30 Years of Cargo Facts: Tsurumaru’s Glory Days

  • David Harris
  • April 11, 2011
  • Videos
JAL 747-200SF

JAL 747-200SF

Japan Airlines recently re-introduced the Tsuru – the distinctive crane on JAL tails from sixties until the early nineties, when a more modern livery replaced it. The carrier, now without its old cargo division and fresh out of a once-unthinkable bankruptcy, is likely hoping to regain some of the shine it once had.

But all that is in the future as this photo is taken, in the summer of 1974 high above Washington state on a test flight. JA8123 (msn: 21034), A 747-200B freighter, was delivered on September 17th, 1974 and flew for JAL Cargo until 2002, when it was sold to Kalitta Air. It had a brief second career with Kalitta until going to storage in the summer of 2008 at Kalitta’s Oscoda base in Michigan.

In the summer of 1987, Cargo Facts reported that JAL Cargo was doing quite well in terms of traffic – up 11% that year on trans-pacific routes. Indeed, JAL Cargo was second only to Flying Tigers at the time in terms of trans-pacific volume. But JAL itself was still a bit tied down with short-term losses. The company was getting ready for privatization, which happened later in the year when the Japanese government sold it’s 34% stake in the flag carrier.

JAL was, and is still, closely associated with the 747. An early customer, JAL has operated 114 747s of all types with the exception of the shortened 747SP and the new 747-8. Post bankruptcy, however, JAL has ceased all 747 operations and most of its former flagships have been sold or scrapped. Bankruptcy also meant an end to JAL Cargo’s main-deck operations, which ceased in 2010.

JAL emerged from Bankruptcy late last month, but it remains to be seen what effect the recent earthquake, Tsunami, and subsequent nuclear crisis in Japan will have on the re-emergent JAL.

Due to the recent disaster in Japan, we’ve included a link today to donate for earthquake relief via the American Red Cross. If you wish to help, click here.

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