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Originally published December 12, 2010 at 6:24 PM | Page modified December 13, 2010 at 10:27 AM

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Historic 747 in South Korea now history

There will be no more takeoffs for the Juan T. Trippe. The first 747 jetliner to carry commercial passengers and a symbol of the golden...

Los Angeles Times

NAMYANGJU, South Korea — There will be no more takeoffs for the Juan T. Trippe.

The first 747 jetliner to carry commercial passengers and a symbol of the golden age of air travel was demolished Sunday as its owners gave up a frustrating, decadelong attempt to make a profit from the mammoth piece of aviation history.

After decades of flying to nearly every continent, the Trippe, named after the Pam Am founder, was bought in 2000 from a California airplane graveyard by the South Korean couple, who spent $1 million for the plane and $100,000 more to dismantle and ship it to South Korea to transform it into an aviation-themed restaurant.

Since that venture failed in 2005, the couple said they had unsuccessfully sought a buyer for the plane, which languished in a suburban lot 25 miles northeast of Seoul, its fuselage battered by the elements. As its condition worsened, the jet soon became an Internet curiosity.

On a cold afternoon, two cranes straddled the big jet, their jaws ripping into its fuselage as workers on the ground sifted through the twisted wreckage looking for scrap materials.

Boeing officials say the Trippe was the second 747 of the 1,000 the company produced. The first was used for test flights only, and the Trippe was the first to ferry passengers.

In recent months, the owners had been contacted by several potential buyers, including Japanese businessmen who wanted to display the Trippe in Tokyo, as well as a group that wanted to move the plane and turn it into a church.

When the religious group finally backed out, the owners decided it was the last straw. The jet's demolition came 10 years and four months after they purchased it.

The husband said many South Koreans concentrated only on the money the couple have lost in the venture, but that foreigners who visited their restaurant often marveled over the jet's long history.

The owners kept a few mementos: the plane's world clocks and a miniature model of the aircraft.

Late in the day, in the fading light, cranes crunched over broken metal, sounding like tanks at war. The red-painted spiral staircase that once led to the cockpit was bared, now open to the elements, ascending to nowhere.

In the noodle shop, the wife peeked out at the Trippe as her husband waved his hand. "There's nothing about this plane I really want to remember," he said. "It was a disaster."

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