As we reported earlier, Boeing delivered its final 747 jumbo jet amidst much pomp and circumstance, and rightly so. The 747 was an aircraft that changed aviation for the better, ushering in an era of previously unattainable travel opportunities for air voyagers worldwide. It was just what the 747 was, though that was a lot. It’s for what it wrought, as well.
A few things about the plane, nicknamed by some brilliant PR person “The Queen of the Skies.” The 747 made its first flight in February of 1969, a fitting precursor to the Summer of Love, and was first delivered the following January to Pan Am, which eventually bought 65 of the jumbo jets out of the 1,574 produced over the years. The first 747, the -100 model, was around 230 feet in length and would typically carry as many as 360 passengers with a maximum takeoff weight of 750,000 pounds. The 747-8, the last passenger plane in the lineup, was usually configured to carry up to 467 people. It was much larger, with a max takeoff weight of more than 900,000 pounds, a length of 250 feet and a wingspan of 224 feet. It is, and will be for some time, one of the largest aircraft ever built.
And what an eventful life it led. Christened by then First Lady Pat Nixon, the 747 would go on to be used to haul the Space Shuttle; it was involved in the worst accident in aviation history, the Tenerife disaster, which was no fault of the two 747s that collided on the foggy island’s runway; one 747 was shot down by the Soviet Union in 1983; and TWA Flight 800 exploded in midair after, according to the NTSB, its center fuel tank exploded. The 747 also set what’s surely an unbeatable record, when an El Al 747 carried more than 1,000 passengers in an evacuation of Ethiopian Jews, making it the largest passenger load of an aircraft in history.
The parting gift from Boeing’s final 747? The plane created a track in the sky—thanks, FlightAware for capturing the gem for us—of an empress’s crown.
And while Boeing has made the last delivery of a 747 outfitted for commercial use, this one for cargo with Atlas Air, the company is still working on new version of Air Force One, and 747s will continue to grace the skies for decades to come.