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Bend woman recalls decades in the air aboard Boeing 747

Survived two accidents over 30-year career

United set to retire Boeing 747's

BEND, Ore. - An iconic aircraft is about to take to the skies for the last time. Tuesday marks the farewell flight for United Airlines' Boeing 747. Their first commercial flight was from San Francisco to Honolulu in 1970, and the final flight will follow the same route. 

The plane is retiring from several air carriers, as companies have decided to replace it with more fuel-efficient models. But even though it’ll soon be gone, the 747 will not be forgotten. 

Laura Brentlinger now lives in Bend, and was a flight attendant for more than three decades. She not only spent her life aboard the 747, she also nearly died on it. 

“At 22,000 feet, the cargo door blew and there was an explosive decompression,” Brentlinger said Monday. 

In 1989, Brentlinger was working on United Flight 811 out of Honolulu. Nine passengers were sucked out of the plane to their deaths. Brentlinger was able to grab onto the iconic spiral staircase, and said her feet were pulled off the ground.

“It was by the grace of God and truly by how the airplane was built that I survived that accident,” she said. 

This was the second traumatic experience Brentlinger had aboard a 747. In 1984, her plane’s tires blew out during takeoff, and metal debris punctured the full tank. 

Despite surviving both accidents, Brentlinger returned to the skies. She said the Boeing 747 is like a part of her family, 

“You see it coming, and it’s just this monstrous plane, and you think, ‘How the heck can it even get off the ground?’ And to have experienced it and to have lived it, it’s amazing,” she said. 


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