Boeing says goodbye to an icon on Tuesday: it will deliver his latest Jumbo 747.
Since its first flight in 1969, the gigantic though elegant 747 it has been a cargo plane, a commercial aircraft capable of carrying nearly 500 passengers, a transport for NASA’s space shuttles and Air Force One. It revolutionized travel, connecting international cities that had never before had direct routes and contributing to democratize passenger flights.
But for the past 15 years or so, Boeing and its European rival Airbus introduced wide-body aircraft more profitable and fuel efficient, with only two engines to keep instead of the 747’s four. The final aircraft it is number 1,574 built by Boeing in the Puget Sound region of Washington state.
A large crowd of current and former Boeing workers is expected for the final farewell. The last one will be delivered to cargo company Atlas Air.
“If you love this business, you feared this time would come,” said veteran aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia. “No one wants a four-engine anymore, but that doesn’t erase the aircraft’s huge contribution to the development of the industry and its remarkable legacy.”
Boeing decided to build the 747 after losing a contract for a massive military transport, the C-5A. The idea was to take advantage of new engines developed for transport – high bypass turbofan engines, which burned less fuel by passing air around the core of the engine, allowing for greater flight range – and use them for a civilian aircraft just imagined.
The first 747
More than 50,000 Boeing workers took less than 16 months to build the first 747a herculean effort that earned him ethe nickname “The Incredibles”. Producing the jumbo jet required the construction of a massive factory in Everett, north of Seattle, the largest building in the world by volume.
The fuselage of the aircraft measured 68.5 meters long Y the queue was as tall as a building six stories. The aircraft design included a second deck that extended from the cockpit rearward over the first third of the aircraft, giving it a distinctive hump and inspiring a nickname, the whale. More romantically, the 747 became known as the Queen of Skies.
A second VIP floor
Some airlines have converted on the second floor in a first-class cocktail loungewhile the lower floor also sometimes housed living rooms or even a piano bar.
“It was the first big plane, the first wide-body plane, so it set a new standard for airlines to know what to do with it and how to fill it,” says Guillaume de Syon, a history professor at Albright College in Pennsylvania who specializes in aviation and mobility.
“They became the essence of mass air transport: you couldn’t fill it with people paying full price, so you had to lower your prices to get people on board. “It contributed to what happened in the late 1970s with the deregulation of air travel.”
The first 747 entered service in 1970 on Pan Am’s New York-London route, and their timing was terrible, Aboulafia said.
It debuted just before the 1973 oil crisis, in the midst of a recession that cut Boeing employment from 100,800 in 1967 to a low of 38,690 in April 1971.
The “Boeing bankruptcy” was infamously marked by a billboard near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport that read: “Last Person to Leave SEATTLE — Turn Off the Lights” (Have the last person to leave SEATTLE turn off the light).
An updated model arrived in the late 1980s -the 747-400 series- which came at a better time, coinciding with the Asian economic boom of the early 1990s, explains Aboulafia. Aboulafia recalls his trip on a Cathay Pacific 747 from From Los Angeles to Hong Kong when I was a 20 year old backpacker in 1991.
“Even people like me could go to Asia,” Aboulafia said. “Before you had to stop in Alaska or Hawaii to refuel, and it cost a lot more. This was a direct trip and reasonably priced.”
Delta was the last US airline to use the 747. for passenger flights, ended in 2017, although some other international airlines continue to fly with it, including the German one Lufthansa.
Atlas Air ordered four 747-8 freighters early last year, with the last one leaving the factory on Tuesday.
Boeing has its roots in the Seattle area and has assembly plants in the states of Washington and South Carolina. The company announced in May that it would move its headquarters from Chicago to Arlington, Virginia, bringing its leadership closer to senior officials in the federal government and the Federal Aviation Administration, which certifies Boeing passenger and cargo aircraft.
Boeing’s relationship with the FAA has been strained after the fatal crashes of its best-selling airplane, the 737 Max, in 2018 and 2019. It took the FAA nearly two years – far longer than Boeing expected – to approve the changes to the project and allow the aircraft to fly again.
The author is a reporter for the Associated Press.
Mary Ortiz is a seasoned journalist with a passion for world events. As a writer for News Rebeat, she brings a fresh perspective to the latest global happenings and provides in-depth coverage that offers a deeper understanding of the world around us.