The 747's final tour of duty - United Hub
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The 747's final tour of duty

By Matt Adams, November 01, 2017

United ramp serviceman Tryg Farestad watched through his cabin window as Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, in Craven County, North Carolina, came into view below him. This Boeing 747 on which he was a passenger had dropped below the cloud line as it made its final descent, and Farestad craned his neck for a better look at the base. Much had changed in the decades since he called it home, but the memories still loomed large in his life and career.

The aircraft touched down on the runway at Cherry Point and taxied to a stop. As Farestad and the rest of the crew offloaded, a crowd of Marines stared up at the massive jet that would be their last taste of home before they embarked upon a nine-month tour of duty on foreign soil.

Tryg Farestad (right) with colleagues

Fifty years ago, Farestad stood in the exact same spot as those men and women. He was a Marine during the Vietnam War and was stationed at Cherry Point after returning from Asia. Standing on the other side as part of the group of United employees who now support the airline's U.S. military charters, Farestad scanned the crowd and knew exactly what each soldier was feeling" the same mix of nerves and anticipation that he had experienced as he prepared to take off for Da Nang in 1967.

"Most of them are so young and so gung-ho, but they don't know what to expect," Farestad says. "When they find out I was in the service, especially having been in Vietnam, they have a million questions. It does me good to talk with them, and I hope it does them good to talk to an old G.I."

Since World War II, United has been proud of its role in transporting troops across the globe. Thanks to its size and cargo capacity, the 747 has been a particularly useful tool for moving U.S. armed forces. Of the hundreds of military charter flights United has operated in the past year, roughly 60 percent have been served by 747s.

Like the 747, Farestad joined United in 1970 and has been a workhorse for the airline ever since. A Jersey farmboy, he has spent most of his career in Philadelphia working in a variety of roles, from aircraft load planning and ramp services to refueling operations. That breadth of experience has made him a valuable addition to the charters team.

"We fly into areas where United doesn't have a presence, so we need to know how to do everything when we're in the field," he says. "We load an unload the aircraft, refuel it, make sure everything is set for the flight crew and catering – anything you could think of. No two days are the same."

When the last military-chartered 747 completed its mission in October, it signaled the end of an era that will be missed by the small but dedicated group of employees like Farestad who have supported that subsection of United's business.

"It was one of the nicest airplanes you could fly on," he says. "The soldiers loved the size of it, and I always enjoyed giving them tours. Some of them couldn't believe it when they saw the second deck, the fact that you had to take a staircase up to your seat."

Just like selling your first car or moving away from home, it's the people, experiences, and conversations for which the 747 was the setting that Farestad will truly miss – particularly the encouragement his unique background qualified him to offer.

"When we were in flight, I would circulate around the cabin and talk with the G.Is," he says. "The experiences they have will open their eyes to the rest of the world. Travel has that effect on everyone, and we've been fortunate to be part of that here."

United Cargo operates more than 11,000 cargo-only flights in one year

By The Hub team, March 19, 2021

On March 19, 2020, United operated its first flight carrying cargo without passengers on board. While the passenger cabin was empty, its cargo hold was completely full, carrying more than 29,000 pounds of commodities from Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD) to Frankfurt Airport (FRA).

A year later, United Cargo has operated more than 11,000 cargo-only flights carrying more than 570 million pounds of freight. To support the COVID-19 pandemic recovery efforts, United Cargo has also transported more than 113 million pounds of medical and pharmaceutical products on both cargo-only and passenger flights as well as approximately 10 million COVID-19 vaccines, providing global communities access to the items they have needed most.

10 tips for spring travel

By The Hub team, February 24, 2021

Whether you haven't flown with us for a while or just need a quick refresher before your spring trip, read this list of tips to know before your flight and arrive at the airport travel-ready:

1. Download the United app for contactless bag check, travel assistance and more

Before your flight, download the United app to view your flight status, check in, sign up for flight notifications, locate departure gates, access our free personal device entertainment when available and more. We've also updated our app with new features that can make your trip a little safer, including contactless bag check.

Don't forget to use Agent on Demand for help with any and all questions you may have before your flight. This new capability is available at all our U.S. hub airports and allows you to use your own mobile device to contact a customer service agent via phone, video or chat to help with day-of-travel questions while you're at the airport. Learn more about Agent on Demand here.

United joins UNICEF COVAX initiative

By The Hub team, February 19, 2021

This week, we were honored to become the first U.S. airline to join the UNICEF Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative to combat the COVID-19 pandemic by transporting the vaccine and other critically needed supplies to underserved areas of the globe.

"We are committed to helping the global community in any way we can, and we all must work together to do our part to bring this health and humanitarian crisis to an end," said Director of Cargo Specialty Products Manu Jacobs.

We will leverage our expertise to transport these critical pharmaceutical and healthcare shipments around the world safely, efficiently and expediently. We are proud to partner with the United Nations to support this global effort and provide equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

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