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Boeing 747

The Boeing 747 is a widebody commercial airliner and cargo transport, often referred to by its original nickname, Jumbo Jet, or Queen of the Skies.

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It is among the world's most recognizable aircraft, and was the first widebody ever produced.

Manufactured by Boeing's Commercial Airplane unit in the United States, the original version of the 747 was two and a half times the size of the Boeing 707, one of the common large commercial aircraft of the 1960s. First flown commercially in 1970, the 747 held the passenger capacity record for 37 years.

The four-engine 747 uses a double deck configuration for part of its length. It is available in passenger, freighter and other versions. Boeing designed the 747's hump-like upper deck to serve as a first class lounge or (as is the general rule today) extra seating, and to allow the aircraft to be easily converted to a cargo carrier by removing seats and installing a front cargo door. Boeing did so because the company expected supersonic airliners (whose development was announced in the early 1960s) to render the 747 and other subsonic airliners obsolete, while believing that the demand for subsonic cargo aircraft would be robust into the future.

The 747 in particular was expected to become obsolete after 400 were sold but it exceeded its critics' expectations with production passing the 1,000 mark in 1993. As of June 2010, 1,418 aircraft have been built, with 109 more in various configurations remaining on order.

The 747-400, the latest version in service, is among the fastest airliners in service with a high-subsonic cruise speed of Mach 0.85–0.855 (up to 570 mph, 920 km/h). It has an intercontinental range of 7,260 nautical miles (8,350 mi or 13,450 km). The 747-400 passenger version can accommodate 416 passengers in a typical three-class layout or 524 passengers in a typical two-class layout. The newest version of the aircraft, the 747-8, is in production and flight testing in late 2010. Deliveries of the 747-8F freighter version are scheduled to begin in mid-2011, with the 747-8I passenger version to follow in late 2011. The 747 is to be replaced by the Boeing Y3 (part of the Boeing Yellowstone Project) in the future.

On January 15, 1970, First Lady of the United States Pat Nixon christened Pan Am's first 747, Clipper Victor, at Dulles International Airport (later renamed Washington Dulles International Airport) in the presence of Pan Am chairman Najeeb Halaby. Instead of champagne, red, white and blue water was sprayed on the aircraft. The 747 entered service on January 22, 1970, on Pan Am's New York–London route; the flight had been planned for the evening of January 21, but engine overheating made the original aircraft unusable. Finding a substitute delayed the flight by more than six hours to the following day.

The 747 enjoyed a fairly smooth introduction into service, overcoming concerns that some airports would not be able to accommodate an aircraft that large. Although technical problems occurred, they were relatively minor and quickly solved. After the aircraft's introduction with Pan Am, other airlines that had bought the 747 in order to stay competitive began to put their own 747s into service. Boeing estimated that half of the early 747 sales were to airlines requiring the aircraft's long range rather than its payload capacity. While the 747 had the lowest potential operating cost per seat, this could only be achieved when the aircraft was fully loaded; costs per seat increased rapidly as occupancy declined. A moderately loaded 747, one with only 70 percent of its seats occupied, used more than 95 percent of the fuel needed by a fully occupied 747.

When economic problems in the United States and other countries after the 1973 oil crisis led to reduced passenger traffic, several airlines found they did not have enough passengers to fly the 747 economically, and they replaced them with the smaller and recently introduced McDonnell Douglas DC-10 and Lockheed L-1011 TriStar trijet wide bodies (and later the 767 and A300 twinjets). Having tried replacing coach seats on its 747s with piano bars in an attempt to attract more customers, American Airlines eventually relegated its 747s to cargo service and in 1983 exchanged them with Pan Am for smaller aircraft; Delta Air Lines also removed its 747s from service after several years. Delta would later merge with Northwest Airlines, which operates 747s.


International flights that bypassed traditional hub airports and landed at smaller cities became more common throughout the 1980s, and this eroded the 747's original market. However, many international carriers continued to use the 747 on Pacific routes. In Japan, 747s on domestic routes are configured to carry close to the maximum passenger capacity.

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