After 53 years and more than 1,570 aircraft, the last Boeing 747 rolled off the assembly line in Washington state Tuesday evening, bound for duty as a freighter.
The once groundbreaking juggernaut, with its distinctive second-floor bulge, is arguably the most iconic and popular aircraft Boeing has ever built. In fact, it was big enough to carry the space shuttle from the California runways to the launch site in Florida. A new file type is being uploaded. The spacecraft will be from Virgin Orbit Al next week after she carries it up under her wings.
The 747 was once the choice of the glamorous rich and even royalty. Several films, including the 1973 James Bond classic “Live and Let Die,” have been shown on board, or sets made to look like the top deck’s first-class lounge. The 747 continues to serve as Air Force One, as it has since 1990. Two aircraft that have already been assembled are in service and are currently being converted to the next generation of Air Force One. These aircraft will not be delivered for the next four years due to delays.
Aside from that use, the 747’s days as an airliner are almost entirely behind it. Airlines moving away from fuel-guzzling four-engine planes like the 747. Airbus’s rival
(EADSF) A jumbo biplane was shot down by an A380 in 2019.
Boeing indicated in 2020 that it would stop building the 747, even in its freighter form, as customers either bought the more fuel-efficient 777 freighter or saved money by refurbishing earlier 747 airliners for freighters. It has not yet announced plans for its Everett, Washington, plant, It built the 747 but expects to keep it open. To build the huge plane, the facility would have 200 million cubic feet of space, which Boeing says is the largest building in the world by volume.
Passenger versions of the plane can carry 400 to 500 passengers, with a maximum capacity of twice as many passengers as one of Boeing’s current wide-body aircraft, the 787-8 Dreamliner. But Boeing hasn’t made a passenger version of the 747 since it last delivered one to Korean Air in 2017. This last 747 goes to Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings.
(AAWW), which will operate the aircraft for the Swiss logistics company Kuehne + Nagel. The final plane will be moved to another shop at Boeing’s factory on Tuesday for paint and other final touches before being delivered to Atlas early next year.
According to flight analysis company Cirium, only 44 passenger versions of the 747 are still in service. More than half of them – 25 – travel on Lufthansa flights.
The total is down from the more than 130 in passenger traffic at the end of 2019, before the pandemic crippled demand for air travel, particularly on international routes where 747s and other widebody aircraft were primarily used. Most of the passenger versions of the planes were grounded in the early months of the pandemic and never returned to service.
But according to Cirium, there are still 314,747 cargo ships in operation, many of which were originally used as passenger aircraft before being refurbished and converted into cargo ships.
UPS said in 2020 when Boeing indicated it will soon stop building jets. “With a maximum payload of 307,000 pounds, we use them on long, large routes connecting Asia, North America, Europe and the Middle East.”
At 250 feet, 2 inches, the current version of the 747 is the longest commercial airliner now in operation, or about twice the length of the Wright brothers’ maiden flight. It has a wingspan of 224 feet 5 inches.
Boeing delivered its first 747 in December 1969 to two defunct airlines: TWA and Pan Am. Delta Airlines
(DAL) It was the last US airline to fly a passenger version of the plane, also in 2017. This past year saw the last US 747 passenger flight – by both Delta and United
(UAL) It attracted large crowds of aviation enthusiasts, a testament to its enduring popularity.
CNN’s Jackie Wattles contributed to this report
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Virgin had used the 747 to launch rockets into space.