The last Boeing 747 leaves the factory

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More than two dozen airlines had already committed to buying the 747 when it was first shown to the public. In 1970, the 747 made its first commercial flight, carrying more than 300 Pan Am passengers from New York to London.

It immediately became a public sensation. The four-engined aircraft was much larger than any of the others and could seat hundreds of people in rows of up to 10 seats. On the upper deck, reached by a spiral staircase, was a luxurious saloon. American Airlines installed a piano bar in the main cabin.

Orders started pouring in, providing much-needed revenue for Boeing. Owning a 747 has become a status symbol for airlines. Some companies bought the plane even though it didn’t quite meet their needs.

The main reason airlines bought the plane was because the 747 helped them cut costs. Because the plane could carry many more passengers in a single trip, airlines were able to sell tickets cheaper, making air travel affordable for the masses.

Boeing produced several versions of the aircraft in the 1970s and 1980s for different purposes and to improve pulling power and range. In 1989, the company unveiled a major upgrade, the 747-400, which became the aircraft’s best-selling model. Boeing sold more 747s in the 1990s than in any other decade.

But as popular as the plane had become, the world began to move.

Smaller, more efficient twin-engined aircraft could now fly longer distances. Their small size allowed airlines to offer direct international connections between smaller cities, such as St. Louis and Frankfurt.

In the mid-1990s, Boeing also introduced the 777, which was about the same size as the 747. With only two engines, it was more advanced and efficient. A decade later, Airbus, Boeing’s main rival, launched the A380, which can carry more passengers than the 747. But Airbus struggled to sell the plane and announced the end of production in 2019.


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