Boeing Revealed The Queen Of The Skies 50 Years Ago

We’ve been blabbering about the most iconic jet aircraft for quite some time now. From the story of Concorde, the Soviets put up the middle finger to the West with its Tu-104, to the Boeing “If It ain’t Boeing, I ain’t going” 707, these are the aircraft that truly helped shape the future of aviation. But all of us can agree that there is only one jet that everybody loves – the Boeing 747.

The “Jumbo Jet” handled every challenge that accidents, financial struggles, market changes and competitors have thrown at it.

There is a reason why it is still in service after almost 50 years in the sky. Why Boeing delivered more than 1500 of the Boeing 747 to airlines around the world. And there is a reason #WhyILoveThe747.

But wait! While the Boeing 747 is most commonly known as the “Jumbo Jet”, I don’t think that nickname does it justice. Calling it the “Queen Of The Skies” is more appropriate and fits its status perfectly.

So, what is the reason? Well, to be honest, there are quite a few reasons why. Therefore, grab yourself a cup of coffee and let’s look into the history of the Boeing 747 and why it is such a commercial success.

The 707 paved the way for the Boeing 747

There is no way of denying it. The Boeing 707 proved to the world that commercial jets are the future. While the de Havilland Comet told everyone that traveling with jet aircraft is much more comfortable for the passengers and saves a lot of time for airlines, it had its issues. A lot of them. So Boeing quickly made the best of the opportunity that de Havilland presented them and developed the 707. While it was a huge risk for the Seattle based manufacturer, it proved to be the right decision.

Anyhow, the 707 became a star. Everybody loved it, from airlines to regular passengers. From Hollywood superstars to brands around the world.

However, nobody is perfect. The Boeing 707 was no exception and that became apparent sooner rather than later. Neither Boeing nor any other manufacturer could keep up with the passenger demand in the 1960s. To illustrate, according to Worldwatch Institute airlines transferred 31 million passengers in 1950. In 20 years, that number has risen to 310 million.

With that in mind, airlines felt that the Boeing 707 was just too small. Even though it could carry up to 219 passengers, that was still not enough. That’s why the president of Pan American, Juan Trippe, approached Boeing with the task to build a much larger aircraft. Both Pan Am and Boeing saw that the demand was there, yet everyone lacked the aircraft to fulfill that demand.

As the Boeing 707 continued to operate successfully during the 1960s, Boeing had very big plans for the future.

Boeing 707 and Boeing 747 Boeing 707 and Boeing 747

A backup plan for the supersonic future

PanAm‘s demands were crystal clear – they needed a subsonic aircraft that was twice the size of the 707. Luckily, foundations for the new aircraft were already laid out.

In 1963, the United States Air Force realized they needed an aircraft that could carry exceptionally large cargo. At the time, even their new Lockheed Starlifter could not meet their demands. The USAF made an open call for designs for the new CX-HLS aircraft to come in. Boeing, Douglas, Lockheed and other companies presented their prototypes. All of the presented prototypes had a universal feature – it had a huge door in front of the aircraft to load cargo on it.