It would be a first-time visit for a true queen of the skies.
Calgary aviation enthusiasts are lobbying Dutch-based airline KLM to bring home “City of Calgary” — a Boeing 747 airliner bearing the city’s name that, according to Aaron Stayner, is nearing its retirement after nearly 30 years of service.
“KLM, like many other airlines around the world, are starting to retire their 747 passenger aircraft,” said Stayner, a local pilot and administrator of the YYC Calgary Airport Spotters Facebook page.
“Some of the people on our Facebook group thought it would be a great idea to reach out to KLM to encourage them, before the ‘City of Calgary’ 747 retired, to have it come to Calgary.”
Entering service in Sept. 1989, “City of Calgary” is one of the oldest 747s in KLM’s fleet, and carries a commemorative bronze plaque presented by the Calgary Transportation Authority.
Entering commercial service in 1970, the 747 put the term “jumbo jet” into common parlance.
Lovingly referred to as “the Queen of the Skies,” it was the largest passenger aircraft until Airbus introduced the A380 ten years ago.
The “City of Calgary” has a remarkable history, being one of the first 747-400s to roll off Boeing’s assembly line — the model’s most popular and best-selling variant.
Less than five months after KLM put the plane into service, the aircraft lost power in all four engines after inadvertently flying through a volcanic ash cloud on a flight between Japan and Anchorage, Alaska.
Rapidly losing altitude as the crippled plane glided towards what seemed like an inevitable crash, the crew managed to restart their engines and make an emergency landing.
Despite causing $80 million in damage, nobody was injured and “City of Calgary” was soon back in the skies.
With KLM planning to retire their remaining 747 fleet by 2020, Stayner said now’s the time to convince KLM to bring the jet to Calgary for a visit — something he said hasn’t happened in the airplane’s three decades of service.
“The 747, as a passenger aircraft, is becoming rarer and rarer — it’s incredibly rare in Calgary,” he said.
“Add to that the fact that it is named after our city, it’s kind of a unique opportunity to honour the 747 and the city by having it make this one-off visit here.”
KLM currently operates a daily flight between Calgary and Amsterdam — a route not normally serviced by 747s.
“Of all the airlines around the world, KLM may be our best chance for something like this to happen,” she said.
“We think they could be very receptive, and we’ve already seen newspapers and aviation media in Amsterdam pick up this story already, there could be a good chance they’d do a one-off like this.”
On Twitter: @bryanpassifiume