‘Freedom Bird’: How the 747 changed one Washington Boeing employee’s life

To celebrate the 747, Boeing employee Thuylinh Pham shares a special story of the airplane’s impact on her life

April 13, 2022 in Our People

When 3-year-old Thuylinh Pham boarded a Continental Airlines 747 back in 1991, she had no idea what was coming next.

“My family was leaving Vietnam for a better life after some hardships in our country,” said Pham, a 777X Quality manager. “We were granted legal permanent residence as refugees, and the United States government flew us into the country. We’d never seen or flown on an airplane -- let alone left our country. It changed my life.”

Pham and her family emigrated from Vietnam to Seattle under the United Nation’s Orderly Departure Program on that flight. What she remembers most about the journey was the iconic spiral staircase leading to the upper deck of the 747.

The flight attendants let her sit at that staircase and take in all the sights and sounds of her journey to a new life – a life that she never thought would bring her full circle back to Boeing as an employee.

“My mom worked at Boeing as a custodian, and that’s where I started my career also,” Pham said. “Through the Learning Together Program, I was able to get additional education and work myself up to being a first-line manager at this company. I’ve now been at Boeing for 10 years.”

When asked about her fondest memories of the 747, Pham reminisced about how the airplane brought her family together.

“Whenever we would drive by Boeing Field in Seattle, my dad would always point out a 747 on the flight line and say, ‘That’s the airplane that brought us to freedom!” Pham said.

Later this year, Boeing will deliver its final 747, ending a production run that began in 1969.

“For me, the 747 production ending is bittersweet. The 747 brought me to my dream here in America to live a free life,” Pham said. “For me, the 747 is not just the ‘Queen of the Skies’ – it’s also the ‘Freedom Bird.’”

By Brianna Jackson and Nate Hanson