Boeing has made delivery of its final ever 747, the iconic jumbo jet nicknamed Queen of the Skies.
The huge aircraft, which has been variously used as a commercial plane carrying up to 500 passengers, a cargo jet, the Air Force One presidential plane and transport for Nasa’s space shuttles, took its first flight almost 55 years ago.
Although a game-changer, Boeing’s 747, alongside competitor Airbus’s A380 behemoth, has been phased out over the last 15 years in favour of smaller, more efficient models that can run on two engines instead of four.
The final 747 was the 1,574th ever constructed by Boeing, and was produced in Puget Sound, Washington state.
An illustration on the side of the final jumbo jet honours Joe Sutter, the original 747’s chief engineer.
Thousands of Boeing workers who’d been involved in the aircraft’s production over the years were invited to a commemorative send-off ceremony, along with celebrity attendees such as John Travolta – the actor is a pilot on the side, and has previously flown the 747.
Other invitees included 92-year-old Desi Evans, who joined Boeing in 1957 and worked for the planemaker for 38 years before retiring.
He recalled being told in 1967 that he’d be joining the team working on the 747 the very next day.
“They told me, ‘Wear rubber boots, a hard hat and dress warm, because it’s a sea of mud,’” Evans told AP. “And it was – they were getting ready for the erection of the factory.
“When that very first 747 rolled out, it was an incredible time.
“You felt elated – like you’re making history. You’re part of something big, and it’s still big, even if this is the last one.”
The ceremony took place in the company’s factory north of Seattle, where guests bid farewell to the last giant jet as it was delivered to Atlas Air for use as a cargo plane.
“If you love this business, you’ve been dreading this moment,” said aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia.
“Nobody wants a four-engine airliner anymore, but that doesn’t erase the tremendous contribution the aircraft made to the development of the industry or its remarkable legacy.”
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