More than a half-century ago, Boeing unveiled the 747, a massive aircraft that brought air travel to the masses. Nicknamed the “Queen of the Skies,” it may be the most widely recognized commercial airplane in the world. “It’s one of the great ones,” said Shea Oakley, who runs an aviation history consulting firm and is a former executive director of the Aviation Hall of Fame and Museum of New Jersey. “If you had to make a list of the 10 most important airplanes ever built since the Wright Flyer, the 747 needs to be on that list. It was a quantum leap.”
The 747 was made from around six million parts produced all over the world, at a factory in Everett, Washington. That plant, generally regarded as the world’s largest building by volume, was built for the 747 in the 1960s. It has remained home to 747 assembly down to the final one, No. 1,574.
We should all salute this majestic aircraft for its rich history, but we can take comfort from understanding that its flying days are far from over. When airplanes fall out of certification for passenger travel, they can still be used for several decades for freight transport. As aircraft age they are maintained and patched and continue in service unless the frame somehow gets damaged. When grounded, planes can be cut apart and recycled, and many wind up at desert boneyards such as those in Arizona. Watch an overview on the last 747 built here. Story and photos courtesy of the NY Times.
1. The final Boeing 747 is rolled out.
2. The first Boeing 747 at the plant in Washington State in September 1968.Credit…Agence France-Presse, via Getty Images
3. The cavernous fuselage interior. The plane’s long life is remarkable partly because its start was so uncertain.
4. Cranes lift the rear fuselage into position during the final body join.
5. An electric tug is used to guide the engine into place
6. Sherri Mui is a general mechanic who worked on the 747.
7. Tyler Pettersen, a mechanic, worked on the last plane. His father, Scott Pettersen, spent nearly four decades as a mechanic on the 747 before retiring.
8. The huge size of the 747 can be seen in perspective in this photo showing workers unhooking crane cables from the vertical fin as it is attached to the plane.