Boeing gave its iconic 747 jumbo jet a grand sendoff today, marking the end of a 55-year era for airplane manufacturing but vowing that the “Queen of the Skies” will continue its reign for decades to come.
Thousands of onlookers — including past and present Boeing employees, customers, suppliers and VIPs — gathered at the company’s factory in Everett, Wash., for a ceremony marking the handover of Boeing’s last 747 to Atlas Air.
“We do not close this book,” Stan Deal, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, told the crowd as the jet stood on the tarmac behind him. “It’s just a chapter. We’ll have another chapter of the 747. This airplane will be supported for decades to come, I promise you.”
Atlas Air will operate the 747-8 cargo freighter on behalf of Apex Logistics, a freight forwarder majority-owned by Switzerland’s Kuehne+Nagel Group.
Due to the evolution of the aviation industry, Boeing’s 747 jets have primarily been sold to cargo carriers in recent years. Smaller, more fuel-efficient jets such as the single-aisle 737 and the wide-body 777 and 787 Dreamliner are typically preferred nowadays for passenger service.
But back in 1968, when the first 747 rolled off Boeing’s assembly line, the jumbo design revolutionized airline service.
“We’re talking about one of the most important airplanes in all of history,” Mike Lombardi, senior corporate historian at Boeing, said in a video preview for today’s handover.