Boeing 747 at 50 years.

30th September 1968

50 years ago as the world’s first jumbo jet was revealed at Paine Field, it changed the face of aviation as we know it.

The star of the show was a shiny new 747 with the Federal Aviation Administration tail number N7470, It’s Boeing serial number, RA001.

The 747’s fuselage stretched two-thirds the length of a football field at 231 feet. Its wingspan measured 196 feet. The tail the height of a six-story building.

The Brainchild behind the now iconic ‘Queen of the skies’ was Joe Sutter, little did he realise the effect his design would change the face of aviation forever.

”Two-and-a-half times bigger than any plane in service,” wrote Sutter in his 2006 book. Capable of carrying over 400 passengers with a range of 4,620 nautical miles this iconic aircraft was a game changer and the first of its kind.

The program cost $1B USD in 1968 and today that would be valued at $7B. The 747 was so successful Boeing went on to develop it further starting from the Boeing 747-100, The 747-200 soon followed, with its launch in 1968. The 747-300 was launched in 1980 and was followed by the 747-400 in 1985. Ultimately, the 747-8 was announced in 2005.

1,548 have been built so far but with the modern technology being developed in today’s aviation technology it has made the 747 less economically viable and has slowly led to many airlines retiring their fleet of 747’s.

Despite it’s decline the 747 is still widely used as a freighter aircraft, Atlas Air are the largest freight user of the 747 at a total of 37.


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Jake Smith
Jake Smith
Director of Special Projects - Jake is an experienced aviation journalist and strategic leader, regularly contributing to the commercial aviation section of Travel Radar alongside leading strategy and innovation including livestreaming and our store.


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