Book Flights

Qantas 747 – a pictorial tribute to 49 years

This week Qantas will perform a series of 747 joy flights ahead of the departure of its last jumbo to the California desert after 49 years of faithful service.

There will be no cheers just tears.

Below we publish some never before seen pictures of the airline’s fleet of 747s that has numbered 77 over the past 49 years.

She has carried millions of Aussies to the world.

SEE: Is this the most magnificent 747 ever built.?

Here is the airline’s first 747-200B over Boeing’s factory at Everett, Washington State.

Credit: Boeing Historical Archives

And here is the first Qantas 747 posing with one of the airline’s 707s, along with the Boeing 737 demonstrator in Australia for a sales tour. Boeing would sell over 200 737s in Australia to Ansett, Australian Airlines, Qantas, and Virgin Australia as well as the Air Force.

Credit: Boeing Historical Archives

Qantas’s 747-200Bs initially featured the Captain Cook Lounge for First Class passengers on the upper deck.

Credit Qantas

Qantas’s first 747 did a tour of Australia in 1971 and this is the scene at Perth Airport where tens of thousands turn out to see the Qantas 747 jumbo.

Credit: WA Battye Library

On the ground, an adoring public was able to get up close and personal with the giant Qantas 747.

Credit: WA Battye Library

Qantas opted for the 747SP to perform two missions – get into New Zealand’s Wellington Airport with its short runway and cross the Pacific nonstop.

Credit: Boeing Historical Archives

Boeing’s Everett factory north of Seattle in the late 80s when Qantas took delivery of its first 747-400 that could fly nonstop across the Pacific and from Singapore to London nonstop. Note the Qantas 747-400 at the bottom right.

Credit: Boeing Historical Archives

Qantas’s 100th Boeing aircraft a 747-400.

Credit: Boeing Historical Archives

Qantas painted two 747s with magnificent aboriginal inspired designs. Wunala Dreaming was inspired by the natural colours of Australia, from the bright reds of Central Australia, to the purple-blues of desert mountain ranges, and the lush greens of Kakadu.


Credit: Qantas

Nalanji Dreaming, below, is a celebration of the balance and harmony of nature in Australia. The artwork Nalanji Dreaming reflects the lush colour palette of tropical Australia. The themes of the coast and reef were designed to complement the Red Centre and Northern Territory and motifs of Wunala Dreaming, launched the previous year.

Credit Qantas

Aviation royalty at the handover of Qantas’s first 747-400ER. L:R Boeing Commercial Airplanes then-president Alan Mullaly, Qantas Ambassador-at-Large John Travolta, and the airplane’s chief design, the late Joe Sutter.

Credit: Geoffrey Thomas

Is this most luxurious 747 ever built?

It is stunning – just stunning, and certainly the most magnificent 747 ever built and it could be yours for about US$400 million.

Actually, the price is confidential but you know the saying if you need to ask the price you can’t afford it!

But $US400 million would be a good guess for this opulent beauty.

Pictures via The Drive

The magnificent 747-8 belongs to the Qatari government and only has 1,100 hours on the clock and importantly just 269 cycles on the engines.

READ: Boom supersonic jet readies for rollout.

For the record, it was built in 2012 and is currently located at AMAC Aerospace in Basel Switzerland.

It is fitted out for a crew of 18 and 89 very well connected passengers.

Amongst the appointments are; master bedroom in the nose, guest bedroom, living rooms, lounges, offices, nine lavatories, and five galleys.

Did someone ask about entertainment?

Try this…

  • Five (5) GES (Global Entertainment Servers) connected in series via Ethernet, to store and manage the distribution of AVOD audio/video and/or audio-only media.
  • Each GES can manage up to 20 AVOD clients
  • Camera systems (video only)
  • IPod / HD port (audio/video) HDMI/USB/IPod/RCA
  • 13 Blu-ray players (audio/video)\
  • AVOD system (audio/video)
  • Airshow Moving map (video only)
  • Live TV/radio (audio/video)
  • HD Cameras (FWD CAM, DN ZOOM) and Quad cam in anti-intrusion system
    (PA) System
  • 55” monitor X 5
  • 46” monitor X 4
  • 40” monitor X 1
  • 32” monitor X 1
  • 17.3” VTS Monitor X 2
  • 15.6” VTS Monitor X 31
  • IFE speakers
  • Subwoofers
  • Headphone jack plugs
  • Cabin Management System with Five (5) 15.6” CMS VTS
  • GCS Panasonic eXConnect Ku-band system provides broadband internet connectivity as well as eXTV global television service.
  • Honeywell JetWave Ka-band connectivity system is also installed.
  • Honeywell CX900 router makes it possible to provide fall back option in case one of the connectivity systems is not available, in the sequence of Ka, Ku and SBB system.

Here are some more snaps for your bucket list album.

Firstly here are the seating options – not an economy class seat in sight!


Click here for the full brochure;


Boom supersonic jet readies for rollout

The supersonic age for passengers will roll out on October 7th when Boom unveils its XB-1 scaled prototype of the future of top-end air travel.

The XB-1 rollout is a major milestone for Boom and for the future of commercial supersonic travel.

As the first independently-developed supersonic jet, XB-1 is paving the way for mainstream supersonic travel and supporting the development of its supersonic airliner, Overture.

The fuselage is complete, the wings tested and installed and the engines are ready to fire up.

In April, the manufacturing team installed XB-1’s wing to the forward fuselage in a quick and seamless operation.

Boom says that it has made significant progress to the aft fuselage build-up which hosts the XB-1’s three supersonic engines.

The XB-1’s titanium aft fuselage can withstand temperatures in excess of 800°F.

Drop tests for XB-1’s nose and main landing gears are also underway, while the pilots are training in the flight simulator.

Boom Supersonic is the only private supersonic company funded all the way through to flight test says chief executive Blake Scholl.

Mr. Scholl told AirlineRatings in an exclusive interview at last year’s Paris Air Show that there would be many thousands of test-flight hours for the XB-1.

The prototype is a proof of concept before production of a full scale 50-seat supersonic airliner, to be called the “Overture”.

The timeline for the planned entry into airline service has now also slipped from the previously envisaged 2023-24 to between 2025 and 2027.

But Mr. Scholl revealed interest among airlines was huge, adding: “We talked to almost every airline doing long-haul on the planet”.

Boom’s first major airline partner in the development of the first privately built supersonic airliner and the second ever after Concorde, retired in 2003, is Japan Airlines with an option for 20 aircraft.

“The important role of JAL is to help us make the aircraft practical, they help us with passenger experience and operations”, said Mr. Scholl.

The Boom chief said at the time “we’ve already learned a ton from them and they’ll help us to build an aircraft that they’ll be happy to have as well as many other airlines.

“They want to enjoy a first-mover advantage in supersonic and have invested 10 million dollars.”

Boom supersonic delayed
Boom CEO Blake Scholl. Photo: Andreas Spaeth

The deal with JAL was something that didn’t come lightly but was the result of a thorough two-year evaluation process behind the scenes. The project’s other airline partner, with ten aircraft options, is Virgin Atlantic.


Aurora Borealis from a 747 cockpit

This stunning picture of Aurora Borealis was taken from a 747 cockpit by pilot Christiaan van Heijst over the North Pole.

Christiaan takes up the story;

“The Aurora Borealis: one of the most impressive natural phenomena in the world. It doesn’t occur all the time and I have to be lucky with a night flight across the Arctic on my schedule, but every now and then it all comes perfectly together.

“A hazy green veil among the stars, or a violent storm of bright flaming curtains in various colors and hues. So many variations and never the same.

“When looking at the dancing lights, especially the fiery displays, always wonder what the impressions were of the first human beings that saw them. Fear and apprehension, maybe. Reverence, most likely.

“No matter how many times I see them, I’m still taken away in awe. Something so imposing, so gracious and so enchanting. Even when flying at forty-thousand feet, the aurora is glowing far above me, even extending up to the orbit of the ISS.

“It makes me feel humble and in admiration of the natural wonder of the universe, no matter how well I understand the physics behind the lights.

“For those first human tribes that ventured into the big unknown during their migrations, this must have been a life-changing event. Without a logical explanation to comfort and reassure them, it must have been a profound spiritual experience without a doubt. A visit from their Gods to the realm of mortals.

“I’m sitting here all by myself for a few minutes, contemplating on the exotic glow in the sky around me. This far above the polar circle, two cargonauts in their flying machine are the only human presence for hundreds of miles around.

“My colleague returns to the flight deck with a fresh cup of coffee for himself and a tray with my heated meal. Dinner with a view of Shangri-la.”

Christiaan is one of the world’s leading aviation photographers and more of his work and more close encounter (s) can be found here.

You can follow Christiaan on Instagram here: @jpcvanheijst

Etihad Airways gradually resumimg services to more destinations

Etihad Airways is gradually resuming services to more destinations across its global network.

The airline said this follows the easing of travel restrictions by UAE regulatory authorities on outbound and inbound travel for citizens and residents.

Etihad says that throughout July and August, subject to the lifting of international restrictions and the re-opening of individual markets, it plans to fly to 58 destinations worldwide from its Abu Dhabi hub. These will include major gateways in the Middle East, North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

READ: Travelers taking precautions but still wary of air travel

The return to a larger network of international flights will be supported by the airline’s Wellness sanitisation and safety programme, which it says ensures the highest standards of hygiene are maintained at every stage of the customer journey.

This includes specially trained “Wellness Ambassadors,” a first in the industry, who have been introduced by the airline to provide essential travel health information and care on the ground and on every flight, so guests can fly with greater ease and peace of mind.


Tony Douglas, Group Chief Executive Officer, Etihad Aviation Group, said in a statement: “We are delighted to announce the gradual expansion of normal scheduled services to more cities across our global network. The easing of restrictions on travel to and from the UAE is an important first step and a great development for Abu Dhabi. By August we aim to operate approximately 45 per cent of our pre-COVID capacity.

“While we have continued to operate a schedule of special passenger, cargo and humanitarian flights over the last few months, the priority is now to build the network back up on markets that have opened up and to provide a secure and hygienic flying environment across the entire guest journey.

“Over the last few months, we have seized every opportunity to improve our processes, review our product offering, and to undertake the biggest fleet maintenance programme in our history. We are tremendously grateful to our customers and partners for their continued loyalty.”

Subject to the applicable government approvals, Etihad says its summer schedule will feature a wider network and increased frequencies to the following destinations from, to, or via Abu Dhabi:

North America: Chicago, New York JFK, Toronto, Washington, D.C.

Europe: Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Belgrade, Brussels, Dublin, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Geneva, Istanbul, London Heathrow, Madrid, Manchester, Milan, Moscow, Munich, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Rome, Zurich

Middle East & Africa: Amman, Bahrain, Beirut, Cairo, Casablanca, Kuwait, Muscat, Rabat, Riyadh, Seychelles

Asia: Ahmedabad, Baku, Bangkok, Bengaluru, Chennai, Colombo, Delhi, Hyderabad, Islamabad, Jakarta, Karachi, Kochi, Kolkata, Kozhikode, Kuala Lumpur, Lahore, Male, Manila, Mumbai, Seoul, Singapore, Thiruvananthapuram, Tokyo

Australasia: Melbourne, Sydney

Those wishing to book are advised to visit to view their options and to remain informed on the appropriate entry regulations at their end destination.

Flights are also available for booking through the mobile app, by calling the Etihad Airways Contact Centre on +971 600 555 666 (UAE), or through a local or online travel agency.

More information on the comprehensive measures being taken by Etihad Airways to provide a healthy and hygienic travel experience is available at


Air travelers taking precautions but still concerned

Air travelers are taking precautions to protect themselves but are still wary of travel according to the International Air Transport Association.

IATA has just released public opinion research showing the willingness to travel being tempered by concerns over the risks of catching COVID-19 during air travel.

The survey found that 77 percent are saying that they are washing their hands more frequently, 71 percent avoiding large meetings and 67 percent having worn a facemask in public.

Some 58 percent of those surveyed said that they have avoided air travel, with 33 percent suggesting that they will avoid travel in the future as a continued measure to reduce the risk of catching COVID-19.

The top concerns of air travelers are;

1. Sitting next to someone who might be infected (65 percent)

2.Queuing at check-in/security/border control or boarding (42 per cent)

3.Using airport restrooms/toilet facilities (38 percent)

4.Breathing the air on the plane (37 percent)

Asked what would make them feel safer the respondents said.

1.COVID-19 screening at departure airports (37 percent),

2.Mandatory wearing of facemasks (36 percent)

3.and social distancing measures on aircraft (33 percent).

Almost half of the passengers served said they would be willing to undergoing temperature checks, wear a mask during travel, check-in online to minimize interactions at the airport, take a COVID-19 test prior to travel, and sanitize their seating area.

Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and chief executive said: “People are clearly concerned about COVID-19 when traveling. But they are also reassured by the practical measures being introduced by governments and the industry under the Take-off guidance developed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

“These include mask-wearing, the introduction of contactless technology in travel processes, and screening measures. This tells us that we are on the right track to restoring confidence in travel. But it will take time. To have maximum effect, it is critical that governments deploy these measures globally,” said Mr de Juniac.

IATA said that the survey pointed to some key issues in restoring confidence where the industry will need to communicate the facts more effectively.

The key concern is air quality with 57 percent of passengers believing that air quality is dangerous, but 55 percent responding that they understood that it was as clean as the air in a hospital operating theatre.

IATA said that the quality of air in modern aircraft is, in fact, far better than most other enclosed environments. It is exchanged with fresh air every 2-3 minutes, whereas the air in most office buildings is exchanged 2-3 times per hour. Moreover, High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters capture well over 99.999% of germs, including the Coronavirus.


Good omen from shooting star is wish from 747 pilot

A good omen from a shooting star is the wish from 747 pilot Christiaan van Heijst as he speeds vital cargo across Europe.

Christiaan takes up the story;

“My phone rang.. could I please help out and fly a Tel Aviv-run through the night? Organized chaos on the other side of the line: the air cargo market is working at full capacity now and last-minute charters pop up all the time.

“I postponed my Friday night plans, hit the road and blended in with the Flying Circus upon arrival at the airport.

“At least I’m treated with a bright moon to accompany me tonight over a cloudless Europe. The distant Alps, the Balkans, and Turkey sail by in the familiar white-grey light while cities and villages glow in the dark.

READ: Qantas to farewell 747 with joy flights.

“Strange as it may sound, I feel my life and spirit are somehow influenced by the moon for as long as I can remember, and I’m aware of that calming spell once again this flight. I gaze at the moon, at the stars, at the world below. See how her light is reflecting from countless miniature lakes and rivers. Silver sparkles on the ground.

“This month’s full moon is a special one. Inspiration seems to be rising in waves, good fortune stepped in and this inexplicable feeling something very positive happening soon is growing ever stronger. Something is in the air.

“And just like that, a bright meteor flashed up in the night sky. Neon green, brilliantly luminous, and gone forever. The last moments of a space pebble, a leftover from when our solar system formed billions of years ago. I just witnessed its final moments of existence as it plunged through Earth’s atmosphere: vaporized and no more. Unnoticed for five billion years but appreciated and immortalized in its final moment by a Dutch pilot with a camera.

“I stopped making wishes many moons ago, I would not even know what to wish for. I’d rather see things come to fruition through perseverance and hard work, and what I cannot influence is not for me to worry about.

“But tonight I decided to consider it as an omen of good fortune. Even after such an eternity of orbiting the Sun, this shooting star made a difference in the last millisecond of its journey.

“Have you ever seen a shooting star? Did your wishes come true? Let us know in the comments!!

“Have a nice weekend!”

Christiaan is one of the world’s leading aviation photographers and more of his work and more close encounter (s) can be found here.

You can follow Christiaan on Instagram here: @jpcvanheijst

Qantas to farewell last 747 with joy flights

Qantas is to farewell its last 747 with a series of joy flights and events this month.

The airline’s staff were advised today that there will be three joy flights in Sydney, Brisbane, and Canberra in mid-July with tickets available to the public

The premium economy cabin will be blocked for employees but the remaining seats will go on sale from mid-next week and are expected to sell out quickly

It is expected that the formal announcement will be made on Monday.

READ Boeing to end 747 production

The Flying Kangaroo has had a love affair with the 747 which started back in the late 60s when it ordered 4 of the more powerful, 747-200B model in 1967.

But at the time these four 747s were just back up to 10 supersonic transports it had ordered, made up of six Boeing 2707s and four Concordes.

However, as the folly of supersonic transport unfolded the airline’s affair with he 747 blossomed.

The first 747-200B was delivered to the airline in July 1971 and it would be followed by another 56 over 5 different variants from Boeing.

Qantas 747 over Boeing factory
Qantas’s first 747 over the top of the Boeing factory

In fact, the airline has operated 65 jumbos with the additional aircraft leased in or purchased second hand during the Asian currency crisis.

The 747, like the legendary DC-3 of the 1930s, slashed airfares to make travel affordable for all.

The incredible DC-3 was the first plane that was able to make money just hauling passengers and freed airlines from restrictive mail contracts, while the 747 freed the world’s population to travel wherever they liked.

When the sponsor of the 747 Pan American World Airways’ president Juan Trippe took delivery of the jumbo, he said we are in a race between the 747 and the ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) and he said I believe the 747 will win.

When the jumbo was introduced 50 years ago the airfare from Australia to London and return was the equivalent of 24 weeks average weekly earnings.

Today it is below one week’s earnings.

The jumbo was a mass travel dream of Trippe and Boeing’s chief Bill Allen.

The secret was the new high bypass engines that could produce over twice the thrust of the existing engines could do it at the time while using one third the fuel.

However, airlines were scared of the 747 with its enormous size.

It is impossible to find anyone who recalls if there was a definitive business plan for the 747.

Traffic was booming for the airline industry which had enjoyed growth of 15 percent a year through the early 1960s as passengers flocked to jet aircraft.

Pan Am had ordered 25 but most airlines were terrified of the jumbo’s size.

Qantas ordered 4, British Airways just 6, while many airlines just ordered 2 or 3 just to stay in the jumbo race.

Building the world’s largest commercial jet was also a major challenge. It was overweight, couldn’t reach its promised cruising altitude and the engines distorted.

These problems were solved but they almost bankrupted Boeing, Pratt and Whitney, and Pan Am.

While airlines were wary, passengers loved the 747 with its twin-aisles and upstairs lounge for first class.

Qantas called its lounge Captain Cook.


When Boeing first delivered the jumbo economy class was in a very generous layout of 2-4-3 with up to 10cm more legroom that today.

Sir Freddie Laker with his “no-frills” Skytrain DC-10 flights was to change all that.

He slashed fares by two-thirds across the North Atlantic in 1977 and he had applied to fly to Australia and Hong Kong.

Airlines responded by cramming more passengers into their 747s and DC-10s to cut fares.

That move spawned both business class and then later premium economy classes as airlines sought to cater for all pockets and desires for space.

Qantas phased out its last Boeing 707 in 1979 and became the world’s only all-Boeing 747 airline till 1985 when it introduced the twin-engine 767.

Qantas 747SP

That aircraft and similar twin-engine types were to be the jumbos undoing.

As engines became more fuel-efficient and reliable it enabled aircraft manufacturers to develop aircraft like the 365-seat Boeing 777 and the 300-seat Airbus A330 which slashed fuel used per passenger dramatically.

And they were much easier to fill than a 400-seat 747 and 500-seat A380

Those two types were quickly followed by the twin-engine 265-seat 787 and 300-seat A350 which took fuel efficiency to another level.

Qantas 787

Compared to the first jumbo, the Boeing 777-300ER is about 35 percent more fuel-efficient per passenger and the 787-9 almost 50 percent.

Qantas used its 747s as the flagship of its international fleet until the A380 arrived in 2008 and also operated the jumbo on its peak transcontinental services between Perth and Sydney and Melbourne for many years.

While replaced by the A380 on prime routes to London and LA business passengers still preferred the 747s intimate upper deck and first-class travelers loved the seating in the nose.

Sadly that glorious 747s, with the red tail, will be cut up for scrap.


Qatar Airways to provide face shield for passengers

Economy passengers flying on Qatar Airways will be asked to wear a personal protective face shield for the duration of the flight.

The new face shields are in addition to a face mask that will be provided in a special kit to be given to each passenger.

The disposable face shield will be available in two standard sizes – one for adults and the other for children.

Passengers traveling from Hamad International Airport (HIA) will receive their face shields at the check-in counters, whereas, at other destinations, the face shields will be distributed at the boarding gates.

Onboard, all passengers will be provided with a complimentary protective kit.

Inside a ziplock pouch, they will find a single-use surgical face mask, large disposable powder-free gloves, and an alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel.

Business Class customers will also be offered an additional 75ml sanitizer gel tube.

Qatar Airways has also introduced new disposable protective gowns for cabin crew that are fitted over their uniforms, in addition to safety glasses, gloves, and a mask. The new branded gowns are personalized with Qatar Airways’ logo imprinted on the top left corner.

Qatar Airways chief executive, Akbar Al Baker, said: “Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, the safety of our passengers has been our highest priority. By introducing these additional onboard safety and hygiene measures, our customers can rely on us and our unparalleled expertise to fly them safely to their destination. As the largest international airline flying consistently throughout the pandemic, we have become one of the most experienced in safety and hygiene. We will continue to lead the industry in terms of the services offered to our passengers so that they can travel with confidence.”

To ensure the highest levels of hygiene onboard, economy class passengers are required to wear their face shield visor in addition to their face mask or covering throughout the flight, except when they are served their meals or drinks.

However, business class customers are asked to wear their face shield and mask onboard at their own discretion, as they enjoy more space and privacy.

In addition, for aircraft equipped with Qsuite, Qatar Airways’ award-winning business seat, Business Class customers are offered even greater privacy with sliding partitions and fully closing doors, and an option to display a ‘Do Not Disturb (DND)’ indicator if they wish to limit their interactions with cabin crew.

Children under two years of age are however not advised to wear face shields and face masks or coverings.

During boarding and disembarkation, all passengers will be required to wear their face mask or covering as well as the face shield.

Boeing to end production of the world’s favorite airplane – the 747

Boeing is to end production of the world’s favorite airplane – the 747 – as COVID-19 devastates the world’s economy.

The aerospace company has two years of production left at 6 a year, all for freighters mainly for US giant UPS.

Sources in Seattle tell that the decision has been made to end production as twin-engine freighters such as the 767 and 777 are far more efficient.

Also, a new freighter conversion program for the 777-300ER has just been launched and with early retirement for many of those aircraft due to COVID-19, it will impact demand for the 747-8F.

SEE: Best 747 air-to-air videos

To the end of May Boeing had orders for 1571 747s and had delivered 1555 with several built but undelivered.

It is just over 50 years since the 747 entered service with Pan American on a flight from New York to London.

But the first passenger service got off to rocky start with engine problems and was delayed by six hours and a substitute 747 was used. 

Here is the arrival in London.

The birth of the 747 was also rocky and was to bring dark clouds to the leaders in commercial aviation at the time and almost bankrupted all three.

Ironically, the 747 wasn’t supposed to carry passengers for very many years as the world looked to supersonic travel with the Boeing SST and the Concorde.

Giving life to the aircraft that changed the world was a challenge that brought the world’s largest aerospace company, Boeing, the then biggest engine builder Pratt, and Whitney and the legendary Pan Am to their knees.

READ: How the 747 made travel affordable for all.

In the late 60s, Boeing’s resources were stretched to the absolute limit as its engineers grappled with the complexities of its US government-sponsored 2707 supersonic transport (below), which was eventually scrapped by Congress on May 20, 1971, despite commitments for 115 from 25 airlines.

Boeing's 2707 mockup

At the time the 747 was considered only an interim solution before the world’s air routes were taken over by supersonics but fortunately, Boeing had appointed Joe Sutter, a brilliant young designer, to the project and he was to father the classic of the jet age.

Joe Sutter in front of the first 747. Credit Boeing Historical Archives colorized by Benoit Vienne

Mr. Sutter was extremely modest on this role.

“I was the only qualified person available. All the smart guys, Maynard Pennell, Bill Cook, Bob Withington, and many others were tied up on the SST, while Jack Steiner was heading the 737 programs,” Mr. Sutter said in a 2009 interview with the author.

The 747 was designed at the outset to be a freighter as everyone thought the 747 would be relegated to cargo routes.

“That’s what Boeing’s marketing people thought; they estimated we’d probably sell 50 or so 747s for passenger use,” said Mr. Sutter.

The 747 was a mass travel dream of Pan American World Airways founder Juan Trippe and Boeing chief Bill Allen.

Boeing’s Bill Allen (Left) and Pan Am’s Juan Trippe. Credit Boeing Historical Archives colorized by Benoit Vienne

Mr Trippe had started mass travel in 1948 when he introduced economy class onto 70 seat DC-4s.

But the 747 was far, far bigger. It would carry over 350 – almost double the Boeing 707 – and would slash fares.

It is impossible to find anyone who recalls if there was a definitive business plan for the 747. But traffic was booming for the airline industry which had enjoyed growth of 15 percent a year through the early 1960s as passengers flocked to jet aircraft.

Mr. Trippe was a man on a mission.

He wanted to make travel affordable for everyone and he believed that the 747 with the new high bypass turbofan engine could do just that.

Pan Am ordered 25 but most airlines were terrified of the jumbo’s size. Qantas ordered 4, British Airways 6, while many airlines just ordered 2 or 3 just to stay in the jumbo race.


However, the trickle of orders wasn’t the major problem it was the 747’s weight.

Initially, it was to weigh 250,000kg but this leaped to 322,000kgs by the time it flew because of design changes impacting range, altitude, speed, and fuel burn. A solution, to run the engines at higher temperatures to give more thrust, was found and within six months of entering service, the jumbo was performing at acceptable levels.

Despite the many problems encountered in its manufacture, the birth of the 747 was an amazing feat. Pan Am took delivery of its first aircraft just 3-and-a-half years after its order was placed and that included a 10-month flight-test program.

Because the 747 was so big airlines splashed out with lounges. There was the upper deck lounge and many had lounges at the back of economy class. However a Boeing proposal for a lower deck lounge – called the Tiger Lounge, because of the fabric design used in the mock-up never made it.

The 747 gleams in the Seattle sun

The spacious age, however, was short-lived with airlines responding to a demand for cheaper and cheaper travel in the late 1970s by adding more seats.

There have been many variants of the superjet. The upper deck was stretched for the -300 model and a modified wing and bigger engines added for the longer-range -400 version.

The 747 was also shrunk for the SP (Special Performance) model that was the first aircraft to be able to cross the South Pacific from the US to Australia non-stop.

Finally, the 747 itself was stretched to create the 747-8, which features wing changes and 787 engines.


Today the 747 is still the Queen of the Skies to many and for billions of passengers, it is the plane that enabled them to see the world.


View our special section announcing the 2020 AirlineRatings Safest Airlines in the world!


Subscribe to have Newsletter delivered to your inbox!



Cookie settings