I saw this video of a "wing-wave" immediately after takeoff of a 747-8 pop up on my Instagram feed. In the description, someone says that their friend is the pilot and that he did it to wave goodbye as it was the planes last visit to the airfield and that this is a tradition among pilots.

To the layman like me, it doesn't look too safe - but since the pilot did it, I'm sure it is. Is this really a pilot tradition and do they do this on passenger flights and most importantly, was this safe?

A comment (for what it is worth) said:

Steep banking an aeroplane few seconds after rotation at dangerously low speed and low altitude is always dangerous. Waving goodbye is not uncommon however this would be considered reckless. I would not be surprised if his competent authority and Company would have an issue with this.

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    $\begingroup$ It does seem a little low to start that maneuver, however the aircraft is moving a lot faster than it seems because of the camera zoom $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Sep 27 '18 at 1:28

Is this really a pilot tradition and do they do this on passenger flights and most importantly, was this safe?

It wasn't a passenger flight, as the description reads, it was a delivery flight*. Furthermore the plane is a freighter, designed to carry cargo--the kind without feet.

Being a delivery flight, it's typically flown with a very experienced crew, and yes it is a tradition, and it's perfectly safe in that particular scenario (light plane, plenty of performance, no passengers). The crew will also typically let the tower know what they'll be doing, so the tower controllers won't be alarmed.

The 'wing-wave', a gentle dip of the plane from one side to another, is generally done by cargo planes to say 'goodbye' as the aircraft will never again see the home airport where it was made.


* Not to be confused with the maiden flight and the subsequent test flights by both the manufacturer and the customer.

Related question about the same video: Is there any reason spoilers would deploy just after liftoff?

  • $\begingroup$ I would argue that such a maneuver so close to the ground is not "perfectly safe" in any scenario. $\endgroup$
    – BDLPPL
    Sep 27 '18 at 11:44

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