After 53 years in production, the final commercial Boeing 747 was delivered to cargo carrier Atlas Air on Tuesday. On Wednesday it flew from Paine Field in Seattle to Cincinnati, drawing “747” in the sky and placing a crown on top to honor the “Queen of the Skies” as the aircraft has long been known.
The plane was originally developed with prodding and an order from Pan Am. Development was a bet the company event and came close to bankrupting the air frame manufacturer. However it wound up successful, and ultimately delivered nearly 1600 aircraft.
The aircraft was revolutionary for carrying more passengers, as a widebody with two aisles and an upper deck. That reduced seat costs. Ultimately the plane’s design, and four engines, turned its economics from an advantage into a liability. And newer, smaller more efficient planes allowed airlines to fly routes more frequently over long distances – bypassing the congested hubs that the 747 lived for.
— Boeing Airplanes (@BoeingAirplanes) February 1, 2023
Take a look at the flight path of the last Boeing 747 to be built. On its way from the Boeing factory to KCVG, base for Atlas Air (Callsign Giant), the owner. They drew a crown in the sky, in honor of “The Queen of the Skies“ pic.twitter.com/sWJ7qhhtGR
— LMBertke (@spoodyb) February 1, 2023
It’s the elegance of the plane, its hump and the staircase, that made it special. In many ways I prefer to fly Boeing 777s for a smoother ride in turbulence, the Airbus A380 for spaciousness that allows for more amenities (though piano bars were common in 747s in the early days), and Boeing 787s and Airbus A350s for pressurization to a lower altitude. Still, flying in the nose of a 747 is just as special as ascending the staircase to fly on its upper deck.
Lufthansa has the most passenger 747s still in service (8) but the plane is operated by Iran’s Mahan Air and Iraqi Airways, and Air China among others. Many more planes continue to fly as freighters.