The last Boeing 747 leaves the factory

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

It instantly became a public sensation. The four-engine plane was much larger than any other and could hold hundreds of people in rows of up to 10 seats across. On the upper deck, reached by a spiral staircase, was a luxurious saloon. American Airlines had a piano bar installed in the main cabin.

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

The most important reason airlines bought the plane was that the 747 helped them cut costs. Because an airplane can carry so many more passengers on a single trip, airlines can sell tickets more cheaply, making air travel affordable for the masses.

Boeing produced several versions of the plane in the 1970s and 1980s for different applications and to improve how much it could carry and how far it could fly. In 1989, the company introduced a major upgrade, the 747-400, which became the plane’s best-selling model. Boeing sold more 747s in the 1990s than in any other decade.

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

Smaller, more efficient twin-engine aircraft can now fly longer distances. Their smaller size means airlines can offer direct international routes between smaller cities, such as St. Louis and Frankfurt.

In the mid-1990s, Boeing also introduced the 777, which was almost as large as the 747. With only two engines, it was more advanced and efficient. A decade later, Boeing’s main competitor, Airbus, debuted the A380, which could carry more passengers than the 747. But Airbus struggled to sell the plane and announced the end of the proceedings in 2019

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