(KMSP) - History was made at MSP International Airport Wednesday, as a Boeing-747 landed in the Twin Cities for the last time.
The giant jumbo jets are retiring and Delta is hosting a farewell tour, making stops in Detroit, Seattle, Atlanta and finally, Minneapolis.
The flight landed early Wednesday afternoon, drawing aviation buffs from all walks of life for a sendoff fit for a queen.
On the highest levels of the airport parking garage, all eyes were on something far higher.
Jen Carlson brought her 6 and 9-year-old daughters with signs and hot cocoa to join a crowd watching the famed "Queen of the Skies” land in the Twin Cities one more time.
“We just appreciate the mechanics, the fact that they defy physics, something that big getting off the ground and taking you to fun places,” Carlson said.
Pilot Stephen Hanlon treated the crowd to a low-level flyby before landing. More than 300 passengers were on board, mostly comprised of current and former Delta employees. About 15 Delta SkyMiles customers also bid their miles for a chance to fly with the farewell tour.
“We played some trivia and got to get a lot of pictures, and had a nice meal service and a champagne toast to the Queen of the Skies,” said Delta Customer Service Agent William-Andrew Elbert, who won his seat on board through an essay contest.
“I've got all these good friends and people that I've known forever, and it's really sad to walk off the airplane. So everybody thinks it's a big celebration and celebratory, but you know, it's very sad,” Hanlon said.
Delta started flying and then retired its first fleet of 747's in the 1970s.
The airline got its latest fleet in 2008 when it merged with Minnesota-based Northwest Airlines. Many pilots and crew members have roots in the Twin Cities.
“It's fun, it's wonderful and we're having a hangar party tonight, it will be a family reunion. It will be awesome. It will be great fun. But, to see the Queen leave, it's tough for us old Northwest people,” Olson said.
“This is where it all started, Minneapolis St. Paul. This is where we got the first airplane. I lived here and my first son was born in Burnsville,” Hanlon said.
“Minneapolis has such a soft spot in our heart for the history of who we are and the hometown airline and these pilots,” Carlson said.
The 747s are officially going out of service in the next month. Until then, the planes will charter a few sports teams before eventually heading to their "retirement home" just outside Tucson, Arizona.
“We never referred to it as the Queen. I only heard this Queen in the last couple of months. It was always the Whale,” Hanlon said. “When you see the Whale go by, the Whale is iconic. It’s a different airplane. You always see it and you go, that's the 747.”
“Whenever people associated international travel to Europe and so forth, you always thought of the 747. With its distinctive hump, it's just an iconic airplane,” Elbert said.