ANA 747s – Didn’t Catch Them All

Last October I did a post about British Airways’ retiring its last passenger 747 plane and more recently I did a post about China Airlines retiring their 747s. I noted in that post that I hadn’t done a post about other airlines, which I had used, retiring their 747s. This time I am going to cover ANA.

As far as I remember I only used ANA 747s on about five occasions. The first of these was when I went out to Japan as an undergraduate when we had a ‘study tour’ to Japan during our first year of studying Japanese. This was 1990 and ANA flights in the UK were based at Gatwick rather than Heathrow. My main memory from these flights was that it was now possible – unlike the previous year as I discussed in my post about China Airlines retiring their 747s – for flights between Europe and Japan to fly over Siberia. It seemed that the Cold War was coming to an end. It was amazing to be flying over the frozen landscape of Siberia. Several hours later we still seemed to be over Siberia. On the way back to the UK, it was much the same – though by now most of the snow and ice had melted and it was forests (and the occasional nuclear missile silo it seemed) that we looked down. Even now Siberia seems to go on forever as you fly over it – I cannot imagine what it must be like going on the train. During that trip to Japan, we took a domestic flight between Osaka and Haneda, though I have no memory what type of plane it was.

In 1996, I was back out in Japan on a ‘study tour’, but this time I was going in pastoral role – looking after the undergraduate students while I was doing my PhD (and also used the time in Japan to do some research as well as have a holiday). I remember nothing about the international flights. What I do remember is that ANA had provided us with two free domestic flights. I used these to fly from Haneda to Naha and then Naha to Nagoya (from memory). I suspect that the flight from Haneda was a 747. I will discuss my trip to Okinawa in more detail in another post.

Another time that I used an ANA 747 was on a flight from Osaka to Hong Kong. Having got to Kansai International later than planned, we were rushed through all of the various stages of checking in, security & passport and in the end got to the plane in plenty of time (and could have stopped at the duty free, which we’d wanted to do). The main memory from this flight, however, is that during the flight my wife and I were allowed to go up to the flight deck thanks to knowing an ANA pilot (we were meant to have such an experience during the return flight in 1990, but it didn’t happen). This was an amazing experience – and something that would never happen in a post 9/11 world. It was wonderful to see how calm the cockpit is – good for someone who, particularly at that time, can be a nervous flyer. At one point another 747 (a North-Western, I think) went the other way. Seeing another 747 so close was great – the plane looked so graceful – unlike the lumbering lumps they appear as you see them taxiing around airports. Truly the Queen of the Skies.

I also did a trip on ANA between London and Tokyo when I was starting out as an Associate Fellow at Chatham House, accompanying a group of business people in Japan. My main memory from one of these flights is that it was the days before personal TVs and so you had to watch the small TV hanging from the cabin ceiling some way down the plane. In the middle of the night, the programme being shown was some golf tournament. From my position I couldn’t see the ball or any action (not that there is much in golf) – all that seemed to be happening was that the screen changed between blue (for the sky) and green (for the grass). I suspect that ANA was trying to bore us to sleep. Another memory from that trip itself was staying at the New Otani hotel which would lead to it being in my first novel, Hijacking Japan, albeit using a different name.

In 2011, I started properly taking photographs of planes. At this time ANA still had some 747s and it was great to be able to see them coming into land or taking off. Here are some examples.

You can see two more pictures in the post Photographing Planes Near Haneda Airport, Tokyo: Keihinjima Tsubasa Park and Photographing Planes Near Haneda Airport, Tokyo: Jonanjima. The second post includes a picture of one of the ANA Pokemon jets. I have discussed these planes in both my chapter ‘Contents Tourism in Plane Sight‘ and in my book Japan: The Basics, which includes the following picture in it.

Here are a some more shots of the Pokemon 747s

ANA retired the last of its passenger 747s in 2014 (and I never flew on them again or on the Pokemon jets – although I think my ANA pilot friend was the captain for the final flight for one of these planes), but its former-affiliated company Nippon Cargo Airlines still had eight 747s (its whole fleet) as of 2021.

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