Boeing bid farewell to their iconic 747 jumbo jet on Tuesday as they are delivering its final batch of planes.
Since its first flight in 1969, the giant yet graceful 747 has served as a cargo plane, a commercial aircraft capable of carrying nearly 500 passengers.
It revolutionized travel, connecting international cities that had never before had direct routes and helping democratize passenger flight.
The final plane is the 1,574th built by Boeing in the Puget Sound region of Washington State.
A big crowd of current and former Boeing workers are expected for the final send-off. The last one is being delivered to cargo carrier Atlas Air.
Boeing set out to build the 747 after losing a contract for a huge military transport, the C-5A. The idea was to take advantage of the new engines developed for the transport high-bypass turbofan engines, which burned less fuel by passing air around the engine core, enabling a farther flight range and to use them for a newly imagined civilian aircraft.
It took more than 50,000 Boeing workers less than 16 months to churn out the first 747 a Herculean effort that earned them the nickname “The Incredibles.”
The jumbo jet’s production required the construction of a massive factory in Everett, north of Seattle the world’s largest building by volume.
The first 747 entered service in 1970 on Pan Am’s New York-London route, and its timing was terrible, Aboulafia said.
It debuted shortly before the oil crisis of 1973, amid a recession that saw Boeing’s employment fall from 100,800 employees in 1967 to a low of 38,690 in April 1971.
The “Boeing bust” was infamously marked by a billboard near the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport that read, “Will the last person leaving SEATTLE Turn out the lights.”
The company announced last May that it would move its headquarters from Chicago to Arlington, Virginia, putting its executives closer to key federal government officials and the Federal Aviation Administration, which certifies Boeing passenger and cargo planes.
Meanwhile, Boeing’s relationship with the FAA has been strained since deadly crashes of its best-selling plane, the 737 Max, in 2018 and 2019.
The FAA took nearly two years a time far longer than Boeing expected to approve design changes and allow the plane back in the air.
Writing by Tersoo Nicholas