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Boeing 747: How the jumbo jet changed aviation


Boeing has delivered the last 747 aircraft, more than 50 years after it first took off. SPIEGEL editor Marco Evers explains how the machine has changed aviation.

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She was considered the "Queen of the Skies", the Boeing 747. The first commercial flight of the model took off more than 50 years ago.

Production is now ending – and with it, quite literally, the story of an aircraft that set new standards right from the start.

Marco Evers, DER SPIEGEL:

»It is an aircraft that is completely different from any other.

Even the silhouette, that hump, that width, that height.

When you stand in front of a Boeing 747, you don't understand why something like this can fly.

And that's something that has fascinated people about this plane since day one."

The 747 made its maiden flight in 1969.

The aircraft was twice the size of its predecessor, the 707 - also because it was not actually designed for passenger traffic, but as a cargo aircraft.

That's why the plane is so wide - and that's why there is only the characteristic hump in the first place.

The 747 was even used to transport space shuttles.

And yet the machine had its greatest importance for passenger traffic.

Marco Evers, DER SPIEGEL:

“The 747 made it possible for the middle class to afford tickets for the first time.

Millions of people discovered the world because the 747 existed.«

For the first time there were two aisles in an airplane, and two stories.

More than 350 passengers could fit in a 747. With so many customers, airlines could afford to offer affordable tickets.

The 747 thus stood for the democratization of air traffic, for flying for everyone - and yet also for luxury.

There were extended lounges in 1st class, and PanAm even had a piano bar.

Marco Evers, DER SPIEGEL:

»There was a glamor time and the 747 also symbolizes this glamor time of flying.

That was luxury that you might still be familiar with from the Zeppelin of the 1930s.

And these are all things that no longer exist in aviation.«

The plane has always been a means of transport for important personalities.

Pope John Paul II flew in a 747 as early as 1979. Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini returned home from exile in the same year in a 747.

Various heads of state use the model, and Air Force One has also been a 747 for a long time. And in 2014, the German national team returned from Brazil as soccer world champions in a 747.

Marco Evers, DER SPIEGEL:

“The 747 brings status.

She just makes something.

I don't think anyone can escape that either, you don't have to be an airplane fanatic to look at the 747 and say: Wow, that's a thing.

And that's a plane, if you show up with it, at the G8 summit or something - then it's quiet."

This is the 1574th and last 747 Boeing made.

It was delivered on Tuesday evening.

The model is equipped as a cargo aircraft, Atlas Air will operate it as a cargo aircraft for the logistics company Kuehne & Nagel.

The 747 is also still in use as a passenger aircraft, with Lufthansa having the largest fleet.

Because the demand for four-engine aircraft is no longer high enough, production is now coming to an end.

Marco Evers, DER SPIEGEL:

»There are now planes that are much quieter, consume less and can fly much further.

Environmentally speaking, flying around in a 747 no longer makes sense.

You can get the same performance for less money, and cleaner.

But she remains beautiful.«

Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2023-02-01

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