A look back at the 747 and its golden era of the 'Queen of the Skies'

Ladies and gentlemen, please replace your trays to the upright position and fasten your seatbelts as the final Boeing 747 prepares for take off. 

The last ever jumbo jet to be built was delivered to US air cargo operator Atlas Air this week, marking the end of a ‘golden era’ of jet travel. 

Plane enthusiasts, aviation workers and actor John Travolta, who is licensed to fly 747s, all gathered at a ceremony in Washington to witness the iconic jet’s trip to the clouds.  

Speaking at the landmark occasion, Travolta, who learned to fly the 747-400 as an ambassador for Qantas Airlines, said ‘[It was] the toughest program that any commercial pilot will ever have to endure’, and called the jet the ‘most well thought out and safest aircraft ever built.’

The 747-8 is the 1,574th Boeing to be built since Pan Am’s Clipper Young America first soared in 1970. But with airlines wanting cheaper, more fuel efficient two-engine planes (the 747 has four), the so-called ‘Queen of the Skies’ no longer has a market.

Andy Hoskins, editor in chief at Business Travel News Europe, says: ‘Boeing 747s have been a familiar sight in our skies for more than half a century and there is much affection for the erstwhile jumbo jet, particularly among some business travellers for whom taking a seat in the upstairs cabin endowed a sense of exclusivity. 

‘But times change and, as more environmentally friendly, fuel-efficient aircraft come off the production line, airline orders for 747s diminished.’ 

After 53 years of service – as a cargo plane, a commercial aircraft, NASA transport and the Air Force One presidential aircraft – we reflect on the life of this iconic high-flier.

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