The massive jet that has been compared to the Parthenon, mentioned in a Joni Mitchell song and dubbed “Queen of the Skies” is flying off into the sunset.
The final Boeing 747 will be delivered to cargo carrier Atlas Air on Tuesday following a ceremony at the US company’s factory in Washington state. When it debuted at the Paris Air Show in 1969, the plane captured the spirit of the jet age, and its capacity, efficiency, and range helped make commercial flights affordable to the masses.
“It democratized air travel,” said Michael Lombardi, a corporate historian at Boeing. “The 747 shrank the world.”
Boeing built 1,574 747s for more than 100 customers over the course of five decades. The tail is the height of a six-story building and travels at the rate of three soccer fields per second. The largest version could carry up to 500 passengers.
For years, Boeing has reduced production of the four-engine 747. After aviation regulators approved such aircraft for transatlantic flight in the 1980s, the market gradually shifted to favor more efficient twin-engined jets for even the longest routes. Although the ability to load cargo through the plane’s nose kept carriers ordering freighters for longer, Boeing delivered the last 747 designed to carry passengers to Korean Air in 2017.
Nonetheless, Boeing continued to manufacture the planes, owing largely to a single prestigious contract: Air Force One. The US president has flown on a souped-up 747 since 1990.