United 747 buzzes SF Bay. Good or bad idea?

A United Airlines 747 swoops in over Golden Gate for a low-level fly over the Bay. (Photo: DGies / Flickr)

I was out on the San Francisco Bay with thousands of others for the Blue Angels show on Saturday. What a day!

Part of the show included a low-level flyover by a giant United Airlines Boeing 747.

I thought it looked pretty cool. But I heard some grumbling among the crowd I was with about it. When I posted some shots and video (below) on my Facebook page, a minor scuffle broke out between some friends who liked it, others who said it reminded them of 9/11, and a vet who was appalled at the invasion of corporate sponsorship into a military show.

Personally, it did not bother me much. Since I’m a window-seat sorta frequent flyer, I would have loved to have been on board peering out at the Golden Gate at such close range. Wow!

What about you? I’d like to get your reaction to seeing this big bird fly over the bay.

Please leave your comments below!

Print pagePDF pageEmail page
  • john in San Diego

    This is both sad and amusing at the same time, it seems the sight of a large airplane invokes 9/11 in a few peoples’ minds and we’re all supposed to stop the world and submit to their paranoia with them. I’m sorry for the loss of your loved ones and while no one can speak for them I would hope if they were here now they’d have the fortitude to give you one of those Humphrey Bogart or George S. Patton slaps to the face and tell you to have a little courage and backbone here.

  • http://bigbird747 frank warzocha

    people make a big deal over nothing,it was an air show and f.a.a. approved.it was in the news media that this would be done.should we stop the blue angels or thunderbirds from flying at these shows.? it was safety done.if a plane makes a wave off at sfo he flies low to get in the pattern once again.people who drive and talk on there cell phones are more dangerous.

  • Pingback: F-18′s Fly Over San Francisco Bay « Ben's Weblog()

  • Antonia

    I was with my niece’s family, walking toward the pier in front of the Warming Hut. We saw it coming and to all of us 9/11 entered our minds immediately. It sure looked as if it were heading for the bridge. It flew very low over the bay and I questioned if it could pull up out of one very close brush with the shore. Just another example of the power to break rules large corporations are getting away with.

  • Mike (aus)

    This story has been given too much publicity. Someone goes to airshow and posts a video of it on youtube. Hilarity ensues.

    However to be realistic, people all have different backgrounds that shape their personal views. It’s unfortunate that some had 9/11 as a part of their personal history that cause them to freak the hell out when they saw the plane. A plane that was part of an airshow that was almost certainly widely promoted leading up to the event. I also imagine that there would have likely been announcements on the radio shortly before the flyby happened that there was going to be a big assed 747 doing a low’n’slow flyby to try and stop people from freaking the hell out.

    This over-reaction although understandable just brings home the fact that the terrorists HAVE won by how much we cover as a worldwide population. How much over the top security we now have at airline checkin, so on so forth.

    Lets take back the fear and prove that they haven’t won, it ain’t that hard, is it?

  • james

    this is hysterical. how stupid are americans !!??? looks like the “terrorists” have won …..the US spends all it’s time and money jumping at shadows… why don’t you just all stay inside and hide –

  • Wormy (Aus)

    It’s an airshow it has planes flying around that’s the general idea.

    Won’t be much of a show if planes flew at 35,000 feet

  • David Johns

    OMG, get over yourselves, oh paranoid ones. I can’t believe this is even news. Everyone knew what was going on that day and the video is very misleading. Its path never went over the bridge!

    Get a life!

  • Aussie T

    I can’t believe there is a ruckus over this. People ranting about similarities to 9/11 clearly want to keep bringing up that terrible day by comparing it to EVERYTHING. Get over it and move on. Those who died on the day would have wanted as much.

    Thanks for taking such great footage!

    “a vet who was appalled at the invasion of corporate sponsorship into a military show.”
    YOU HAVE GOT TO BE JOKING! I’m not even sure how that is a soap box to stand on. How much separation does this vet think there is between corporations and the US military? Perhaps look beyond the United livery and realise that the aircraft is made by Boeing – the same multinational who supplies an enormous variety of US military vehicles and equipment.

    The worst thing about this beat up is that it made me feel like airing my views online thus adding fuel to an unnecessary fire.


  • Kalvin from Aus

    The United States would never have been subject to Terrorist Attacks in the first place if they weren’t so arrogant in blantantly trying to tell everyone else how to live their lives. Why does the USA think they have the right to tell other countries they must become democratic and that their religion is not right?? I thought freedom of religion was one of the cornerstones of a free country. Far from being the big, giant, powerful, prosperous nation they think they are in the USA, they are actually sad, pathetic and horribly paranoid if they thought this was really an attack. How can the US call themselves powerful, when they are so paranoid and also getting dealt to by Iraq and the Middle East.

  • Shane

    All I can think of is “Harden up!”

    Can this be oversensationalised even more? The CNN video is so misleading. The rest of you need to realise that in this day and age in America a plane that is off course would have half the airforce on it.

    Very good flyby though!

  • Lenny

    Over reaction, surely? How can this be linked to 9/11?
    Firstly, the plane is flying slowly. Secondly, the landing gear is down. Two obvious signs this is a fly by for an advertised air show.

    People in the area would have (should have) known there is an airshow on, and put two and two together.

    9/11 all over again? Whatever!

  • Brian

    The level of anger and insensitivity in some of these comments is almost more appalling than the event itself. I feel badly for those who denigrate others because their views differ, and tell people to “get over it” or other selfishly vulgar remarks. The fact of the matter is everyone has their own opinion of this event, and are entitled to it. My personal opinion is that it was a needlessly flashy moment that evokes bad imagery for many, and was just in bad judgement, taste, and location. But again, that’s my opinion, I’m entitled to it, and certainly don’t need the juvenile comments employed by those who fell empowered to make judgmental calls from the anonymity of their computer.

  • RCL

    I was on the jetty at the Marina for the show. The flyover of the 747 was the highlight of the show for me and most of the folks on the jetty; next to the Blue Angels themselves. All the “9/11″ whiners should get a life. There’s no similarity between a 747 which was scheduled, noticeably circling for half an hour west beyond the bridge and ANNOUNCED to the crowd over the PA and a surprise unlawful incursion into a no-fly zone.

    Why the Navy bothers to put on this splendid show for the unpatriotic ingrates of San Francisco who ran them out is beyond me. Their complaints are just white noise to be ignored.

  • Pingback: United Airlines Golden Gate ‘fly by’ video goes viral « Internal Marketing()

  • Arlen

    Awesome! Folks, we can either decide to cower in our own shadows, or live our lives to the fullest. I for one am choosing to do the latter. I do not live in the bay area, but I expect that the radio and TV stations had lots of buzz about the Fleet Week event, including notices that low flying aircraft would be seen during the event. For those who feel traumatized by images of planes flying in close proximity to structures, please consider seeking professional help.

  • Biker Dave

    dear Gentleman,
    I was there that day. I was on the Fort Baker side and saw the whole thing. Yes the plane flew over the bridge at the start of the run. I have pictures to prove it. I was with my girlfriend and all I thought was 9/11 all over again, on the west coast.
    Dave S.

  • Pingback: Nothing wrong with jet's air show maneuver, FAA says – This Just In - CNN.com Blogs()

  • Weedmemelow

    Get over it! Are we supposed to live in terror and fear the rest of our lives? NO! Maybe because it was a United logo that brings up bad feelings, but what if it was a military jet.. most likely no one would even give it a second thought.
    Let’s try living for today and the future, not the past. The more you keep reliving the past, the more power you give to terrorists.

  • http://www.twitter.com/tomadams63 Southern Gent

    Although being part of an air show mitigated the stupid factor of this mega-buzz, somewhat, it was not a good idea and should not be done again.

    That said, like you, I’d have loved to have been on that bird with my camera gear.

  • Paul Sliva

    A percentage of people commenting are saying “what IF something went wrong?” All I got to say is WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?

    What are we suppose to do…not live our lives, not experiment with new products or ideas, or let’s just ban air shows, NASCAR, NHRA, the rodeo, amusement park rides etc… Because what IF something went wrong at one of those events?

    This 747 flying low over the bay area at an air show is testament to the innovation, craftsmanship and pride in this country. I also see that aviation is a large part of the SF area due to the international airport located there and the millions of passengers that are served at that fine airport every year. Not to mention what the airport does for the economy (local and national).

    I find no relationship between this air show and 9-11. The aircraft is being flown by a professional crew with flaps and gear down just like every airliner is flown on the downwind, base and final leg of their route. It’s an air show…exactly that and nothing more. It’s a demonstration of United Airlines’ fleet flagship. Hence, the name of the show, “Fleet Week.”

    Everybody is so sensitive anymore. Nobody can go out and do or say anything anymore without ruffling somebody’s feathers. I do think about 9-11 (actually quite frequently) but I do not let that chain of events dictate my life or what I see or do. If 9-11 does dictate what YOU see or do, that is exactly what the enemy wants.

  • Thomas Meehan

    As a father who lost a daughter on September 11, 2001 at the WTC, this photo op and stunt rates right up there with the Pentagon photo shoot of Air Force One in NYC, STUPID STUPID STUPID.

    Even after nine years the images of planes as weapons of death and destruction can still evoke pain, terror, and heartbreak.

    These people need serious professional help.

  • http://thevegastourist.com mark anthony

    Give it a rest folks. Be amazed, be alive, Its life. Its an airshow with a 747 jet in it doing something you never get to see. Did you know the sun was shining on 9/11 so now when you see the sun, do you get panic attacks??

  • joe

    This was stupid, stupid, stupid. How many people died and how much money did it cost to build that bridge. What if something went wrong?

  • ms ms

    I saw this plane approaching Marin as I drove across the Richmond Bridge that Sunday. I was wondering what the h… was wrong with that plane and if it was going to slam into Mt. Tam or some other hill. I’m glad we decided to go to the East Bay and not SF, or we probably would have been on the GG. I can imagine myself telling my husband to stop the car while I jumped out and ran the other way on the bridge. We don’t all keep track of the air shows. I’m sure there were a lot of frightened drivers and pedestrians on that bridge. Yeah, it made an amazing video, but was United thinking about the people who knew nothing about what was happening?! What if it had gone wrong or accidents had happened by shocked, distracted drivers? United doesn’t have the right to put people unnecessarily at risk.

  • Caitie

    I’m a daughter of a former PanAm and United flight attendant as well and I think the video and flyover were awesome. If it hadn’t been fleet week and it had been an unannounced buzz in the middle of the week, then yes, it would have been a bad idea and frightened a lot of people. But this was Fleet Week and United helps dispatch soldiers, airmen, and sailors across the world on their own planes as well as helps to sponsor the week to celebrate said military members. It was an airshow and they flew an airplane in an air show, shocker. My mom was a working United FA during 9/11 and while the day affected me in numerous ways, I don’t think it has any application here.

    Personally, on top of the cool imagery, it was a nice reminder that as big as those planes can get, those pilots are skilled and can maneuver them as neatly as you please. I would have killed to have been a passenger on that plane! (But maybe not the unsuspecting motorist who happened to look up and go OMGAIRPLANE).

  • Jeanie

    Bad idea….I think of the travelers who might be on the bridge or witnessing this who are unaware of Fleet Week. What terror…..Shame on anyone who thought this is cool. Reminds me of when Air Force One flew over New York for a photo shot….just terror at its best.

    They use a United Airlines plane for a military show…..


  • spartacus

    You people are a bunch of wimps afraid of your own shadow. Fleet week is an honor to have and the ability to show how powerful our country really is. This is all approved by air traffic control ahead of time and is flown by military pilots(including United Airline pilot). So for whats its worth anyone to say its a bad idea is like saying flying in general, or any aircraft flying over the bay is a bad idea. Well then walking in NYC is a bad idea too because someone might throw their air conditioner out the window and hit you!!!
    Stop being such pessimists. Be American!

  • http://msn Brad

    Bad, bad, bad !!!!! While the site of this stunt was pretty neat to see the reality is that IF something had gone wrong what would we be talking about right now. This is something that was not very well thought out or is the potential advertising from this worth the risk of what COULD have been. If united needs help with there advertising….hire a new firm.

  • http://msn Brad

    BAD IDEA…….. Not to be a pesimist but the thought of what could have been so that an arline can get some good pub is crazy. Cool to watch but think of the flip side…..

  • F Johnson

    Should we question everything? “Good or bad idea?” shouldn’t even be a subject here. Those opposed to Fleet-Week (for a host of reasons) might wonder why this subject isn’t “Fleet-Week. Good or bad idea?

  • An Sallas

    I have to admit it was a great spectacle to see and really a shocker after seen how devastating can be a plane crash on a heavily populated area. What I think of this particular performance is a simple; how far can a buck take you? United has suffered from a bad rep for quite a while, still are the # 1 airline. To maintain that they bought their way into fleet week, advertising comes in different ways, this was one of them. I would like to know why the FAA authorized and how can they justify it?

  • Ben

    1) As far as this being a civilian plane in a “military” air show – United flies hundreds of CRAF missions (Civil Air Reserve Fleet) a year, transporting the military to and from war zones. US airlines are very much part of our military airlift capability.
    2) Miss Jo, this is not a “no fly zone” – it’s class “B” airspace, and anyone following the rules and with a clearance from ATC can fly here.
    3) United is essentially San Francisco’s home-town airline, and one of the Bay Area’s largest employers – seems perfectly logical to me.

  • http://www.satori.org Mark

    We saw the United flyover on Sunday and it was completely amazing. Seeing how adeptly this gigantic airliner circled, and flew low over the bay, gave me much more confidence in flying the big birds on long-haul flights and in severe windstorms. Thanks United!

  • Pingback: Free Flight Video Magazine » Blog Archive » PHOTOS: United Airlines Boeing 747 Buzzes Over the Golden Gate Bridge at FleetWeek()

  • Duane

    It’s great to see these flyovers and how it inspires aviation enthusiasts and future enthusiasts (kids). Low flyovers and flybys are what make an airshow an airshow. What’s not great is how this nation has to turn everything that’s fun or inspiring into somehow a controversy. What has become of us? And by the way, an American airshow is for the entire U.S. aviation community. A U.S.-built aircraft operated by U.S. airline participating in a airshow in one of their hub cities with a long historical presence is in no way polluting Fleet Week. There are many corporate sponsors to such events and it’s smart of the military to persue such sponsors. I’m a reservist and there are many of us who are employeed by great companies such as United Air Lines.

    Thanks for posting the video, Chris!

  • Ann

    It was an air show, a 747 jet flew over the bay…it’s a plane…it’s an air show…it’s a plane…? Sorry folks, 9/11 ~ REALLY???

  • scott h

    I hate to sound fearful or like terrorists have forever ruined our chance of having a great afternoon at an air show. In fact, I think its pretty exciting to see this and it must have been a cool site. However, 9/11 has created a new reality, and if that fly by had happened over the Brooklyn Bridge, people would have FREAKED OUT.

  • Creative1

    Will this be used in advertising?

    I sure hope so! We need tourists to give a shot to the SF economy!

    United employess THOUSANDS in the Bay Area and bring millions to see our beautiful city.

    I hope they use those pics and videos OVER AND OVER AND OVER…

    Do the people who put the GG Bridge on postcards pay a fee? If not I don’t see why United should.

    They were a corporate sponsor of Fleet Week to begin with.

  • Brad

    For me this was almost the highlight of the Saturday airshow! I love commercial airplanes and at no point did it remind me of the events on 9/11. Actually I didn’t even think about it until I saw this post on Twitter. I can respect the feelings of those who were in one of the two cities during the tragedy but it’s really unfortunate that so much aviation freedom has been taken away from those who enjoy it so much (as I do). I think that because United has been such a large part of the history of the Bay Area and really aviation in general that them flying their newly painted 747 was really just an homage to aviation a not a whole lot more. In fact, if United really wanted to do something corporate they would have rolled out the plane in the new hybrid Continental/United livery for all to see. For me this was almost a farewell flight because the beautiful new white paint scheme they introduced will be replaced by the boring Continental colors eventually.

  • http://www.missjosanfrancisco.com miss jo

    As a daughter of a former 1940s Clipper-era Pan Am flight attendant based in San Francisco, I love a good air show — with one exception: seeing current commercial aircraft circle a metropolitan area that’s otherwise a no-fly zone. Perhaps it’s my own jitters having lived in Washington, D.C., on 9/11, but the imagery of that day is hard to shake. It will be interesting to see if United will use the Fleet Week flight in its advertising (and will the company have to pay to use the Golden Gate Bridge image, like their own kind of bridge toll ?)…In any event, must have been one heck of a view for crew and passengers.