Boeing is giving its iconic 747 jumbo jet a grand sendoff today, marking the end of a 55-year era, and you can watch the celebration online.
Thousands of onlookers — including past and present Boeing employees, customers, suppliers and VIPs — are expected to gather at the company’s factory in Everett, Wash., for a 1 p.m. PT ceremony marking the handover of Boeing’s last 747 to Atlas Air. Video of the event will be streamed live via Vimeo.
Atlas Air will operate the 747-8 cargo freighter on behalf of Apex Logistics, a freight forwarder majority-owned by Switzerland’s Kuehne+Nagel Group.
Due to the evolution of the aviation industry, Boeing’s 747 jets have primarily been sold to cargo carriers in recent years. Smaller, more fuel-efficient jets such as the single-aisle 737 and the wide-body 777 and 787 Dreamliner are typically preferred nowadays for passenger service.
But back in 1968, when the first 747 rolled off Boeing’s assembly line, the jumbo design revolutionized airline service. “We’re talking about one of the most important airplanes in all of history,” Mike Lombardi, senior corporate historian at Boeing, said in a video preview.
Nonstop routes that were previously impossible came within reach. Because the 747’s passenger capacity could be boosted to more than 400, economies of scale made airline trips more affordable.
“This airplane democratized flight, because of its size, because of its range, because of the economy of this airplane,” Lombardi said. “Everyday people around the world were able to buy a ticket and fly on a 747.”
More than 1,500 of the planes were produced. And as the world’s first wide-body jetliner, the 747 “provided the blueprint, the groundwork for every airplane that followed,” Lombardi said.
Over the decades, Boeing’s “Queen of the Skies” was immortalized in movies ranging from “Airport ’77” and “Air Force One” to the 2020 sci-fi movie “Tenet.”
Although this is the end of the line for Boeing’s 747 production, it’s far from the end of the story for the planes themselves. With proper maintenance, the jumbo jets can remain in operation for a quarter-century or more — which means there’s a chance that the Queen of the Skies will extend its reign into the 2050s.