“Argo” and the 747

What is it with Hollywood and Airplanes? A Complaint from Ask the Pilot’s Office of Pedantics and Minutiae.

March 1, 2013

SO I WATCHED ARGO, the Ben Affleck movie about the 1979 hostage crisis in Iran.

Those of us of a certain age remember the hostage crisis quite well. Until September 11th, nothing in post-World War Two American history garnered more media attention and public discussion, save perhaps for the Vietnam War.

I thought the movie started strong but ended weakly. The closing sequence, especially, was contrived and overwrought — not to mention historically inaccurate.

But it’s the airplane scenes that we’re here to talk about:

The Boeing 747 is one of the movie’s stars. The iconic jet makes numerous appearances in the period colors of British Airways, Iran Air, and Swissair. Now, I don’t know if the British Airways jet that brought CIA agent Tony Mendez into Tehran really was a 747. And the Swissair plane that carried the six Americans to freedom was, in fact, a Douglas DC-8. But that’s not the artistic license that irks me. (The 747 is no longer the biggest or the flashiest plane, but it’s still the grandest and most historically significant. And any movie set in the 1970s, particularly one focused on what was such a huge international story… if there’s gonna be an airplane, it has to be a 747.)

I’m reminded of the line from that old Nick Lowe song…

“Seven forty seven put him in that condition,
Flyin’ back from a peace keeping mission.”

What irks me, instead, is that these airplane scenes are quite clearly digitalized fakes. Even a child can see this. The shot of the BA flight descending into Mehrabad airport looks like something an eighth grader put together on his iPad — so goofily phony that it’s hard not to laugh out loud.

The Swissair scenes, in the film’s closing minutes, are no better. What a waste. There’s the 747, front and center of one of the coolest moments of the past 40 years. Except that it’s rendered in a sort of CGI-lite. There’s one shot, of the plane’s left wing, where they didn’t even pretend to make it real. The intake of the number one engine is just a two-dimensional black circle. As the kids say, WTF?

As the movie comes to a close, we see the superimposed jet accelerating down the runway, chased along by a phalanx of Iranian military vehicles and police cars. These cars and trucks miraculously keep pace until the nose gear begins to lift. I’m unaware of any jeeps or police sedans able to drive 170 miles-per-hour, but who knows what secret weapons the Iranians had in 1979.


And by the way, what you see in Argo is a -300 series 747, with the extended upper deck and traditional (no winglets) wing. Swissair did operate the 747-300 for a time. The trouble is, it didn’t take delivery of the first one until 1983, four years after the events portrayed in the film.

That’s cheating a bit, I know. It’s really not fair that I can give them a pass for using a 747 in the first place, yet be offended by which variant was depicted. Here I am complaining because they used the wrong kind of the wrong plane.

Still though, if you’re going to show a plane at all, at least show one that actually existed at the time. Not bothering to do so is laziness. The choice of going with a 747 instead of a DC-8 can at least be argued on dramatic grounds. Going with a model that hadn’t been invented yet is simply incoherent.

You mean to tell me that with the millions of dollars lavished on the production of a major film, that Affleck and company couldn’t have gotten hold of an actual, chronologically correct 747 (it would have been the -200 variant) for a couple of simple runway scenes? At least a few 747-200s are still flying, and I’m sure the owners (cargo companies mostly) would have been happy to lease one out for a few days. Dozens more are mothballed in the deserts of California and Arizona, within driving distance of Hollywood, any one of which could have been painted up in the appropriate colors.

Speaking of which…

Earlier on, I was impressed that they got the period livery for British Airways exactly right, including the typeface used in airport signage. There’s also a very quick shot of the tail section of an Iran Air 747. Here too, though you don’t see it for more than a second, the livery is correct.

But then, with Swissair, they blow it. The colors shown, with the black and brown striping and the full red tail, weren’t used until 1980. They’ve got the wrong plane and the wrong paint job.

Here is a Swissair 747 of the correct make, in the correct livery.

Here is what they used.

I don’t understand why flubs like these are so annoyingly common in movies. When it comes to cars, consumer products, hairstyles and clothes, Hollywood goes through considerable pain and expense to get their period details right — even ones that the average viewer wouldn’t necessarily notice or care about. But with airplanes and airlines, these standards don’t apply, even when the aircraft is center stage. We expect better, especially from a film as critically acclaimed as Argo, and certainly from any movie that’s intended to be read, however loosely, as a historical narrative.


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58 Responses to ““Argo” and the 747”
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  1. Sena says:

    Hi Ask the Pilot, sure the movie Argo had 747 inaccuracy, but my question is this. in the scene where the Swissair 747 was preparing for takeoff, under the tail of the Iran Air 747 is a twinjet, looks like an A320, explain this pls?

  2. JEve says:

    Hello, ‘Ask The Pilot’ community.

    I’m currently writing a novel at the moment, and I need some help with an escape scene which involves a ‘cargo plane’.

    Although this is a fiction, I’m hoping someone can enlighten me to some facts /truths.

    I have 4 x characters escaping from Tehran, Mehrabab International airport after the 11th February 1979 (The Iranian revolution)

    I need a type of cargo plane that would have been flying in and out at that time and a location?

    Any help would be much appreciated!

  3. Nate says:

    You lost me at “nothing in post-World War Two American history garnered more media attention and public discussion, save perhaps for the Vietnam War” than this rescue mission. Did you forget that JFK was assassinated?!

    • Patrick says:

      No, not the rescue mission. That’s not what I said. I was referring to the hostage crisis overall, from start to finish, all 444 days.

      Still, you could be right about the JFK assassination (I wasn’t alive until 1966), but I have a feeling that the attention it received was concentrated in a much smaller stretch of time.

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  5. Pedant Pete says:

    I just watched Argo and openly commented to my long suffering better half how the 747 would need to be at at least 150 mph to lift off. She’s used to this from me, I identified the burning van in the film as a mk1 Transit V4..

    However, I find it slightly ironic that you failed to identify the vehicles on the runway any more accurately then a jeep and police sedans.

    The “jeep” is clearly a Unimog with a split second glance and police sedans? The police have used all sorts of very fast cars even in the 70’s. No those great, hulking saloon cars (clearly American, maybe AMC?) probably would struggle to get over 100mph but to just refer to them as police sedans seems sloppy.

    PS. I’m really not into planes. I did go on one once, didn’t think much of it.

  6. KK says:

    What got me more than anything is that the fuselage hump was properly rendered in length to represent a 100/200, but was skinned with the extra door and windows of the 300.


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  8. Carlos says:

    They also used the Stone’s “Little T&A” song in the film, which wasn’t released until 1981.

  9. Daniel Arendt says:

    The movie that has recently come out and which I was very happy about, concerning the details brought upon the aviation in the movie was: “Flight” with Denzel Washington. Generally I was not very happy with the drunken plot of the actual movie but the MD was really well represented from the outside as well as the inside. Also, the animated effects in the movie for example when the plane comes crashing down into the church was also well done considering the type of aircraft and the actual livery were the same as in the beginning of the movie… which not many movies can proudly speak of!

  10. Dlac Macon says:

    The only two things (aviation wise ) I noticed in Argo were that (1) They flew in on BA, yet they flew into Tehran from Istanbul, a little odd, and (2) the cars at the end drove straight through the 747 jetwash, with no effect on them. Regardless I liked the movie a lot.

  11. I had the opportunity to interview the writer and producer of another 70s action drama (The Baader-Meinhof Complex). This production went into an astonishing amount of detail in an attempt to get every single detail historically accurate. In fact the DVD extras has like 30 minutes of stuff just dealing with their year-long pre-production efforts to get all the details right.

    So when I pointed out to him that the BMW 2002 used to portray a famous even in spring of 1971 when when a terrorist was killed by a cop was actually a 1974 BMW I think he wanted to kill me. I think he would have rather not known.

    In terms of Argo; I know this was a mid-range budget movie and a lot of movies try to save money in the CGI department. One way to do this is to use pre-created models so you don’t have to pay to develop new ones. (even in big budget movies this happens; michael bay recycles CGI scenes all the time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIBNB0LPpOc , http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7kcqB3thJM) In this case they may have been able to have access to a pre-winglet 747 electronic model that was close, but not exactly the same model that would have been available in 1979, perhaps thinking, accurately, that the only people that would really care would be folks like Patrick.

  12. Norm Richardson says:

    Apart from lots of earnest staring and beards, Argo barely made an hour before I mentally switched off. The whole last half hour was just shite, especially when you realise how little bearing in facts it had.

    As to the realism, if they’d deliberately gone for a grainy cine-camera look, they could have got away with everything all the crappy cgi. It’s not a film forum, so forgive me for posting here, but I enjoyed reading about it from a different perspective.

  13. David Davies says:

    My favourite one is in the last BatGentleman movie, where Selina Kyle is in a departure lounge with an EasyJet tailplane moving past the window…..

  14. Ian MacDonell says:

    Yeah,right.As a Canadian, just saying that there are a lot of things that Ben could have gotten right. Not being sensitive, I just appreciate accuracy over Hollywood. Disappointing, considering how strong his previous films had been.

  15. Matthew Bohnert says:

    A few more that irk me

    1. In “Catch me if you Can” when DiCaprio is returning from France, he points out runway ’44’ in New York. Of course, the numbers don’t go higher than ’36’. How hard would it have been to simply download a free NACO chart from the Internet?

    2. In “Face Off” at the beginning, Nic Cage steers a taxi-ing jet into a hangar by rotating the yoke. Not by pushing the rudder pedals.

    3. I recently watched “Hangover” where they had editing miscues of a 747 taking off, then showing a 777 in flight or vice-versa. Extremely annoying.

  16. Randall says:

    My nominee for worst superimposed flying visuals: Air Force One. The aircraft move like toys being “flown” in a child’s hand, as well as doing all manner of impossible things, and imaginary security measures. Peculiarly, the one technical detail they got right was the (ballistic) trajectory of Slammers fired at the MiGs at extreme range, which *looks* wrong to most people. But how someone could care about that detail with all the other make-believe in the film is beyond me.

  17. Matt Salleh says:

    Movie makers are incredibly sloppy in all areas with details of movies. In one of the early “Mission Impossible” flicks Cruise takes off in Sydney on a Triumph three cylinder street bike and is pursued by baddies in some slug of an SUV. In reality, the bike could have been half way to Melbourne before the SUV got into top gear but in the film the SUV stays with him. (This is common. In another film the baddies in a van kept up with a Porsche.)
    Shortly afterwards Cruise ended up riding in the dirt, this on a road-going sports bike. He went over a jump and the wheels were silhouetted against the sky. The high-performance, road tires had metamorphosed into knobbies. This is understandable from a handling point of view but, obviously, impossible to change in mid-chase.
    My noticing this kind of thing started as a child when I watched a Korean War film and my father, a WWII veteran, asked, “Why are the Chinese using American tanks?”

  18. Michael Doudoroff says:

    In January 1979 I had an evening UAL flight from Newark to Los Angeles. Thin undercast over the first half of the route, cities, towns and highways showing as ghostly glows. From Kansas City on, crystal clear. Listening to the ATC channel during descent and approach we were being followed by an Iran Air Force heavy. The LA Times reported the next day that this one was carrying the Shah’s family into exile. I think I’ll skip the movie. No desire to rehearse those sad events.

  19. Eric Rush says:

    Then there’s “Northern Pursuit” (1943, Errol Flynn) near the end of which the German bad guys fire up the engines of the bomber they’ve kit-built in the far north of Canada. Propeller turns the wrong way, trailing edge cleaving the air.

  20. Dick Waitt says:

    This discussion reminds me of a scene from the old “12 O’clock High” TV series from the 60’s, when they showed a B-17 crew being rescued after ditching in the English Channel in WWII. The rescuing aircraft was a Grumman SA-16 Albatross with USAF markings, neither of which existed until years later. They could at least have used a film clip of a PBY…

  21. Ross Aimer says:

    Dear Captain Smith,
    I painfully share your frustrations with inaccuracies and plain laziness of Hollywood when it comes to aviation matters.
    I don’t expect production companies to be 100% accurate in every small details, but like you said, an Oscar winning film like Argo should have spent a few extra Bucks and avoid embracing mistakes, low budget productions and amateur film makers make!
    Not all movie goers these days are totally ignorant of the difference between a DC-8 and a 747. And most folks are tech savvy enough to tell between an actual air to air shot of an aircraft and a sophomoric attempt to Photo Shop a plastic aircraft rolling down the runway in Mehrabad Airport!
    I applaud Ben Aflac to at least shoot some scenes at an airport that was similar to THR and her surroundings. But I am disappointed he did not hire a professional T/A to bring some accuracy to his award winning project.
    Keep up the great work,
    Captain Ross “Rusty” Aimer
    (UAL Ret.)
    Aero Consulting Experts
    Los, Angeles

  22. Andrew Mundy says:

    Although I’ve not seen the movie the scene sounds familiar. A question that always comes to mind is how any typical road car manages not to get blown away by the jet blast and heat coming out the back of any 747 engine!Even worse when there are 4 of them.

    I’ve long given up on Hollywood getting much detail right, take it as entertaining bubble gum and it starts to pass.

  23. callsign says:

    I just wanted to say thank you for the dependable column. I watched this movie two days ago and was groaning. I love how they screwed up the ratio of the nose slope too when they were walking out to the airplane from the terminal, it was a little crunched and almost turned this iconic bird into something that ran into a window.

  24. Chris H says:

    Good points on the planes and the chase scene that never happened but, to me, a far worse ‘liberty’ taken by Affleck et al., was to turn the movie into a ‘rah rah America’ plot. As Pres. Jimmy Carter said the other day on CNN, 90% of the planning and execution of the escape was done by Canada, with the CIA providing some technical and surveillance support. The Affleck character was in Tehran for 36 hours in real life. That’s it.

    This kind of movie, while not technically claiming to be historically accurate, is seen as history by most who view it, and becomes the de facto ‘what happened’, and that is completely irresponsible.

    Hollywood coopts other countries’ histories with abandon, by the way. Just one other example: “U-571” shows brave American submariners capturing the German Enigma machine and saving the world. The decoding of Enigma and the capture of that machine was done by the Brits, way before the US even entered the war. However, several of my American friends thought it really happened that way.


  25. Andy Hartman says:

    Patrick, the way TV and movies handle helicopters is even more egregious than airplanes, particularly the way the sound is handled: invariably the engine noise is a recip engine spooling up as the helicopter is taking off, even where the helicopter is a blackhawk. It’s hard to decide whether the TV/filmmakers are being feckless, ignorant, or contemptuous of the public.

  26. Dick Waitt says:

    Patrick mentioned in passing didn’t follow up on something I consider critical.

    Despite the fact that the Swissair takeoff on leaving Tehran didn’t happen as depicted, my concern was, what air crew would continue a takeoff roll when persued by police who are shooting at him? I can see it possibly in a medevac from a combat zone, but a passenger plane in regular airline service?

    The risk and consequences are too much to contemplate, not to mention that Swissair would probably have been barred from future operations into Iran.

    • callsign says:

      Despite all the absolute physical impossibilities of that scene, here is a “realistic explanation” to a bogus scenario: An aircrew’s attention is usually focused down the runway and on setting engine power and monitoring the instrumentation (airspeed, etc). The chase crew never got substantially in front of the wing. No pilot is going turning around their seats and looking back behind the wing for a rag-tag group attempting to chase down an aircraft, or for any other reason, really. If I visualize correctly, it would take serious physical effort to turn around in this high-critical phase of flight to just barely see the wingtips (over 100′ feet behind) from the 747 cockpit. That’s not going to happen on a take-off roll.

      Additionally, at certain speeds and runway distances, it’s go time, where an aborted take-off has either become too dangerous or outright impossible to attempt, and the flight must take-off and deal with problems once airborne or risk the massive consequences of running off the end of the runway, so even if the crew was aware, if certain benchmarks has been reached, they were already committed to taking off.

  27. Brian F says:

    There was another plane related anachronism earlier in the movie too. This was when Tony Mendez is flying from Dulles to Europe. They show him leaving on a 2 engine plane. 2 engine planes were not allowed to fly to Europe until 1984 or 1985.

  28. Brett Greisen says:

    I had a similar experience in an ad agency in the 70s. We had to find new art for a WSJ ad that I had sized wrong initially. I had to convince the art director/CD to use 747 art rather than the 707 art he had chosen. Since I was the traffic clerk, I had to convince the CD of my airplane knowledge using only the in-house art.

    The client was a smaller national airline of a politically sensitive country, so the blowup had I not chosen the art would have been interesting.

    Car & plane mistakes make me mad. In certain reruns of State Trooper, you see characters take off in a Piper Cub & land in a Cessna 170, or even funnier in a Cessna 172.

  29. Joseph Muller says:

    With respect to further inaccuracy in the movie, I understand that the Brits sheltered the relevant Americans overnight, but then sent them on in (confirmed) anticipation of an Iranian security sweep of the embassy campus where they had found temporary refuge.

    Not 747 content, but I love the very brief shots in Snatch when one of the heavies in the film is flying from to to NY in the Concord – about two-thirds of a second split between a belly shot of the jet and the character tossing back a drink in his seat. Priceless in its character and repetition.

    • K F John says:

      Perhaps the daftest Concorde scene in a film is in “Airport 79 – The Concorde”, where one of the pilots apparently fires a gun out of the cockpit window as the plane is flying supersonically!

  30. Joseph Singer says:

    Film makers do what they do and hope that we won’t notice the definite inaccuracies. How many movies or TV shows have you seen someone using a payphone and when they insert the money you hear a ding-ding which hasn’t been the case for like over 40 years or using phones that have modular fittings when the film was made in 1960 or making a telephone ring with an inauthentic sound. The point I’m trying to make is that the film maker thinks we won’t notice the inaccuracy. Someone always will.

  31. bruce says:

    lots of anachronisms in movies, most of which arent noticed by the non-cognoscenti. like contrails in westerns, vaccination marks in toga operas, dental crowns damn near everywhere, and power transmission lines in oaters. my personal favorite: phones with modular connectors before they were invented.

  32. Tho Rei says:

    Dear Patrick,
    I always appreciated Your awereness of graphic design for years, Your consideration of liverys and logos, subliminal changes to them and pointing out at really huge failures of redesigns.
    The 747 – next to the extinct Concorde – is just the jet of the last third of 20th century. And during all the redesigns by Boeing the silhouette of the plane never lost its proportions; compare it to the VW Beetle of the late 30’s through to the 60’s, etc. and the new Beetle from the late 1990’s: technological completely different designs, same appearance or pedigree. Something Airbus will never achieve with it’s child’s-hand designed planes. And Hollywood probably would hesitate to accept the compensations offered for the product placement of a 380 starring in a major production. A 747 is 747 is a 747…

    You will probably have commented the fact that the air passenger has no longer got any chance to see, to identify, to learn the shape of the plane for the oncoming flight, with all the gates blinded to the apron with advertisíng etc and entering them via a tunnel (which to me sometimes generates associations to the birth channel of a behemoth queen bee…). Only upon studying the emergency instructions you will learn about the plane’s type – but who bothers to give a damm? A Boeing is an Airbus is a plane…

    The 747 has significant Gestalt, is iconic and therefore quite robust to quirks and failures in Your initial colummn. The plane’s contour has a lot of unique features and is robust to scrambled depictions, either via bad broadcast or bad production design. This is true with only a few industrial designs, the Ford Model T, the Mini, the Citroen DC (and the mentioned VW), a hammer, pliers, a fork, a screw – the most fundamental tools. In the given context the plane’s shape symbolizes the USA, it’s striking capabilty, just like a B-52 in Dr. Strangelove. Or VC-25 aka Airforce One. Home of POTUS Bee.

    Hollywood even used 1960’s helicopters in WWII movies, mostly unnoticed by the public. As with the 747 designs in Argo: I have not seen the movie, but probably would not have considered the details; even given the historical background I would regard the content not as documentary, but as fictional depiction of a history.

    A 747 is a 747!
    You just can’t say that about a 380…

    • Thomas says:

      that’s total bull.
      the 747-8 doesn’t look like a classic 747 with the small hump.
      Plus airbus designs quality airplanes that people love to fly, get over your pattrioism. And you sir are quite dumb if you really think that airbus’s planes are designed by children..

  33. Dan M says:

    None of this as ridiculous as the PacIfic Bell placards on the pay phones in the “Dulles Airport” in Die Hard 2.

    Speaking of not getting details right. I have a friend who is a birdsong expert. He is vexed by every movie filmed at outside locations, because the birds are never right for the location being depicted.

  34. Jim Houghton says:

    Seriously, Patrick: save up a little money and take out an ad in the trades (you know, Variety? Hollywood Reporter?) and sell your services as an airliner/jet transport consultant to production designers. This is an area where just having an internet connection isn’t enough to get it right. They really do want to get it right, and will with proper guidance (minus the fact that no matter how big the budget they’re always strapped — your thoughts on the putative availability of 747-200’s are, sorry, to laugh). But I’m not kidding. This is how consultants get started — point out the flaws in a couple of pictures and tell them, “I can help keep you from looking foolish.” They’ll flock, I promise you.

  35. nicholas robinson says:

    If I recall correctly, there are some massive airplane goofs in the movie Goodfellas. I’d have to watch it again for the precise ones, but I think it has 747s flying around in 1962 or something similar. Shame on Martin Scorcese.

    As for the computers . . . I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Hollywood movie in which a featured computer DOESN’T beep and spew out incredible amounts of unlikely information. A favorite is The Fly with Jeff Goldblum, or the all-time best, in The Thing with Kurt Russell, where he loses a game of chess and pours his drink into the top of the monitor.

  36. Clark says:

    The scene that bugs me is from the classic caper movie “The Usual Suspects.” When the gang leaves New York for LA, there is a very cool shot of a (obviously 4-engine) 747 approaching, taken from the front and jumping-cutting as the plane gets closer to touchdown. Then the point of view reverses to the rear as the plane is about to touch down, and now it’s a TWO-ENGINE 777! How did that get missed in editing? Couldn’t they get a rear shot of the many 747s which land at LAX?

    Of course maybe there aren’t many of us who notice this stuff – I routinely ask my wife what she flew and she says “an airplane!”

  37. Jerry says:

    When I watched the final scene in Argo, I kept telling my (now ex) girlfriend that the guys trying to follow the 74 down the runway during the takeoff roll would have been blown away by the exhaust! When did the DC8 leave commercial passenger service en masse?

    • Patrick says:

      It depends what you mean by en masse. In the US, United was the last airline to use them in passenger service. They were finally retired in 1993, I believe it was. By that point they were already extinct as passenger-carriers in Europe or Asia.

  38. Peter says:

    I am with you. I hate when they screw up or are sloppy with transportation. The one that bugged me lately was from HBO’s The Newsroom:

    “Goof (factual errors): The establishing shot of the plane carrying Don, Elliot and Sloan from Washington DC (DCA) to New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA) shows a 747 with its recognizable second level “bump”. The runways at LGA are too short for a 747. The interior of the plane has six-across seating typical of the smaller 737s that actually do operate between DCA and LGA.”

    As if you could fly a 747 anywhere domestically nowadays!

    • Patrick says:

      >> The runways at LGA are too short for a 747. << Just for the record, that's not necessarily true. The amount of runway required depends greatly on a plane's weight. A heavily loaded 737 probably uses more runway than a lightly loaded 747. It's true you'll never see a 747 at LaGuardia, but there are other reasons.  And it wasn't all that long ago -- before the invasion of RJs and fragmenting of the US domestic market -- when DC-10s and L-1011s were a common sight at LGA. PS

      • Tim says:

        The runways at DCA, on the other hand are too short for a 747. Unless you’re flying it with next to no fuel, no cargo, and no more than 50 people on board.

        • Matt D says:

          The primary runway at DCA (1/19) is longer than any runway at LGA.

          • Tim says:

            Well, like I said, you COULD land a 747 at DCA. It’s just that you couldn’t take it off again with any significant quantities of fuel, passengers, or cargo on board. An empty ferry flight to IAD or BWI is about all you could manage.

        • not an anon says:

          …that’s not the case. Using the 6800′ (and change) declared Takeoff Distance Available (TODA) from the A/FD for KDCA 01/19 — you can pack oh, 675,000 lbs of takeoff weight for a full thrust take off in a B747-400 from KDCA, at least if Boeing’s 747-400 airport planning guide (URL: http://www.boeing.com/assets/pdf/commercial/airports/acaps/747_4.pdf) is any indication. That weight gets you, oh, upwards of 2000 nm of range assuming the aircraft is at maximum Zero Fuel Weight when you started filling ‘er up, which is enough to get you most of the way across the USA, or to a convenient tech stop before you hit the North Atlantic tracks.

          Furthermore, a full passenger 747 seating 420 pax isn’t even close to MZFW — for the “full passenger plane” version of this, you’re still taking off at 675,000 lbs with full thrust, but your lighter payload means you now have a range of over 3500 nm — enough for a nonstop trans-atlantic flight to Heathrow (or a nonstop to Anchorage, for that matter) under favorable conditions, or easily enough to reach anywhere in the continental US with plenty of Jet-A left in the tanks.

      • MikeJ says:

        The invasion of the RJs became really clear to me once when I didn’t fly on one. I’ve flown DC->NY a hundred times and it’s almost always been on a Dash-8 or a DC-9.

        When I flew a similar shuttle route in Germany (Frankfurt->Berlin), Lufthansa ran an A340[1]. Of course Lufthansa was the only option and there were at least three airlines going once an hour between DC-NY. I don’t recall the fare being out of line on Lufthansa, but I never paid for any of them anyway.

        [1] Of course this was on a Friday afternoon, 5pm flight. I imagine they ordinarily run smaller planes at non peak times.

  39. CC says:

    In fact, apart from the rare hyper-researched period piece, Hollywood gets pretty much everything wrong. They may seem to get appliances and cars right but people who know what to look for will disagree. You’d think they’d get guns right but they don’t; the sound, the range, the accuracy, the handling; mostly wrong. And God knows they don’t get computers right. Take a drink every time someone zooms in and clarifies a satellite image in a spy film and you’ll be comatose by the closing credits.

    On the older of the Swissair 747’s I really like how the black anti-glare patch is extended to a point behind the cockpit windows. Turns a bib into a cool loan-ranger mask. Very nice.

    • Patrick says:

      Yeah, I always laugh out loud at those spy movie scenes. Crime movies (and TV shows) do it too. I love the way the data is always presented on their computers in really cool sci-fi style graphics, with lots of pings and zips and sound other crazy sound effects. And I especially love how, instantaneously and with one press of a button, they’re able to pull up a whole encyclopedia’s worth of data on whatever person, place or thing they’re looking at, which one of the agents will then recite aloud to everybody in the room, even faster than the information appears on the screen in front of him…

      “Huh, well that’s none other than Magnus O’Deegan, IRA operative from ’72 through ’75, nabbed by Scotland Yard in ’77, but he escaped two years later by hiding in a washing machine. Once killed a man with a coat-hanger. As ruthless as he is clever.”

      As for those anti-glare patches… Offhand I can’t think of a single airline that still has one. They were once very common, and sort of cool — like the black bars worn under the eyes of NFL and baseball players. Lone Ranger mask! That’s exactly what Swissair’s 747 patch looked like.


      • nicholas robinson says:

        One of the best movies ever made for airline buffs (especially Pan Am buffs) is Bullitt. That scene of the 707 almost running Steve McQueen down is a classic.

      • callsign says:

        The anti-glare patches are still there, just painted in the same color as the rest of the airplane, but the paint is matte instead of gloss. When the light is right one can see them.

        Bring back the off-color bibs I say! (AirTran kept them)

    • Al Randall says:

      The anti-glare swoosh on Swissair’s a/c were blue, not black in that scheme. And yes, they did look pretty cool. :-))


  40. Tarus says:

    Heh. Your comment on the 747 reminded me of this line from the Neal Stephenson novel “Crytonomicon”:

    “In Asia, no decent airline bothers to d**k around anything smaller than a 747,” Avi snaps. “If someone tries to pack you on board a 737 or god forbid an Airbus, run, don’t walk, away from the boarding lounge, and call me on my Sky Pager and I’ll send in a chopper to evacuate you.”