On February 9, 1969, Boeing’s new flagship, the 747 ‘Jumbo Jet’, took off for the first time from the Boeing factory at Everett on its first test flight.
The Boeing 747 prototype, christened the ‘City of Everett’, departed Paine Field, Everett, in front of a crowd of journalists and spectators, who were all marveling at the largest passenger aircraft in the world capable of seating around 366 passengers.
At the controls were Boeing chief test pilot Jack Waddell and co-pilot Brien Wygle with Jess Wallick as the flight engineer. The flight lasted one hour and 15 minutes.
It would be almost a year later before the first 747 entered passenger service with Pan American World Airlines, which made the maiden flight between JFK and Heathrow on January 22, 1970. The colossal 747 was unrivalled in its class until the arrival of the Airbus A380 in 2005.
Through the 1960s, the jet age transformed aviation and leisure travel became increasingly popular. By the mid-60s, Juan Trippe, the president of Pan Am, approached Boeing to request they produce an airliner twice the size of the largest available in the market. Boeing soon began developing the program and in 1966 Pan Am ordered 25 Boeing 747-100 aircraft.
Five fantastic facts
- The Boeing 747’s iconic hump came about from feelings within the industry during development that supersonic aircraft would soon takeover subsonic jets, so Boeing designed the 747 to be used as a passenger or cargo aircraft. It was decided that if the nose of the aircraft could open up, it would be easier and quicker to load and unload freight, so the designers moved the flight deck to sit above the nose, creating the hump.
- The Boeing 747 amassed a huge order book of 1,573 aircraft. In July 2020, Boeing confirmed the final 747 would be delivered in 2022. It is now expected to be delivered to Atlas Air in October of this year.
- The Everett factory in Seattle was purpose built for the new 747 production and remains the largest building in the world by volume!
- The upper deck of the original 747-100 was utilized as a lounge for premium passengers. Accessed by a spiral staircase, the lounges were often fitted with luxurious couches and swivel chairs.
- The Boeing 747 prototype named ‘City of Everett’, registration N7470, is now on display at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, US.
Several variants of the 747 were made over the years, with the 747-400 being introduced in 1989. The -400 series is by far the most successful with 694 deliveries of the type. British Airways was the largest operator of the 747 for some years before retiring its ageing fleet owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2005, Boeing launched the 747-8, a further stretch of the -400 series, with both a freighter and passenger version. The ‘-8F’ was introduced with Cargolux in October 2011, while the intercontinental passenger ‘-8i’ was introduced in June 2012 with Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA), the largest operator.
The B747-8 has not been as successful as its predecessors owing to a demand for more fuel-efficient twin-engine aircraft with airlines opting for next generation wide-bodied aircraft such as the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 aircraft.
With over half a century in service, the Boeing 747 has deservingly been titled the ‘Queen of the skies’, and has been a firm favorite for both passengers, pilots and keen aviators alike.
Despite the end of production of the Boeing 747, the ‘Jumbo Jet’ will no doubt grace the skies for some years to come. Current operators include UPS, Cargolux, Air China, Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA), and Korean Air.