The last Boeing 747, the original “Jumbo Jet” that revolutionized air travel, was delivered to charter carrier Atlas Air, ending 55 years of production.
A freighter version of the last commercial Boeing 747 jumbo jet will be delivered to Atlas Air on January 31, 2023.
In the late 1960s, Pan Am airline founder Juan Trippe, who wanted to cut costs by increasing the number of seats on aircraft, challenged Boeing President William Allen to make a plane that dwarfed the 707.
Engineer Joe Sutter and his team, known as “the Incredibles”, took just 28 months to develop the 747 before its maiden flight on February 9, 1969.
Due to the 747’s monumental size, a new 5.6 million cubic-meter assembly plant had to be built in Everett, Washington – becoming the world’s largest building by volume.
The early years were riddled with problems, caused in part by the 1970s oil crisis, and the $1 billion development cost almost bankrupted Boeing. But by 1989, the plane's heyday had arrived thanks to the 747-400 revision that brought new engines and lighter materials – making it a perfect fit to meet the growing demand for trans-Pacific flights.
Today, a similar surge in innovation that birthed the 747 has also spelled its demise, as cheaper-to-run, less polluting dual-engine jets replace it.
The next-generation Boeing 777X will not be ready until at least 2025, following a series of delays.