50 years ago today . . .

. . . the first flight of the Boeing 747, the famous “Jumbo Jet”, took place, on February 9th, 1969.  Here’s Boeing’s official video of proceedings.  The actual takeoff is shown from about 14m. 30s. onwards.

Congratulations to Boeing on a landmark in aviation history.  As of December 2018, over 1,500 747’s had been built, and the type is still in low-rate limited production, primarily in freighter configuration.  It’s proved to be one of the most successful aircraft programs of all time, particularly in terms of the number of people carried – including the largest number ever carried on a single flight by a passenger aircraft, during Operation Solomon:

An astounding record was set on 24 May 1991 when 1086 Ethiopian Jews were evacuated to Israel in one plane. This was more than double the normal capacity of a passenger jumbo jet, and not surprisingly, never before had so many people flown in a commercial airliner. Two babies were born en route bringing the total who landed in Israel to 1088. The flight was just one of 40 which were put on to evacuate a total of 14,200 Jews to their promised land from Addis Ababa, the besieged capital of Ethiopia, all in the space of 24 hours.

The seats had been removed, of course, to make more room, but even so – talk about a crowded flight!



  1. The safety record is phenomenal as well. Watch any documentaries on its history and how fast it was designed and built without computers, awesome.

  2. I've been on all economy dense seating 747 used for shuttle flights between Seoul and the popular resort island of Cheju flight every hour, 750 people at a time.

  3. And they're disappearing rapidly.

    American, Delta, and United have all retired their 747 fleets. Their largest aircraft are all now 777s (non of them fly A380s).

    And the new model 747-8 isn't selling at all. The only ones made in the last few years are the 8F model freighters.

    Four engine aircraft just burn too much fuel. The A380 line is a giant money loser for Airbus, and may well shut down very shortly, with Emirates (which has a large order constituting most of the backlog) thinking of cancelling it.

    The new Presidential replacements for the older 747s conversions are being done by buying used 747-8 aircraft, instead of getting new ones to remodel.

    But they were wonderful aircraft — especially when, in the early days, they had things like piano lounges in the (smaller) upper decks. It was before deregulation, so the airlines couldn't compete on fare, which meant they competed on service and strange items.

  4. British Airways still flies them, I just took one from San Diego to Heathrow. Given the compact nature of San Diego airport the fact that a plane that big can land and take off there is impressive in itself.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *