and delays
Mr Turner said: “Unlike some pilots, I never had anyone die or give birth on the flight, but I have had to divert to another airfield because someone had a haemorrhage.
“Once we had an angry American passenger upset at delays for taking off – but I was able to announce the reason over the PA system – we were awaiting the landing of Air Force One, the president’s official jet.”
Grin and bear it
A stewardess spoke to Ian after one flight asking permission to get the toilet tanks checked – because she had lost her false teeth down the loo just as it flushed: “An engineer tried to rod it out with a coat hanger, but drew a blank.”
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