Flight Plan

Carrying US Presidents and passengers, cargo and space shuttle

Ashwini Phadnis | Updated on: Feb 05, 2019

In its 50-year history, the Boeing 747 has transported fliers, carried American Presidents and flown into space, apart from transporting goods from one end of the world to the other.

The incentive for creating the 747 — manufactured by the over-a-century-old Boeing company, the world’s largest aerospace company and leading manufacturer of commercial jetliners, defence, space and security systems, and service provider of after-market support — came because of reduction in airfares, a surge in traffic and increasingly crowded skies.

The 747’s final design was offered in three configurations: all-passenger, all-cargo and a convertible passenger/freighter model. Here is a brief look at the landmark moments in the Jumbo’s history:

The first Boeing 747-100 rolled out on September 30, 1968, and the aircraft made its flight on February 9, 1969.

The first commercial flight of the Jumbo was on January 21, 1970, from New York to London, donning the blue and white colours of the now defunct Pan Am.

In July 1974, the aircraft was bought by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration from American Airlines and under a $30-million contract from Rockwell International, Boeing started modifying the first Space Shuttle.

In January 1977, a modified Boeing 747 shuttle carrier aircraft was delivered to NASA.

The 747-200 holds approximately 440 passengers and has a range of about 5,600 nautical miles (10,371 km).

In December 1980, the 500th Boeing 747 rolled out at Everett, Washington, and the original Boeing manufacturing building, the “Red Barn,” moved to its final site at the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field in Seattle.

The 747-400 rolled out in 1988. Its wingspan is 212 feet (64 metres), and it has 6-foot-high (1.8 metre) ‘winglets’ on the wingtips. The 747-400 is also produced as a freighter, as a combination freighter and passenger model, and as a special domestic version, without the winglets, for shorter-range flights.

August 1990 saw the Boeing 747 getting the tag of Air Force 1 as a modified Boeing 747-200 B was delivered to the US Air Force and President George H.W. Bush. Before this, the US President flew on a Boeing 707.

In August 1999, major assembly began on a militarised 747-400 Freighter to be used as a platform for the US Air Force’s Airborne Laser (ABL) programme.

Boeing was the prime contractor for ABL, which was designed to provide a speed-of-light capability to destroy all classes of ballistic missiles in their boost phase of flight.

In November 2005, Boeing launched the 747-8 family with an order of 18 freighters for Cargolux and Nippon Air Cargo.

Boeing delivered the first 747-8 Intercontinental aircraft to an undisclosed Boeing Business Jet customer in February 2012, while Lufthansa was the first airline to take delivery of the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental aircraft in April of the same year.

On June 28, 2014, Boeing delivered the 1,500th 747 to come off the production line to Germany-based Lufthansa. The 747 is the first wide-body airplane in history to reach the 1,500 milestone.

As part of its 100-year celebrations, British Airways has announced that it will paint four of its aircraft in retro designs, starting with a Boeing 747 in the British Overseas Airways Corporation design, probably going to show how closely this aircraft has been connected with the history and success of the airline globally.

Source: Boeing & various websites

Published on February 05, 2019
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