A remarkable airplane is celebrating its 50th birthday this month. The Boeing 747 is the airplane that created ripples in the aviation world when it launched on September 30, 1968. Its maiden flight took off in 1969, and it started commercial flights with the nostalgically remembered Pan American World Airways in 1970.
It’s been a favorite with flyers, and it added a feather to its cap when it doubled as Air Force One, a flying White House. It also has been used in numerous Hollywood movie shootings.
There are 500 of these planes all over the world still flying, although some airlines are replacing the 747 with more advanced and more efficient aircraft. The latest version of the 747 is 748-Intercontinental.
While the majestic machine will keep flying for years, its numbers may dwindle. However, its impact will always be felt in the industry.
First wide body
The 747 heralded the wide-bodied, twin-aisle plane. A double-decker followed, another first.
In terms of design, it was an innovator.
According to a CNN feature, “Instead of a long, thin tube, the cabin was split up into ‘rooms, with galleys and lavatories installed as dividers.
“It's a shape that has defined long-haul travel for nearly half a century.”
Because of the wide body and larger dimensions, the 747 compelled airports to upgrade. Along with passenger volume, boarding lounges, and other airport facilities expanded.
The 747 was designed at a time when the world was expecting the supersonic aircraft as the next generation of planes. To compensate, the 747 “future-proofed” itself with a super cargo carrier in its body.
“The 747 needed a huge jump in engine power and efficiency to get the massive plane in the air, and make money for the airlines. Pratt & Whitney changed the shape of jet engines forever with their JT9D turbofans for the 747. The engine differed from earlier power plants by having a huge fan at the front,” says the CNN story.
The 747 was a landmark aircraft. It came at a time of great societal change in the 1970s. It drove tremendous growth in air travel, tourism, and connectivity. It made travel affordable and accessible.
The 747 will mark its place in aviation history even when it has yielded to other, more advanced aircraft.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons