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Boeing bids farewell to an icon, delivers last 747 jumbo jet

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SEATTLE (AP) — Boeing said goodbye to Icon on Tuesday, handing over its final 747 jumbo jet as thousands of workers who have helped build the plane over the past 55 years look on.

Since its first flight in 1969, the massive, graceful 747 has served as a freighter, a commercial aircraft capable of carrying nearly 500 passengers, a transport aircraft on NASA’s space shuttle, and a presidential plane on Air Force One. . It has revolutionized travel by connecting international cities that previously had no direct flights, promoting the democratization of airliners.

But over the past 15 years or so, Boeing and its European rival Airbus have introduced more profitable and fuel-efficient widebody planes by simply keeping two engines instead of the four in the 747. The final plane is the 1,574th built by Boeing in Washington’s Puget Sound area.

Thousands of workers joined Boeing and other industry executives from around the world, as well as actor and pilot John Travolta, who has flown the 747, on Tuesday at the company’s massive factory north of Seattle. Participated in the opening ceremony and delivered the last one to cargo. Carrier Atlas Airlines.

“If you love this business, you would have been afraid of this moment,” said longtime aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia. “No one wants his four-engined airliner anymore, but that doesn’t erase the tremendous contribution aviation has made to the development of the industry and its incredible legacy.”

Boeing set out to build the 747 after losing the contract for its giant military transport, the C-5A. Ideas take advantage of new engines developed for transportation (high-bypass turbofan engines that allow for longer flight distances by forcing air around the engine core to reduce fuel burn) and reimagine them. It was to be used on commercial aircraft that were

It took more than 50,000 Boeing employees in less than 16 months to mass-produce the first 747. Jumbo The production of his jets required building a large factory in Everett, north of Seattle. It is the largest building in the world by volume. The factory was not finished when the first plane was completed.

Among those in attendance was 92-year-old Desi Evans, who had joined Boeing in 1957 at its Renton plant south of Seattle and worked there for 38 years before retiring. One day in 1967, his boss told him that the next morning at Everett he would be on the 747 program.

“They said to me, ‘This is a muddy sea, wear rubber boots and a helmet and dress warm,'” recalls Evans.

He was assigned as a supervisor to help understand how the interior of the cabin would be set up, and later oversaw the crew working on the sealing and painting of the plane.

“It was an incredible time when the first 747 rolled out,” he said, standing in front of the last plane parked outside the factory. “You felt elated — it’s like you’re making history. You’re part of something big, and even if this is the last one, it’s still big.”

The plane’s fuselage was 225 feet (68.5 meters) long, and its tail was as tall as a six-story building. The plane’s design included his second deck extending from the cockpit to his first third of the plane. More romantically, the 747 came to be known as the Queen of the Skies.

Some airlines turned the second deck into a first-class cocktail lounge, but even the lower decks sometimes featured lounges and piano bars. One of his 747s built for Singapore Airlines in 1976 has been converted into his 33-room hotel near Stockholm’s airport.

Guillaume de Sion, a history professor at Albright University in Pennsylvania, said, “It was the first big airline and the first widebody aircraft, so it’s up to the airline what they do with it, how they fill it. It set a new standard for understanding.” Aviation and Mobility. “It’s become the nature of mass air travel. You can’t fill up with people who pay full price, so you have to bring the price down to accommodate people. That’s what happened in the late 1970s. contributed to the deregulation of travel for

The first 747 entered service on Pan American’s New York-London route in 1970, but the timing was terrible, Aboulafia said. Boeing’s employment dropped from his 100,800 employees in 1967 to a low of 38,690 in April 1971, when he debuted just before the 1973 oil crisis. Did. The “Boeing bankruptcy” was infamously marked by a billboard near Seattle’s Tacoma International Airport. It read, “Will the last person to leave Seattle turn off the lights?”

The updated model – the 747-400 series – came out in the late 1980s and was much better timed, coinciding with the Asian economic boom of the early 1990s, Aboulafia said. He rode in his 1991 Cathay Pacific Airways 747 from Los Angeles to Hong Kong as a backpacker in his twenties.

“Someone like me could go see Asia,” Aboulafia said. “Previously, you would have to stop in Alaska or Hawaii for fuel, and that would cost a lot more. It was straight forward and affordable.”

Delta was the last U.S. airline to use the 747 for passenger flights that were discontinued in 2017, although several other international airlines continue to do so, including German airline Lufthansa.

Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr recalled traveling on a 747 as a young exchange student and said when he found himself traveling to the West Coast of the United States for Tuesday’s event, there was only one way to go. . The nose of a Lufthansa 747 from Frankfurt to San Francisco. He promised the crowd that Lufthansa would continue to fly the 747 for years to come.

“We love planes,” he said.

Atlas Airlines ordered four 747-8 freighters early last year, and the final one, adorned in the image of Joe Sutter, the engineer who oversaw the 747’s original design team, was delivered on Tuesday. Atlas CEO John Dietrich called the 747 the largest air freighter. One of the reasons for that is his nose thanks to his unique ability to load from his cone.

Gene Johnson, Associated Press

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