The Boeing 747, a beloved commercial airplane for over five decades, has been fully retired by carriers in the US. In 2017, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines both retired the jet, marking the end of an era. After Delta’s merger with Northwest Airlines in 2008, the Boeing 747 returned to Delta’s fleet but was retired again less than a decade later.
Boeing is set to halt production of its 747 airliner by 2023 due to low demand for the latest variant. The 747, known as the Jumbo Jet, Queen of the Skies, and the Humpback, was the first dual-level passenger aircraft with four jet engines and is an iconic symbol of aviation.
The History Of the 747
In the mid-1960s, Boeing initially designed the 747 passenger jet as a successor to its popular 707 model. The purpose of this new aircraft was to offer airlines increased seating capacity, range, and additional amenities like onboard lounges and bars to meet the growing demand for air travel.
Despite making its maiden flight in 1969, the 747 did not become operational until 22 January 1970, when it was introduced by Pan American World Airways. This aircraft’s introduction firmly established America as a dominant player in aircraft manufacturing for several decades.
Following the success of the 707, airlines such as Pan American were already looking for larger and more advanced aircraft. Boeing used its recent experience from competing for a military transport contract to develop the 747 project.
The aircraft was produced by a team of over 50 000 employees at a new assembly plant in Everett, Washington, known as “The Incredibles” and led by veteran Joe Sutter. The Boeing 747-100 was the very first variant of this new aircraft, featuring four engines and two levels, making it the first jet aircraft of its kind.
How Many 747s Were Made Initially?
Initially, the Lockheed L-1011 (introduced in 1972) and McDonnell Douglas DC-10 (1971) competed with the smaller trijet widebodies, and later, the MD-11 (1990). Airbus competed with heavier A340 variants until surpassing the 747’s size with the A380 (delivered between 2007 and 2021).
The 747 remains popular with cargo airlines, but the final 747 was delivered to Atlas Air in January 2023 after a 54-year production run that produced 1 574 aircraft. Unfortunately, 64 Boeing 747s have been lost in accidents and incidents, resulting in a total of 3 746 fatalities as of January 2023.
Which Airlines Still Fly The 747?
In 2020, Qantas, KLM, and British Airways retired their entire 747 fleets, making the aircraft increasingly rare in passenger operations. However, the Boeing 747 remains a popular choice among cargo operators just like a mega casino bonus remains an attractive incentive to gamblers. Despite this, there are still some airlines that have the jumbo jet in their passenger fleet, and travellers may still have the opportunity to come across flights on the “Queen of the Skies.”
Unfortunately, the list of remaining Boeing 747 operators is short and appears to be getting shorter.
Currently, most of the passenger 747s still in operation are either from the Boeing 747-400 or the Boeing 747-8 subfamilies. Simple Flying analysed data from ch-aviation.com and FlightRadar24.com to identify which aircraft are still in use.