The 1985 purchase of Pan Am's Far Eastern network had opened up the Pacific to United but the mix of 747SPs and L-1011s it acquired as part of the deal were not ideal for the routes, which unlike Pan Am it could feed from its mega-hubs at Chicago, Denver and San Francisco. As a stopgap five ex-American Airlines 747-123s were acquired in 1987 (becoming N153-157UA). It also tacked on a pair of new 747-222Bs to a massive 1985 order for 737-300s. These two late build aircraft became N151UA and N152UA when they were delivered in March and April 1987. Further 747s were acquired well into the 1990s when 7 ex-Qantas 747-238Bs were added which became N158-161UA and N163-165UA from January 1991.
Obviously the 747-200 though still a decent prospect in 1990 was a little long in the tooth and United was quick to order longer term equipment in the form of the new and much improved 747-400. United received its first series 422 in June 1989 when 'Spirit of Seattle II' N171UA arrived. Twenty two 747-400s were delivered from then until August 1993 enabling the retirement of the eleven 747SPs inherited from Pan Am. Not content with this United had in October 1990 made what at the time was the largest airline order in history when in a deal worth around $11 billion at list prices it ordered 30 more 747-400s and 34 777-200s. At the time United was in the midst of an attempted takeover by its own employees and the order was seen as a way of refocusing the airline's strategic plans.
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: