After five decades, Boeing is ending its production of the 747 Jumbo Jet with a final delivery Jan. 31 to U.S. cargo airliner, Atlas Air. Designed in the late 1960s to meet the demand for mass travel, the “Queen of the Skies” transformed flying as the first twin-aisle wide-body jet that could accommodate 366 passengers. Such capacity had the effect of bringing down flight costs for consumers and ushered in a new era of international air travel.
Here’s a look at the 747′s history:
1966 – Boeing starts building its Everett plant to manufacture the 747 Jumbo Jet
Seeking to reduce its seat cost by 30 per cent, Pan American World Airways asked Boeing for a jet 2½ times the size of its 707 aircraft. To deliver on the deal, Boeing purchased 780 acres in the area of Everett, Wash., and opened the factory on May 1, 1967, four months after the first workers had arrived to start construction of the 747. The plant is the world’s largest building by volume.
1969 – 747′s maiden flight
The 747′s first flight took place on Feb. 9, 1969, but the airliner was not certified by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration until December of that year. It finally entered service in 1970 with its first commercial flight between New York and London, operated by Pan Am.
1977 – Tenerife airport disaster
On March 27, 1977, two 747 passenger jets were involved in the deadliest accident in aviation history. KLM Flight 4805 and Pan Am Flight 1736 collided on the runway at Los Rodeos Airport in the Spanish island of Tenerife, resulting in 583 deaths and only 61 survivors.
1977 – NASA’s Space Shuttle Carrier
In 1977, NASA introduced the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, two modified 747 airliners able to ferry the Space Shuttle orbiters. Both aircraft transported the Space Shuttles from landing sites back to the landing facility at the Kennedy Space Centre and were retired in 2012.
1980 – First woman to fly a Boeing 747
In 1980, Captain Lynn Rippelmeyer became the first woman to pilot a 747 when she was an officer for Seaboard World Airlines and in 1984 she became the first woman to captain a 747 transatlantic flight while at People Express Airlines.
1988 – Boeing introduces the 747-400
The first 747-400 was introduced in 1988, followed by its 747-400ER model in 2002. Respectively, the planes had a capacity of 416 and 524 passengers, up from the 366 allowed on the original 747-100 model. In total, Boeing produced 694 models of the 747-400 aircraft.
1990 – Air Force One
In August, 1990, two modified 747 models took over from the aging 707 as the official aircraft of U.S. presidents. The two planes remain in use today, but the U.S. Air Force has recently announced that they will soon be replaced with two 747-8 models already produced.
2010 – Boeing introduces the 747-8
The first 747-8 took its first freighter flight on Feb. 8, 2010, followed by a passenger flight on March 20, 2011. The newest model can carry 467 passengers and has a “swing-up nose” for loading freight. In total, 155 models of 747-8 were produced, 103 of which were for cargo.
2016 – Ed Force One
Bruce Dickinson, the lead singer of the heavy metal band, Iron Maiden, piloted a specially liveried 747 nicknamed “Ed Force One” during the band’s tour in 2016. “On the ground it’s stately, it’s imposing,” he said. “And in the air, it’s surprisingly agile. For this massive airplane, you can really chuck it around if you have to.”
2019 – Tenet
While filming Tenet, director Christopher Nolan and his team purchased and crashed a real 747 jet into a hangar to perform a stunt without special effects.
2023 – Last production
On Jan. 31, 2023, the final and 1574th commercial Boeing 747 was delivered to Atlas Air, 53 years after the 747 first captured global attention with its inaugural Pan Am transatlantic flight. The last 747 features a “Joe Sutter forever incredible” decal on its side, which pays homage to an engineer considered one of the unofficial fathers of the airliner.