For more than 20 years, Grayton Beach resident Leslie Provow has piloted the Boeing 747-400 for United Airlines.
That era ended on Oct. 22 when Provow piloted her last 747-400 flight for United with her at the controls.
The occasion was so momentous for Provow that her husband and son flew with her from San Francisco to Germany, and her husband flew back with her on the return on the 24th. However, Provow became ill on the flight back from Frankfurt and didn't get to land the 747-400 in San Francisco.
"For safety sake, I had to hand it off to the captain. It was sad. It's the end of an era," she said.
United has replaced the 747-400s and when Provow goes back to work in January, it will be as captain of the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
"At one time the 747-400 was the largest commercial airplane in the world. It has been around since the early 1970s," said Provow. "Pan Am flew them with an upstairs piano bar."
In 1997, United was flying more 747-400s than any other aircraft with 148 of them.
"Then, 9/11 happened and we got rid of all the old technology," said Provow. "The new ones have better technology and are more comfortable and United has bought several."
Delta still has four 747-400s flying, but that will probably end in December, she said.
In addition, United has purchased the Boeing 777-300ER, a longer plane with a longer range.
"It is newer with advanced technology, but it can't carry the cargo the 747-400 could," she said. "747-400s are extremely versatile and weigh almost a million pounds when loaded."
Provow said the new planes are made of composite materials instead of aluminum, engines have been upgraded, and they are more fuel efficient flying.
"It goes farther but carries half the people," she said. "The plane can go 18 hours and requires four pilots when going that far."
Provow has been flying since she took her first lessons as a senior at Vanderbilt about 40 years ago.
She was a Navy pilot before being hired by United in 1989. Her husband retired from Delta.
"I thought I was going to be a doctor but I'm so glad I became a pilot," she said.
Provow will go through training over the holidays and is looking forward to returning to the skies as a captain. She plans to fly for five more years before retiring. After that, she said she wants to be a dolphin trainer.
"I love what I'm doing, but I am based in San Francisco. The commute is harder than piloting," she said.
Provow has lived in Grayton since 2005. But her parents owned a place in Grayton since 1952 and she was born in DeFuniak Springs.