David Ryder/Bloomberg via Getty Images
The jet transformed an industry, bringing luxurious amenities and long, non-stop flights to the masses – all in a design that’s both huge and sleek. But the mighty 747’s reign is over, and Boeing says the last plane rolled off its assembly line this week, after 54 years in production.
“For more than half a century, tens of thousands of dedicated Boeing employees have designed and built this magnificent aircraft that has truly changed the world,” said Kim Smith, Boeing vice president and general manager of programs. 747 and 767, as the company announced the end of production.
Since the start of 747 production in 1967, according to Boeing, 1,574 planes have been built. It began carrying commercial passengers in January 1970, when Pan Am used a 747 for a flight from New York to London.
The huge jet that shrunk the world
The 747 was a success at the 1969 Paris Air Show, and more than two dozen airlines rushed to put the airliner into service, enticing travelers with the 747’s promise of unprecedented comfort and range. .
People in the United States suddenly had an attractive option for visiting Hawaii – which was then a very young state. And cities around the world have become more interconnected by direct flights.
By late 1971, international airlines including Air Canada, Air India and Japan Airlines were using the aircraft.
The huge plane was touted as a win for middle-class travellers, under the belief that airline prices would become more affordable if carriers could accommodate more people on a single flight. But that dynamic changed in subsequent years, as the aviation industry saw a growing preference for smaller, more fuel-efficient aircraft and less focus on crowded hub-to-hub flights.
The 747’s star faded – US carriers phased it out in 2017 – but it had another moment in 2020, when a British Airways 747, aided by high winds, traveled from New York to London in 4 hours and 56 minutes, setting a new record for the fastest subsonic commercial flight across the Atlantic.
The aircraft included movie screens and a lounge
The 747’s expansive interior has been repeatedly compared to a living room, with large armchairs and space to stretch your legs.
A spiral staircase led to the upstairs living room, with space for a bar. The lounge was originally intended to be a place where flight crews could take a break. But Pan Am’s Juan Trippe — who struck a $500 million deal with Boeing that put the 747 in motion — recommended a first-class passenger area instead, according to the Northwestern University Transportation Library.
Airlines have given the lounge their own twist, with names including the Penthouse Lounge (TWA) and Tea House in the Sky (Japan Airlines), according to the library.
Pan Am advertising from this era shows that the economy section of the aircraft included three spaces named like lounges, each with its own cinema system. According to the airline, being on the 747 was like being on a cruise ship.
It was designed to carry passengers or cargo
The last 747 to roll out of Boeing’s assembly plant in Everett, Washington, is a cargo freighter, the 747-8 variant, for Atlas Air. It might seem like a strange ending for a legendary airliner. But in many ways, the 747 grew out of plans for a massive military transport plane — a contract that Boeing didn’t win. Still, the company kept cargo in mind when designing the new jet, including the ability to receive cargo by articulating its cone-shaped nose.
Importantly, Boeing used the advanced high-speed engine technology envisioned for the military aircraft to lift the huge new jetliner into the skies with hundreds of people on board.
“One of the decisions we made was to be a good freighter as well as a good passenger plane,” said the 747’s lead designer, the late Joe Sutter. Smithsonian magazine in 2007. “It was probably one of the most important decisions we made, because it influenced [the size of the] fuselage. This is how the concept of the widebody was born.”
The aircraft is steeped in American tradition, providing the basis for Air Force One, the official presidential aircraft. Another modified version carried the space shuttle.
As enduring as the 747’s legacy is, Boeing says it was first produced in just about 16 months, reflecting the combined work of thousands of employees.
The 747 was the first “jumbo jet”
And we mean giant: the 747’s tail towers are as tall as a six-story building. When introduced, the aircraft’s length of 225 feet dwarfed existing airliners.
“Pressurized, it was carrying a ton of air,” says Boeing.
The jet had four engines and was the first to have two aisles descending from a spacious passenger cabin.
It was so huge that to build it, Boeing had to build a new 200 million cubic foot assembly plant in Everett.
And Sutter was determined that the plane would be extraordinarily safe, giving the 747 four sets of vital equipment like hydraulics and landing gear.
“You know things are going to happen, and sometimes it’s going to be bad,” Sutter said. Smithsonian. “You should still be able to go home.”
No more 747s are made, but Boeing notes that they are still taking flight. The 1970s version even inspired one man to build a floor replica.
“We are proud that this aircraft will continue to fly around the world for years to come,” said Boeing’s Smith.
#jet #manufactured #run #years