It has been almost 50 years since Boeing 747-100 made its maiden flight.  On February 9, 1969, it took off over Seattle for the first time, entering commercial service with Pan American World Airways (PanAm) a year later. Shortly, the Jumbo Jet arrived in Europe and entered commercial passenger service with Lufthansa - the first European and second operator in the world. Ahead of the airliner’s 50 years celebrations, Lufthansa commemorates the history of its Jumbo Jets.

The first Boeing 747-130 handed over to Lufthansa on March 9, 1970 was registered as "D-ABYA" and carried the production number 12. "Yankee Alpha", as it was called within the company. Its initial deployment was on the Frankfurt-New York route, with its first flight on April 26, 1970.

[ Boeing / Lufthansa-Bildarchiv]

The excitement of the passengers and crew on board was intense. Right from the entrance point to the jet, one gets into a “celebratory champagne mood”, a journalist wrote at that time. Hardly surprising, when considering that there was a bar in the First Class Lounge on the upper deck of the aircraft.

[ LH-Bildarchiv / Lufthansa]

The Boeing 747, with almost 70 meters in length and a span of nearly 60 meters, was christened by the American press as “Jumbo Jet”, offering space for 365 passengers at Lufthansa. The height of the tail unit, approximately 19 meters, was higher than a five-story building. The aircraft had a four-engine wide-body. These engines achieved more than twice the performance of a Boeing 707, which had previously been used on long-haul flights in intercontinental air traffic, but could only accommodate about 150 passengers.

[ LH Bildarchiv]

Before accepting its first Jumbo Jet, Lufthansa had to adapt its aircraft and passenger handling so that they could cope with the different dimensions of the aircraft. New passenger boarding bridges, special tractors, kitchen lift trucks and tanker trucks were all developed at Frankfurt Airport, including a 27,000 square meter aircraft hangar with space for up to six Jumbo Jets. In addition, further counters had to be made available in the check-in hall.

[ Werner Krueger Lufthansa ]

The Jumbo Jet did not only have a career as a passenger aircraft. In March 1972, Lufthansa took on the world’s "first smiling Boeing" – the Boeing 747-230F, the freighter version. Its prow opened up horizontally, making it easy to load even bulky goods. The Jumbo Jet was nicknamed the "Beetle swallower", as it had space for 72 VW Beetles in its fuselage.

[ LH-Bildarchiv / Lufthansa]