Boeing delivered the last-ever 747 on Tuesday marking the end of an era dominated by the plane dubbed “Queen of the Skies.”
In a ceremony that was broadcast live online, the aircraft was handed over to its new owner, US air cargo operator Atlas Air, at Boeing’s plant in Everett, Washington.
In a dramatic opening of the hangar’s sliding doors, Atlas Air’s new plane was revealed behind flags bearing the liveries of every carrier that’s ever taken delivery of a 747.
Thousands of Boeing employees – including some of the so-called “Incredibles” who developed the jet in the 1960s – watched the last delivery of the historic plane, which brought air travel to the masses.
John Dietrich, president and CEO of Atlas Air Worldwide, thanked the assembly of Boeing employees.
“The impact of your work continues well beyond the production lines,” Dietrich said. “It has fueled childhood dreams and career ambitions while at the same time driving global economies and supply chains.”
Boeing 747 “symbol for the world, which the 747 has made smaller”
A string of speakers representing companies that have relied on the 747 came to celebrate the aircraft.
“The 747 is a symbol for many, many things, and above all, I think it’s a symbol for the world, which the 747 has made substantially smaller,” said Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr.
Actor and pilot John Travolta, who narrated a series of videos chronicling the aircraft’s colorful history, appeared to thank the employees of Boeing for “the most well-thought-out and safest aircraft ever built.”
Customer demand for the Boeing 747 eroded
The 747 was the world’s first twin-aisle jetliner, which Boeing designed and built in 28 months and Pan Am introduced in 1970.
After five decades, customer demand for the 747 eroded as Boeing and Airbus developed more fuel-efficient two-engine widebody planes. When Boeing confirmed in July 2020 that it would end 747 production, it was already only producing at a rate of half an aircraft a month.
Boeing delivered five 747s in 2022, while in 1990, the peak delivery year of the bestselling 747-400 version, Boeing delivered 70 747s.
CNN says that as of December 2022, there are only 44 passenger versions of the 747 still in service, according to aviation analytics firm Cirium.
That total is down from more than 130 in service as passenger jets at the end of 2019, just before the pandemic crippled demand for air travel, especially on international routes on which the 747 and other widebody jets were primarily used.
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