Tricked-out 747 - United Hub
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Tricked-out 747s

By The Hub team, November 09, 2017

Since its debut in 1969, the Boeing 747 has been called upon for its fair share of special missions, from carrying U.S. presidents to fighting forests fires. Here, a look at five of the coolest modifications in the jumbo jet's history.

Air Force One

Perhaps the most famous airplanes in the world, the "Flying Oval Office" is actually a pair of specifically modified, sel-sufficient Boeing 747-200Bs (or VC-25s in Air Force terminology) that use the call sign "Air Force One" when the sitting U.S. president is on board. The planes have 4,000 square feet of interior floor space and such special features as air-to-air refueling, a medical operating room, and other classified perks. The current planes were delivered in 1990, during the presidency of George H.W. Bush, and are expected to be replaced soon with updated 747-8i models.

Boeing 747 Dreamlifter

Boeing created the hulking 747 Dreamlifter cargo plane for a very specific purpose: to haul 787 parts that were too massive for other forms of transportation to its production facilities in Washington state. The modified 747-400 features a bulging midsection that has earned it comparisons to the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile, and, at 65,000 cubic feet, its enormous cargo is the world's largest by volume.

Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA)

A modified United 747SP was transformed into SOFIA, a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (or DLR) designed to carry the world's only flying infrared astronomy laboratory on missions that can take place only at altitudes of about 41,000 feet. The airplane's body features an enormous door that can be opened mid-flight to allow its infrared telescope access to the sky.

Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA)

U.S. presidents aren't the only high-profile cargo carried by the 747. NASA employed a pair of modified 747-100s to transport space shuttles from their landing sites back to Kennedy Space Center, as well as on numerous test flights. The aircraft's range was reduced to a mere 1,000 nautical miles due to the dramatically increased payload of the space shuttle, which is mounted atop the the plane, piggyback-style.

Evergreen 747 Supertanker

The world's largest firefighting plane debuted in 2009 in the shell of a 747-100 and is capable of dropping nearly 20,000 gallons of fire retardant or water on large fires. An updated version, flying under the name Global Supertanker and built on a 747-400 frame, was used for the first time in the U.S. this summer to fight a Northern California wildfire.

Adjusting to Customer Demand, United Adds New Nonstop Service to Florida

By United Newsroom, August 12, 2020

CHICAGO, Aug. 12, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- United Airlines today announced plans to add up to 28 daily nonstop flights this winter connecting customers in Boston, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, New York/LaGuardia, Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio to four popular Florida destinations. The new, nonstop flights reflect United's continuing strategy to aggressively, and opportunistically manage the impact of COVID-19 by increasing service to destinations where customers most want to fly.

Entertainment for all

By The Hub team, August 04, 2020

Our Marketing Inflight Entertainment and Connectivity team and Bridge, our Business Resource Group (BRG) for people with all abilities, partnered together to test and provide feedback on our award-winning seatback inflight entertainment (IFE) system.

Aptly named "Entertainment for all," our new seatback IFE system offers the an extensive suite of accessibility features, allowing for unassisted use by people of all visual, hearing, mobility and language abilities.

"It's nice to know that I can get on a plane and pick my favorite entertainment to enjoy, just like every customer," said Accessibility Senior Analyst and Developer and Bridge Chief of Staff Ray C., who is blind.

"As a deaf employee, the closed captioning availability on board our aircraft is something I value greatly," added Information Technology Analyst Greg O. "The new IFE further cements United's visibility within the deaf community and elsewhere. It makes me proud to be an employee."

Accessibility features of the new IFE include a text-to-speech option, explore by touch, customizable text size, screen magnification, color correction and inversion modes, and alternative navigation options for those unable to swipe or use a handset. For hearing-impaired and non-English-speaking passengers, customization options provide the ability for customers to be served content and receive inflight notifications based on their preferences and settings —with closed captions, with subtitles or in the language of their choice from the 15 languages supported. Our "Entertainment for all" system won the Crystal Cabin Award in 2019, and recently, the Dr. Margaret Pfanstiehl Research and Development Award for Audio Description by the American Council of the Blind.

"This really showed the benefits of partnering with BRGs in helping us improve products and services for our customers and employees," said Inflight Entertainment and Connectivity Senior Manager Corinne S. "Even though we have been recognized with awards for our IFE accessibility features, we are not resting on our laurels but continuing to work towards improving the inflight entertainment experience for all of our customers to ensure entertainment is available for all."

Shaping an inclusive future with Special Olympics

By The Hub team, July 24, 2020

If your travels have taken you through Chicago O'Hare International Airport anytime since October 2019, you may have had a friendly, caring and jovial exchange with Daniel Smrokowski. Daniel is one of four Service Ambassadors thanks to our ongoing partnership with Special Olympics. This inaugural ambassador program aims to provide Special Olympic athletes employment opportunities within our operation, affording them a unique and meaningful career.

Since 2018, our partnership with Special Olympics has become one of United's most cherished relationships, going beyond the events we take part in and volunteer with. While the plane pull competitions, polar plunges, duck derbies and Special Olympics World Games and other events around the world are a big part of our involvement, the heart of this partnership lies with the athletes and individuals supported by Special Olympics. To advocate for their inclusion in every setting is one of our biggest honors, and we take great pride in the role we play in the organization's inclusion revolution.

Aiding in the success of Special Olympics' mission to create continuing opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, throughout the two-year partnership, United has volunteered over 10,500 hours and donated over $1.2 million in travel to the organization. The impact of this partnership is felt at every level, both at Special Olympics and within our own ranks.

"The Inclusion Revolution campaign, led by our athletes, aims to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities. United Airlines has joined in our fight for inclusion, empowering our athletes with the skills needed to succeed and opportunities to contribute their abilities as leaders," said Special Olympics International Chairman Tim Shriver. "United Airlines believes that people with intellectual disabilities should be perceived as they really are: independent, world-class athletes, students, employees, neighbors, travelers, and leaders who contribute to make this world a better place."

Our Service Ambassador program is just one of the many ways Special Olympics has impacted not only our employees, but also our customers. "I see every day how our Service Ambassadors connect with our customers the moment they walk into the airport lobby," said Senior Customer Service Supervisor Steve Suchorabski. "They provide a warm, welcoming smile ad assist in any way they can. To see these young adults hold positions that a society once told them they couldn't is truly the most heartwarming part of my job," Steve continued.

"The opportunity to be a part of the United family means everything to me," Daniel said. "I feel so much pride showing up to work in a Special Olympics/United co-branded uniform, working among such a loving and supportive community. The relationship between these two organizations is truly helping to shape my future while letting me use my gifts of communicating and helping others. Hopefully, I can spend my entire career at United," Daniel added.

In honor of Special Olympics' Global Week of Inclusion in July, we're asking our employees, customers and partners to sign a pledge to #ChooseToInclude at jointherevolution.org/pledge.

And be sure to check out Daniel's podcast The Special Chronicles.

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