December 6, 2022, was the day that the last four-engined aircraft of the Boeing Company left its 60-year home in the city of Everett, northern Washington state, wearing the same pale green as usual. Atlas Air owns this cargo version of the Boeing 747-8. It is the end of the 54-year reign of the Queen, who has always enjoyed her throne in the land of the heavens, and now she has to join eternity in the company of her subjects.
In this article, we are trying to take a step-by-step look at the life history and then the extinguishing of the life candle of this magnificent bird, the “Queen of the Skies.”
The Mid 60s: At a time when there is still no news of Boeing’s European rival, this American company with the Boeing 707 aircraft is competing with the other two giants of this story, i.e., Lockheed Martin with the L-1011 Tristar and McDonnell Douglas with the legendary DC-8 is Despite the relative success of American planes, Juan Tripe (CEO of Pan AM) wants Boeing to build an airplane with at least twice the capacity of the B707, considering the terrible growth of air traffic.
1965: Boeing understood the market’s needs, and Joe Sutter, one of its design managers, from the Boeing 737 design project to work on the new aircraft. Aware of the Pan AM company’s request, Joe Sutter first proposed designing a two-story version of the Boeing 707. Still, as time passed and Sutter’s plan was ahead of the existing capabilities and technologies, the goal was to build a four-engine plane with a small second floor. It is agreed in front of the body. Unlike Sutter’s original design, the cockpit is moved to the second floor of the aircraft to allow for the installation of a nose door for cargo versions.
April 1966: The final assembly plant of Boeing 747 has yet to be built, but Pan AM Company signs a contract to purchase 25 Boeing 747-100 aircraft worth 545 million dollars (equivalent to 3.5 billion dollars today).
June 1966: A 320-acre plot of land in Everett suburbs, located north of Seattle, is purchased to build a Boeing 747 home. This factory is the largest artificial building and has been expanded several times throughout history.
September 30, 1968: The first Boeing 747 aircraft is taken off the production line, and a ceremony is held with the presence of American state and federal officials and 26 airlines ordering this bird. Boeing announces that it has spent about 1 billion dollars (equivalent to 6.2 billion dollars today) for the design and development of this bird.
February 9, 1969: The first test flight of the Boeing 747 is conducted by pilots Jack Waddel and Brien Wygle and flight engineer Jess Wallick. Despite a technical defect in one of the flaps, FAA engineers and inspectors are satisfied with the flight of the new plane.
December 1969: Things are not going very well for Boeing. The engines installed on the B747’s initial model, i.e., 4 JT9D machines manufactured by Pratt & Whitney, suffer from stalling when the throttle lever is moved quickly, and the company is forced to use non-enriched uranium in the tail of the aircraft to balance the body. An issue that some companies are Against. However, the deficiencies raised have been resolved, and Boeing got FAA approval for its new product by the end of this month.
January 15, 1970: The official unveiling ceremony of the Boeing 747 takes place with the presence of the First Lady of the White House and President Nixon’s wife, Pat Nixon. Instead of champagne, the red, white, and blue liquid is used.
January 22, 1970: The first Boeing 747 is delivered to Pan AM. The initial version of the Boeing 747, the B747-100, has a length of 70.7 meters and a wingspan of 59.6 meters and can carry up to 366 passengers in business class and 440 passengers in economy class. The first flight of the delivered aircraft is supposed to take place in the evening of the same day, but due to the damage of one of the engines due to high heat, this flight will be delayed for about 6 hours to replace the engine.
February 1971: More than 110 Boeing 747s were delivered to airlines in less than two years, tickling Boeing executives to develop the next generation. The length of the second floor of the B747-200 aircraft will be added to carry more passengers. Three hundred ninety-three planes of different versions of this bird were built until 1991.
October 1972: The interest of Japanese companies and other Southeast Asian airlines made a new version of the Boeing 747 to be built. Due to the high volume of passengers in this part of the world, an understanding of the 100 model with a more muscular body and the possibility of carrying more passengers (from 440 to 498 people) but with fewer fuel tanks and range is called B747-100SR (SR is an abbreviation Short Range is made.
Oil crisis of 1973: the lack of fuel and its rising price in the world and especially in the United States, finally affected Boeing and some companies due to the decrease in the number of passengers and the fact that the Boeing 747 has four engines, their orders cancel Some look to Boeing’s three-engine rivals, the L-1011 Tristar and the DC-10. The financial situation of the companies is so bad that some convert their 747s into cargo models to compensate for the costs.
May 1974: Airbus company introduced the first twin-engine wide-body airplane, Airbus A300, to customers. Although Airbus has proven it possible to build a wide-body aircraft with two engines, Boeing executives are not yet feeling threatened.
February 1976: The routes between New York and the Middle East are very much on the market, and Iran Air and Pan AM requested Boeing to develop a version that could cover this route and cross the Atlantic Ocean. To solve this problem, Boeing currently has no choice but to keep the dimensions of the wings constant and shorten the length of the plane to increase the range. The Boeing 747SP is 14 meters shorter than the B747-100 and can only carry up to 400 passengers, but thanks to its more enormous wings, it can reach a range of 10,500 km. Forty-five cars of this model were made.
June 1978: Boeing decided to develop a new aircraft based on the B747-100SR version. This plane is supposed to achieve a more extended range (about 9300 km) and a maximum weight of 340 tons. The new aircraft, called the B747-100B, is the first Boeing 747 to be offered with three custom engines, and Saudi Airlines and Iran Air are ordering a total of nine of this model.
April 1988: Things are still going according to the Queen of the Skies and Boeing engineers, who previously introduced the 300 models in October 1982 with a maximum capacity of 590 passengers, have now developed the largest passenger aircraft in history, the 400 series, with a maximum capacity of 660 passengers. They go to the market. The second floor of the 400 series is about 7 meters longer than the previous model and uses the newer PW4062 or RB211-524, or CF6-80C2 engines with lower fuel consumption.
1989: ICAO (International Passenger Aviation Organization) reduces the limit of two-engine airplanes over the ocean and publishes the ETOPS-180 protocol. According to this protocol, twin-engine planes can be up to 180 minutes from the nearest ground airport during their flight routes. Previously, this limit was only 120 minutes.
Things need to be looking more suitable for the 747. The ETOPS-180 protocol is practically an arrow aimed at the heart of the Queen of the skies; Because now airlines no longer see a requirement to use 4-engine planes to manage their flight routes over the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and can use less fuel-efficient, two-engine versions. To maintain its sales market position, Boeing developed the Boeing 777 wide-body aircraft with two engines. This is the first time Boeing has had to sacrifice one of its favorite products to stay competitive.
August 1990: Well-dressed American politicians are okay with owning a more luxurious version of the 747. A version of the B747-200B, called the VC-25A, is being built for the presidency, equipped with unique amenities and satellite communications.
August 2007: Airbus company presents the world’s largest passenger plane to Boeing. With the unveiling of the “true double-decker” A380, the Boeing 747 400 series is no longer the largest passenger plane ever built, and its position as the Queen of the skies is again in jeopardy.
February 2010: Boeing is trying to keep the 747 projects alive; this time, it will enter the more advanced version of the B747-8. The new version of the Boeing 747 is about 6 meters longer than the 400 series, uses more composite materials in its body, and consumes 6% less fuel.
April 2021: production of Airbus A380 – the direct competitor of the Boeing 747 – due to the decrease in the number of orders, the particular sales of the Boeing 777, and the desire of most companies to buy regional jets, sends this message to the 747 that its life is over. The end of the line has been reached. Currently, the orders for the B747 passenger model have fewer than fingers, and the rest are for its cargo version.
December 2022: The last Boeing 747 (B-747F, to be precise) rolls off the assembly line from its eternal factory in Everett and heads to the paint shop to be engraved with the Atlas Air logo.