In the 1960s, aircraft manufacturer Boeing took part in submitting proposals to the US Air Force for a new large transport aircraft. Their design lost out to competitor Lockheed, but they decided to retool some of its elements as part of a new airliner to take advantage of the increasing numbers of people taking to air travel at the time, particularly for long-distance international flights. This was spurred by requests from then-primary US carrier Pan Am for a new aircraft. So it was that the Boeing 747 was introduced on September 30, 1968. This Sunday, the Boeing 747 turns 50.
As CNN tells it, September 30 on Sunday will be the golden anniversary of the plane that “shrank the world”. The Boeing 747, the first of the “jumbo jets” was first seen by the public on that date in 1968, though it would not actually take flight for the first time until February of the following year, and would only come into service with its first airline – Pan Am – in January 1970. But in the decades that followed the 747 cemented its image as “Queen of the Skies”, even becoming the definitive model for the US President’s Air Force One.
Granted, in 50 years the tech and development for big passenger aircraft have advanced, and these days the remaining 500 or so Boeing 747s in its various configurations are slowly being replaced by airlines with even larger jumbo jets that are both more advance and fuel-economic for having just two engines to the original queen’s four. But it is a fool’s bet to count out the 747, particularly its most recent 747-8 Intercontinental, as being on its way out. The A380 of European maker Airbus may be larger and more modern (2005), but it does not evoke similar epic scale.
From its preliminary conception, the 747 jumbo was the dream big airliner craft. With the valuable input of Boeing’s cabin design partner firm Teague, the 747 enchanted its eventual passengers with its high ceiling and nearly vertical sidewalls, providing an incredible sense of space and comfort. Also revolutionary was its distribution of galleys and lavatories to divide the cabin into sectioned “rooms”, thus giving the rise of “economy/tourist” and “business” class passenger seating.
Even as the last 747 delivery – to Korean Airlines – was in 2017, and Delta Airlines retired its last of the line in January this year, the legacy of Boeing’s brainchild remains strong. It made flying a truly accessible travel option for many.
Image courtesy of CBS News