The Boeing 747 is undoubtedly the most well-known jet aircraft in history. Over fifty years ago, in Everett, Washington, the first 747 ever built took to the skies. Because it was larger than any other commercial airliner of its time, Boeing took a huge risk with it, which paid out handsomely for everyone involved.
Despite a rapid population decline, its distinctive silhouette may still be spotted at airports throughout the globe. Despite the plane’s groundbreaking status, Boeing triumphed because of a setback.
For almost fifty years, she has been unchallenged as the Sky Queen. However, the legendary jumbo will be retired in a matter of months.
Qantas’ final 747 Jumbo Jet was retired to the “aircraft cemetery” in the Mojave Desert of California in July 2020.
It’s almost inevitable that production of what is arguably the most well-known aeroplane in the world will end in a matter of months.
The death knell for the legendary jumbo jet has been sounded with the announcement that a global freight carrier would receive it’s final Boeing 747 by December.
With this, the 747, which had its maiden flight in 1969 and has been in continuous production in one form or another for well over half a century, will come to an end.
“Queen of the Skies” 747s were familiar sights at global airports for decades, and they were easily recognisable by their upper deck hump.
The 747 was formerly a staple of airline fleets. Still, it fell out of favour as smaller, more fuel-efficient, cheaper-to-operate aircraft became the norm, and Covid-19 savaged the aviation industry.
Qantas originally had a fleet of 30 747s, which it used to fly between Australia and places like Los Angeles, Singapore, London, Frankfurt, Johannesburg, and Santiago. When the pandemic reached its height in July 2020, the airline decommissioned its last jumbo jet.
It has been known that Boeing’s jumbo jet was on its final legs. The Chicago-based company that placed the Atlas Air contract claimed in July 2020 that the planes would be the last of their kind to be manufactured.
Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Stan Deal said, “They should receive the last 747 production aeroplanes, ensuring that the ‘Queen of the Skies’ plays a significant role in the global air cargo market for decades to come.” Atlas Air started operations 28 years ago with a single 747.
The first flight of a 747 took place in 1969. The now-defunct airline PanAm was the first to get the revolutionary airliner, which could carry more passengers further than ever before.
It allowed Australians to cut down the so-called “kangaroo route” of making many stops between Australia and London to just one stop in the middle of the journey.
The A380, the largest aircraft ever built, was created to graze the 747’s turf. There were over 250 produced, but by the time the A380 entered service, airlines were increasingly favouring smaller aircraft with only two engines instead of the A380’s standard four.
The last A380 will leave the factory in 2021, after 17 years of manufacturing. The superjumbo is still in service with Qantas.
While the A380 has been in production for far longer, the 747 has been subject to the same pressures.
The 747-8, a new variant that debuted in the middle of the 2000s, was the longest and largest of the jumbo jet’s iterations up to that point.
Boeing expected to sell 300 747-8s, pulling business away from the A380, but only sold about 150. In recent decades, more passenger airlines have chosen Airbus’ jumbo jet over Boeing’s.
Since the 747-8 can carry so much cargo, most of them were purchased by shipping companies.
Most 747 airframes have a minimum service life of 20 years, meaning the aircraft will be in service for decades to come. Cargo airlines can generally make it for another few years.
But the likelihood of getting a seat on a 747 is decreasing significantly. Many of the world’s largest airlines have ceased using the 747 entirely, and hundreds are collecting dust in forgotten airports or being eaten alive for their components.
Qantas has two 747s that are still around today; one is in Longreach, Queensland, and the other is at Shellharbour Airport, south of Sydney, and is cared for by the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society.
Most major airlines have retired their Jumbo jets, and only a select handful still fly them. Asiana, Air China, Lufthansa, and Korean Air are four of the world’s best airlines.
Thus, you may still take a 747 to Beijing, Shanghai, Frankfurt, or Seoul.
But if you’re flying somewhere else, the 747’s days are numbered.