Boeing bids farewell to an icon on Tuesday (Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2023, in Manila) as it delivers its final 747 jumbo jet, Gene Johnson reported for the Associated Press (AP).
Photo Insert: The "Queen of the Skies" will be taking a bow.
Since its first flight in 1969, the giant yet graceful 747 has served as a cargo plane, a commercial aircraft capable of carrying nearly 500 passengers, a transport for NASA’s space shuttles, and the Air Force One presidential aircraft.
It revolutionized travel, connecting international cities that had never before had direct routes and helping democratize passenger flight.
But over about the past 15 years, Boeing and its European rival Airbus have introduced more profitable and fuel efficient wide-body planes, with only two engines to maintain instead of the 747′s four.
The final plane is the 1,574th built by Boeing in the Puget Sound region of Washington state. A big crowd of current and former Boeing workers is expected for the final send-off. The last one is being delivered to cargo carrier Atlas Air.
“If you love this business, you’ve been dreading this moment,” said longtime aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia. “Nobody wants a four-engine airliner anymore, but that doesn’t erase the tremendous contribution the aircraft made to the development of the industry or its remarkable legacy.”
Boeing set out to build the 747 after losing a contract for a huge military transport, the C-5A.
The idea was to take advantage of the new engines developed for the transport — high-bypass turbofan engines, which burned less fuel by passing air around the engine core, enabling a farther flight range — and to use them for a newly imagined civilian aircraft. It took more than 50,000 Boeing workers less than 16 months to churn out the first 747 — a Herculean effort that earned them the nickname “The Incredibles.”
The jumbo jet’s production required the construction of a massive factory in Everett, north of Seattle — the world’s largest building by volume.