Boeing Says Goodbye to “Queen of the Skies”
Boeing will say goodbye to its iconic 747 today, when it delivers the final plane to cargo company Atlas Air, marking the end of the “jumbo jet” era.
“It is a very emotional experience, I know, for so many of the current team and so many that gave lineage in the program over the many decades,” Kim Smith, Vice President and General Manager for the 747 and 767 Programs, Boeing, tells Reuters.
The US planemaker ended production of its famous 747 jumbo jet over 50 years after its first flight in 1969. However, Boeing expects the “Queen of the Skies” to fly on for decades to come. Michael Lombardi, the company’s historian, told DW that the 747 achieved a quantum leap in the history of commercial aviation.
Its predecessor, the Boeing 707, accommodated up to 189 passengers. The 747 was the first airplane known as a “jumbo jet” due to its wide-body design. The aircraft was initially certified for up to 550 passengers and was later capable of carrying up to 660 travelers.
"[The Boeing 747] is a great symbol for humanity and what we do, she has changed the world, shrunk the globe and democratized air travel," says Lombardi. According to industry experts, the 747 democratized global air travel in the 1970s, making it possible for the middle class to travel outside the EU or the US at an affordable price, even during the energy crisis of those times. However, the jumbo jet fell behind modern twin-engine passenger jets in today’s era.
After five decades, customer demand for the 747 eroded as Boeing and Airbus developed more fuel-efficient, two-engine widebody planes, reported Reuters. Two years ago, when the US planemaker confirmed it would stop production, it was already manufacturing at a rate of half an aircraft a month, while in 1990, the peak delivery year of the aircraft, Boeing delivered 70 747s.
Boeing’s facilities in Everett, Washington, have been the production site of the 747 since the plane’s conception. Built in 1967 to produce the jumbo jet, it remains the world’s largest manufacturing plant, according to Boeing.
In Mexico, several Boeing 747s have operated throughout the years, mainly to Mexico City, Guadalajara and Cancun. The first carrier to operate a 747 in Mexico was KLM. In the following years, British Airways, Lufthansa, Pan Am, Iberia, Japan Airlines and Air France, introduced their 747 aircraft in the country, in addition to freighters Atlas, Cargolux and Cathay Pacific, among others.