The last Boeing 747 rolled out of its Washington Factory State

Boeing rolled out its last Boeing 747 from a plant in Washington state, ending a more than 50-year production run, on Tuesday, December 6.

Initial Days 

The jumbo jet made its debut in 1969, which was the largest commercial aircraft in the world and the first with two aisles. The first 747 was produced by more than 50,000 Boeing workers in less than 16 months. Since then, the company has finished 1,573 more. 

In December 1969, Boeing delivered the first 747 passenger jets to TWA and Pan Am, two airlines that no longer exist now. 

Pan Am Boeing 747
Boeing delivered its first B747 jets to Pan Am and TWA

The design of the 747 incorporated a second deck that extended from the cockpit back over the first third of the aircraft, giving it a prominent hump that gave the plane its nickname, the Whale. More elegantly, the 747 became known as the “Queen of the Skies”.

The 747 used to be the aircraft of choice for the famous, wealthy, and even royalty.

Many films have used the plane or set designed to resemble the first class lounge on its top deck, notably the 1973 James Bond classic “Live and Let Die”.

Myriad Responsibilities 

The Boeing 747 has served in a variety of roles, including cargo plane, commercial aircraft, and the Air Force One presidential aircraft.

The 747 continues to be used as Air Force One, and two already-assembled aircraft are currently undergoing modifications to become the next iteration of the presidential aircraft. Due to delays, those planes won’t be delivered for at least four years.

Air Force One
USA’s Air Force One

It was huge enough to transport the Space Shuttle from landing strips in California to its launch location in Florida. Next week, Virgin Galactic plans to launch a brand-new type of spaceship that it will have carried aloft under its wing.

Boeing 747 with NASA's Space Shuttle
B747 transported the Space Shuttle for NASA

India’s knot to Boeing 747

In 1971, Air India bought its first jumbo, and thus India’s relationship with the 747 began.

Despite the fact that Air India already operated an all-jet fleet at the time, this new addition solidified the company’s status as a premium carrier.

For many years, the aircraft effectively supported the Indian diaspora by flying to important western locations like the UK, the US, and Canada. The aircraft was used on the most challenging routes.

An era is slowly but surely drawing to an end with only a few airlines still operating the 747 and only four more of the type remaining to be delivered. The deregistration of the aircraft by India’s aviation authority, the DGCA, is a clear sign that the days of the jumbo jets are numbered and appears to be a final step in sealing the destiny of Air India’s remaining Boeing 747 aircraft.

Also read: Four Air India Boeing 747s to be sold by UK-Based Skytech

Also read: DGCA deregisters Air India’s 4 Boeing 747 jumbo jets

Towards the end

Boeing had previously stated that it would discontinue producing the 747 in 2020, even in freighter form, as clients opted to purchase the more fuel-efficient 777 freighters or save money by converting previous 747 passenger aircraft into freighters. In 2019, even the rival Airbus discontinued the A380, its two-level jumbo jet.

Also read: End of the line for the “Queen of the skies”?

B747 in Washington State factory, ending its 50-year production run
The last B747 leaves the Washington state manufacturing line on Tuesday, on its way to serve as a cargo plane

Boeing hasn’t built a passenger version of the plane since it delivered the last one to Korean Airlines in 2017. The final 747 will be purchased by Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, who will fly it for Swiss logistics provider Kuehne+Nagel. Before being delivered to Atlas in the early part of next year, Tuesday’s final aircraft will be flown to another Boeing plant shop for finishing touches like painting and other smaller details. 

Last B747 client Atlas Air
The final 747 will be purchased by Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings

Delta was the last American airline to use the 747 for passenger flights, ending its use in 2017. Its ongoing appeal was demonstrated by the fact that the last US 747 passenger flights, operated by both Delta and United, attracted sizable crowds of the plane’s devotees.

According to Aviation Analytics Company Cirium, 44 passenger versions of the 747 are still in operation today. Lufthansa flies 25 of those, which is more than half of them. However, Cirium reports that there are still 314 B747 freighters in operation, many of which were originally employed as passenger planes before being converted to freighters.

After 53 years and more than 1,570 planes, the world bows the “Queen of the Skies” as it leaves the Washington state manufacturing line on Tuesday, on its way to serve as a cargo plane.