Boeing said goodbye to its icon, the 747: why it built the model

Boeing bid farewell to an icon Tuesday with the delivery of its last 747 jumbo jet as thousands of workers who helped build the planes for the past 55 years watched.

Since its debut in 1969, the gigantic yet elegant 747 has served as a cargo aircraft, a commercial airliner with seating for nearly 500 passengers, a shuttle for NASA’s space shuttles, and as Air Force One’s presidential aircraft. It revolutionized air travel. connecting cities in different countries that had never had direct routes before and contributed to democratizing passenger flights.

the last 747

But in the last decade and a half, Boeing and its European competitor Airbus have come out with more cost-effective and more fuel-efficient planes, with just two engines instead of the four that the 747 required. The latest plane is the 1,574th built by Boeing in the Puget Sound region in Washington state.

Thousands of workers joined Boeing and other industry executives from around the world “as well as actor and pilot John Travolta, who has flown 747s” for a ceremony at the company’s massive factory north of Seattle on Tuesday. of the delivery of the last one to the cargo company Atlas Air.

“No one wants a four-engine anymore, but that won’t erase the airplane’s tremendous contribution to the development of the industry or its remarkable legacy,” said veteran aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia.

Why Boeing built the 747

Boeing set out to build the 747 after losing a contract for a massive military transport, the C-5A.

The idea was to take advantage of the new engines developed for transport “high bypass turbofan engines, which consumed less fuel by passing air around the engine core, allowing greater flight range” and use them for a civil aircraft. just imagined.

It took Boeing’s more than 50,000 workers less than 16 months to build the first 747.

Production of the jumbo jet required the construction of a massive factory in Everett, north of Seattle, the world’s largest building by volume. The factory was not even finished when the first planes were finished.

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