John Delach

On The Outside Looking In

Month: July, 2020

The Queen of the Skies

British Airways’ (BA) announcement in mid-July stunned aviation enthusiasts: “It is with great sadness that we can confirm we are proposing to retire our entire 747 fleet with immediate effect. It is unlikely our magnificent ‘queen of the skies’ will ever operate commercial services for BA again due to the downturn in travel caused by the Covid-19 global pandemic.”

And that’s that and so it goes. BA was the largest operator with 31 747-400s  remaining in its airliner inventory. Sure, we enthusiasts knew the end of service life for the first and the most successful of the jumbo jets was drawing to a close. BA had previously revealed that they would phase out their 747s over the next five years, but five years is five years away.     

British Airways’ predecessor, British Overseas Airways Corporation or BOAC acquired their first Boeing-747-100 in 1970 and this airplane made its first commercial flight on April 14, 1971.

Boeing  designed the jumbo to meet the wishes of, Juan Trippe, the founder and CEO of Pan American World Airways. Trippe demanded an airliner 2 ½ times the size of the 707, Boeings first successful jet airliner that entered service in 1958. Pan Am ordered 25 airplanes and took delivery of their first 747, the Clipper Young America on January 22, 1970.

Since 1969, the first year of production, Boeing has built 1,556 747s with 16 on order or under construction. The last of those 747-8 freighters is expected to roll off the production line from their Everett, Washington plant in the next two years.

Boeing 747’s remained in demand with airlines and frequent fliers for almost forty years. Following the demise of the supersonic Concorde, their popularity with elite transatlantic travelers soared. No airplane could fly higher or faster and the 747’s size allowed the airlines to outfit their First Class and Business Class cabins with luxurious features. 

One of the first indications that the 747’s tide was ebbing was the great tragedy on September 11, 2001. Another was the direct competition from the introduction of the Airbus A380, the first jumbo passenger plane to surpass the 747 in both size and superlatives.

(Curiously, the A380 would fall victim to the same forces that doomed the 747. Airbus has announced that it will close the A-380 production line in 2021 because of a dearth of orders even before the virus struck. Only 250 will be built making this jumbo a financial disaster.)

Demand for the 747 shrank as newer and more efficient two-engine jumbo jets like Boeing’s own 777 entered service. These aircraft that could provide similar luxury while being cost-efficient.

Domestic flights ended early in 2018 when a veteran crew flew Delta Airlines’ last active 747 from Atlanta to the airplane boneyard in Marana, Arizona.  

Covid-19 landed the knock-out blow. BA was not alone in retiring their fleet. Virgin Atlantic retired their 747s on April 10, 2020. There stated reason: the pandemic. Covid-19 has decimated world-wide air traffic reducing these airlines financial situations to dire.

Lufthansa retired its 747-400s. Only their six 8Fs remain.

The last chapter for the 747 is being written at Boeing’s San Antonio facility. Two 747-8F have been delivered to the United States Air Force for conversion into VC-25B transports better known as Air Force One. Boeing built these airplanes for Volga-Dnept, a Russian company that subsequently tanked. Uncle bought them and their conversion is under way with the first delivery expected in 2024.

Since their service life is expected to be at least 30 years, they will still be flying at a minimum of five years short of the Queen of the Sky’s 100th anniversary!


On the Outside Looking In will not publish for the next two weeks. I hope to  reveal an intense piece comparing the on-going turmoil of this summer to our discontent to that of 1970.              

OBX Vacation

I am back!

Last summer Mary Ann and I decided to take our family to the Outer Banks to celebrate my 75th birthday. We rented a house on the beach behind the dune in Nags Head. All 11 of us had a wonderful time, so much so, that Mary Ann directed me to rent a house for 2020 to celebrate her 75th.

Unfortunately, our rental was already taken for the week of the 4th of July. Choosing not to be defeated, our daughter, Beth, found another realtor who had what appeared to be an acceptable alternative in the town of Duck further north on the Outer Banks. I took the plunge and accepted the contract.

Before I continue with this story, I need to explain my thoughts about beach vacations. I have made many in my life that included stays in Cape Cod, Fire Island, the Hamptons, Florida, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Bermuda, Saint Martin / Maarten and Antigua. I enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of a week on the beach and the calmness it offers.

However, I first must get passed the four things I do not like or enjoy about a beach vacation: The sun, the sand, bathing suits and the waves. I never liked the sun. I am fair person who burns quickly and easily. Sand is a close second and I find bathing suits to be uncomfortable. I loved the surf growing up and body surfed with pride and pleasure. Such is life and those days ended a long time ago. Now, my idea of a perfect beach vacation is being on a shaded deck or a porch with, at least, three books to devour drinking a cold one while having a grand view of the ocean and family members enjoying the sand and sun.

Fortunately, I am alone in our family to have this point of view which makes a beach vacation work for everybody else.

Jodie is the queen of the beach hands down and spends as much time there as she can. Michael, Beth, Tom and Mary Ann all tie for second. Our grandchildren also enjoy the beach but also seek out alternative activities. As a group, Drew, Matt, Marlowe, Sami and Cace all finish third.

The time it takes to drive to the Outer Banks from the New York Metropolitan area is a stretch, but it is doable. Non-stop without traffic is eight hours and change and with stops, pockets of traffic and unexpected delays, 10 hours. This estimate turned out to be accurate for all of us this trip. We drove down separately in three different vehicles. Mary Ann and I invited Marlowe and Cace to join us. Our new Hyundai Palisade sports bucket seats in both the first and second rows and considerably more leg room. They jumped at the offer.

The house we rented was a wicked improvement over last years. Named: Run-A-Way Bay, everything was newer and more opulent. It had six bedrooms, so everybody was happy with their accommodations. The dining room fit all eleven of us as did a picnic table outside on the upper deck.

Since we now live in the era of Covid-19, eating in was a must. In 2019, we didn’t eat out much. Seating eleven is cumbersome so we mainly did take-out and we followed an even stricter discipline for this vacation. In addition, adhering to Covid-19 paranoia and having learned from 2019, we brought down NY Sicilian pizza for our first night since eateries in OBX are overwhelmed on arrival night.

Michael also brought a fabulous Buffalo chicken dinner for a second night and

Jodie contributed Chicken Parmigiana for a third. (Let us respect that Mary Ann brought two trays of lasagna, meat and meatless, that the rabble rejected.)   

Mary Ann and I supplied 100 surgical face masks, toilet paper for every bathroom, paper towels, sanitizers, hand soap and wipes to protect our family.

Of course, things go wrong. The a/c failed the first night in part of the house, but it was fixed the next day. TV took a couple of visits to work properly. ( Frankly, not my issue. I didn’t watch one second of TV all week.) The commercial ice maker was kaput, so we compensated by buying four, ten-pound bags every day.

Beach vacations, by their nature, are uneventful, but on Thursday, we were treated to an angry ocean thanks to tropical storm Fay that passed far enough offshore to give us a show without any danger.

That night at dinner of take-in BBQ, spirits were so high that I said: “Let’s reserve Run-A-Way Bay for the same week next summer.”

Beth called the realtor the next day and we are good to go in 2021.  

Weekly Post Delayed

Due to technical difficulties, my weekly blog post will be delayed until Friday.

Big Blue Interrupted

This year should have been my 59th year of being a New York Football Giants season ticket holder. I purchased a single season ticket in 1962 for $37.50 at the team’s office then located in 10 Columbus Circle. I paid cash for my ticket and gave it to a woman who sat behind a window that resembled a teller’s cage. I recall that the hallway was lined with photos and paintings of famous Giants players, coaches and members of the Mara family, who owned the team since its founding in 1925.

My $37.50 paid for admission to seven home games at $5.00 each plus a $2.50 handling charge. That inaugural year was my most memorable football experience until 1986. In 1962, the Giants won the Eastern Division of the NFL and hosted the Championship Game in Yankee Stadium. The ticket cost $15 and Big Blue lost that game to the Green Bay Packers, 16 to 7 on the coldest day of my life.

The Giants repeated in 1963 but lost the Championship Game in Chicago to the Bears. Losing became a habit after that season and the Giants didn’t reach another championship until 1986 when they defeated the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXI. Head coach, Bill Parcells, summed up the significance of that victory not just for the players, but also for we long-suffering fans by saying: “Men, never let anyone tell you that you can’t do it, because you did it.”

The Giants have since gone on to appear in four additional Super Bowls and win three of them. I attended two wins in SB-XXV and SB-XLII and one loss in SB-XXXV. Not too shabby.

As a senior fan, I joke when people ask me what it is like to be a fan that long. My standard line is to joke, “It has given me the opportunity to witness many years of lousy football.”

Truth be known, each opening day is a renewal of faith and friendship with tailgate buddies of the most diverse circumstances all who have the same commonality, Giants football. We are the proud, the faithful whose loyalty knows no limits.

From my perspective, I believe the three most important dates on the calendar are:

The day the NFL schedule is released that allows us to speculate on our chances for success.

That day in mid-summer when the season tickets arrive in the mail in all their glory.

And opening day when anything and everything is possible.

Covid-19 continues to turn the world upside down, Big Blue included. Usually, the team requires season ticket holders to pay for the upcoming season by May 1st. This year, the Giants extended that date first to June and then to July 1st.  

The schedule was released on May 7th , but we accepted it cautiously.

Fast forward to the middle of June. I called the Giant’s ticket office and asked if that date would be extended? The woman who took my call explained: “I don’t know, but I understand that an e-mail will be sent out next week providing more information. If I were you, I wouldn’t do any thing until you receive that e-mail.”  

It arrived Monday morning. Indeed, the payment date was extended to August 14, but it wasn’t until the third paragraph that ownership announced incredible news: “We are offering all season ticket members the ability to take a year off from buying their season tickets. If you decide to do this, you will have no obligation to pay for your season tickets this year.”

I was amazed by this stunning news and proud of Giants ownership for making such a generous and costly (for them) pre-emptive move. To the best of my knowledge, Big Blue was the first NFL team to make such a unselfish offer. But it didn’t shock me. The Mara organization has a history of treating their fans as a family.

In 1973, Mayor John V. Lindsay evicted the team from Yankee Stadium for having the audacity to announce that they were moving to a new stadium of their own in New Jersey. The mayor could have allowed  the Giants to play all seven home games in Yankee Stadium before its reconstruction was due to begin. But as one of his deputy mayors told a reporter: “We are not going to give the Giants any favors. We are going to throw them out as soon as the Yankee season ends.”

The late Wellington Mara, then President and CEO of the team immediately announced that all season tickets would be suspended for as long as Big Blue was forced to play in the Yale Bowl in New Haven, Connecticut.

Now his son, John, and the head of their co-owning family, Jonathon Tisch, are showing genuine care and concern for their faithful fans.

I accepted the offer in short order relieving myself of all the anxiety of attending games in person. I will miss our tailgates and being there for live football, but I have no doubt that it’s for the best.

Thank you, Mister Mara and thank you, Mister Tisch. Like your fathers, before you, you are a class act.

My Quarantine Time Capsule Vignette

Cace Briggs

Cace Briggs is my youngest grandchild. He attends MS 442 located in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn. He wrote this piece as an assignment for a remote class. God willing, he will enter the Eighth Grade this September. Cace agreed to permit me to publish his piece. I edited his piece for clarity but, with the intent to leave its essence and his use of language unchanged.   

Every day starts with the sun coming up Vanderbilt Avenue chasing the shade away and bringing a new day. The cars start beeping at the repair shop in the old Brooklyn Navy Yard across the street from my apartment just like a rooster waking up at an urban farm.

Slowly, a meager number of cars lumber along the streets bringing essential workers to their destinations like soldiers to their posts. Many workers carpool and are dropped off by friends and family members. These cars drive off into the distance leaving only a faint noise and the smell of exhaust. And so, Brooklyn wakes up to another day of the pandemic with the rest of the world.

I begin my day by looking out onto the barren streets wondering when the day will come when cars can again populate the dark canvas. I feel sad but, after a while, I bring myself to go out for a bike ride. I believe it would be a good distraction from the somber state of the world. As I ride through the streets it feels strange to not see the bustling of cars and  people riding their bicycles or walking their dogs. I had become used to their absence on previous rides, but this is such a nice day, I thought maybe it would be different.

As I cross the Williamsburg Bridge, I stop for a minute to admire the beautiful though desolate view of the East River. When I reach Manhattan, I expect at least a little traffic, but I am surprised to see almost none. After riding through the Lower East Side which only seems to take seconds. I return homeward on the Manhattan Bridge. I reminisce on prior summers when the city was so alive and intriguing. Back home, I retire to my bedroom trying not to think negatively about what feels like the apocalypse.

As the day ends, shadows consume everything making the world dark again. The cars return to reclaim the essential workers. The drivers listen to the workers’ stories of hard work and never-ending sacrifice.

That night after I heard the cars coming back, I had the feeling I hadn’t had in a while, hope.

In bed that night I know that one day I will look back on this not with sadness or hate but thankfulness and gratitude toward the people who made sure we survived and prospered.

“On the Outside Looking In,” will not appear next Wednesday and will return on July 15.