Chart of the Day: 747s and 777s at MSP

If you haven’t stood transfixed on a street corner gaping in awe at a Boeing 747 as it climbs up, up, and away from its terrestrial prison, you haven’t really lived. Aviation geeks have long enjoyed seeing the 747 fly in and out of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, shuttling passengers between the Twin Cities and Tokyo’s Narita airport.

That is, until two years ago, when Delta opted to operate the route primarily with the 747’s vanilla-frozen-yogurt cousin, the 777. Sure, the engines are huge and the thing’s got an elegance to it, but for many of us, the 747 will always be the belle of the ball – a real class act in a sky full of ho-hum twin-engine mosquitoes.*

Today’s chart shows that transition, highlighting Delta’s practically-criminal disregard for Minnesota airplane spotters. The data come from the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which offers a number of reports and datasets through its Noise Program website. It’s a great resource not just for aviation fetishists, but for anyone interested in the airport’s operations.


Source: Metropolitan Airports Commission

Source: Metropolitan Airports Commission

*Yes, there’s Air France’s Airbus A340 operating to Paris. It doesn’t quite compare, but for that sound

Anders Imboden

About Anders Imboden

Anders Imboden works in sustainable transport and environmental policy. Now living in Vientiane, Laos, he was born and raised in Uptown Minneapolis.

11 thoughts on “Chart of the Day: 747s and 777s at MSP

  1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

    The 744 has been flying MSP-NRT most days this summer, but I think it’s back to a 772 soon. They’ve even flown the route with an Airbus A332.

    Definitely a far cry from 15 years ago, when there were plenty of 744s and 742s, passenger and cargo, at MSP. I remember connecting from Hong Kong to MSP via NRT back in 2006, and there were TWO!!! 744s departing NRT for MSP in the course of about an hour.

    Here’s the 2002 NWA fleet, listing 36 744s/742s, excluding NWA Cargo’s 15 B742 freighters.

    The 744s are down to 13 as of this month, with some planes being parked that were only about a decade old. How things have changed.

    At least we’ve seen capacity upgauge at the lower end of the spectrum, with many flights back to big RJs or small narrowbody mainline metal rather than the sea of CRJ-200s just five years ago. I hear there’s even talk about shuttering the B concourse which was designed for Saabs and CRJ200s.

    Oh, and I miss our other four-holer at MSP – the Avro RJ85!

    1. Anders ImbodenAnders Imboden Post author

      I was wondering about those 2008-2009 numbers. Were they running two MSP-NRT flights a day during peak season then? Also, while lumping the data, I noticed a single 748 operation in 2011 (none in the other years). Would’ve been fun to see.

      1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

        MSP-NRT was never double daily. Double 2 days a week for a while, then just 2x on Saturdays IIRC.

      1. Sam NewbergSam Newberg

        For a while, if not still, Delta tried to base many/most/all 747s out of just one or two airports. I think they chose Detroit and to a lesser extent Atlanta. Although now it sounds as if Delta is slowly phasing them out overall. We can only speculate when the last one will fly for Delta.

        747s and other four-engine plane are not as efficient as those with two, and Delta is not the only airline that is phasing them out. Fly them while you can.

    1. Walker AngellWalker Angell

      Delta have stated that future growth will be in DTW over MSP (though they did at least refurb their MSP gates). My personal experience is that I’ve seen many fewer direct flights out of MSP since the merger with a lot more connections in DTW and ATL, not sure if that’s an accurate reflection of overall reality or not.

      There was some verbiage in the NWA sale about not reducing either flight capacity, employment, or both for some period or they’d be on the hook for the money NWA owed MAC. Seems I read somewhere that they chose to pay the money.

  2. Sam NewbergSam Newberg

    With all of us plane geeks coming out of our hangars, I’ll profess my true love for the 747 as well. I grew up exactly two miles off the end of runway 11L (today it is 12L) in south Minneapolis, and watched thousands of North Central then Republic Airlines planes land just 600 or so feet above the house. As a kid the 6PM Northwest Orient flight to London was a 747-100 or -200, and I spent many evenings staring up as that plane took off low and heavy over Pearl Park as a baseball hit by a batter from the other team rolled past me. Oh, that growl! Mmmmm

    I was there when the first 747-400 was delivered to Northwest in 1989. In the world of industrial design, the 747 is on par with the 1965 Ford Mustang, the Coca-Cola contour bottle, a Hasselblad 500C camera, and the Kitchen Aid classic mixer – timeless. It is amazing and sad how ugly the A380 is in comparison.

    Here’s that single 747-8 – July 2011:

    I’m also fond of the DC-9, and it blew my mind to be able to fly on a machine built in the 1960s. I miss them now that they are gone, but still enjoy their quieter cousins the MD-80 and MD-90. Be sure to check out the video links on this post –

    I’m waiting for David Levinson to speak up as well, as he’s actually been quoted in the local press regarding airplane stuff.

  3. g bernard hughes

    clearly none of you people live beneath a flight path.

    i didnt use to live beneath a flight path but abt 4 yrs ago a LOT of planes starting flying directly overhead.

    they fly so low i can clearly see lights & markings, even tho i am 8 miles from the airport.

    the noise can be deafening & i cant help but wonder abt the pollution.

  4. Andrew DegerstromAndrew Degerstrom

    Yes, the 747-400 is an iconic image. Although, I think the sound of the 777’s GE90 engines is one of the coolest…

    Delta does intend to retire all of its 747-400s, as 4 engine planes are becoming to expensive to operate. The entire industry is waiting with bated breath on the final announcement of Delta’s order of up to 50 wide-body jets. The order is meant to replace their fleet of 747-400 and older 767 jets. Delta currently has 10 A330-300s on order that it placed last year, and 18 787-8s on order which it inherited from Northwest.

    Boeing and Airbus will be in intense competition for the order, as Delta is one of the most conservative buyers amongst the largest airlines. Reportedly, the competition has narrowed down to the 787-9 and the A350-900. I would expect the final announcement before the end of the year.

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