In sendoff of 747, El Al flight sketches jet in the clouds
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In sendoff of 747, El Al flight sketches jet in the clouds

Route from Rome diverts from flight path to trace ‘sky painting,’ in homage to model that famously airlifted Ethiopian Jews to Israel

A 747 El Al flight from Rome to Tel Aviv pays tribute to the aircraft model, which was retired from the Israeli fleet on November 3, 2019 (screen capture: Flight Radar)
A 747 El Al flight from Rome to Tel Aviv pays tribute to the aircraft model, which was retired from the Israeli fleet on November 3, 2019 (screen capture: Flight Radar)

Swerving and banking over the Mediterranean, an El Al 747-400 jumbo jet made its last ever flight for Israel’s national carrier by diverting from its flight path to trace a silhouette of itself in the sky.

The Rome to Tel Aviv flight was the last by the airline to use the 747-400, which has now been officially retired by El Al.

The flight altered its path near Cyprus, in a previously planned stunt, to trace the outline and make it visible on flight tracking websites.

Dubbed the “Queen of the Skies,” the 747-400 model was in use for nearly five decades by Israel’s national airline, notably in its airlifting of Ethiopian Jews to Israel during Operation Solomon.

New Ethiopian immigrants boarding an aircraft en route from Addis Ababa to Israel during Operation Solomon, 1991. (Natan Alpert/GPO)

In May 1991, during the operation, the aircraft shattered the still-unmatched world record for most passengers to be transported on a single plane, when some 1,088 were crammed on board a 747 from Addis Ababa to Tel Aviv.

El Al announced earlier this year it would phase out the 747 in favor of the more fuel-efficient Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, after 48 years of service.

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