Celebrating 50 years of the Boeing 747

On 9 February 1969, the Boeing 747 took to the skies for the first time – The world’s first twin aisle aircraft opened a new age of air travel


Every day millions of people fly, it is an accepted way of life – but that has not always been the case. From the early days of commercial aviation, flying was limited to business travellers and those with the means to purchase the very expensive tickets. Destinations were also limited requiring a number of connections to fly between major cities. In 1969, that all changed as an incredible invention was revealed to the world. On 9 February 1969, the Boeing 747, called the “Super Jet”, and dubbed the “Jumbo Jet” by the press took to the skies for the first time. To those whom have loved the plane through the years she is the “Queen of the Skies”.

Boeing 747-200F – Milan Malpensa, February 2005

Atlas Air Boeing 747-200F N512MC (cn 21220/294) taking off on runway 35L at Milan Malpensa, February 2005 – © MXPhotos

Boeing 747-400 – Zurich Kloten, June 2005

Singapore Airlines Boeing 747-400 9V-SPI (cn 28022/1082) being pushed back from its stand at Zurich Kloten, June 2005 – © MXPhotos


The 747 quickly became the icon of commercial aviation. The 747 was postage stamp famous, an icon of pop culture, the backdrop of movies and television, and it even carried the Space Shuttle. The airplane introduced a number of technological and aviation firsts, the greatest being the invention of the twin aisle wide body design. It also marked the first commercial use of the high bypass turbofan engine.
Under the command of chief designer Joe Sutter, the 747’s design was based in safety. Boeing introduced quadruple hydraulic systems, redundant structures and four main landing gear (the plane is able to operate on two); Boeing also reinvented pilot training, moving away from strictly procedural training to behavioural training. It did not take long for the 747 to have a giant impact on air travel. It was the must-have flagship for the world’s airlines and attracted passengers with its luxury and passenger appeal.

Boeing 747-400 – Milan Malpensa, September 2005

Japan Airlines Boeing 747-400 JA8089 (cn 26342/905) slowing down on runway 35L at Milan Malpensa, September 2005 – © MXPhotos

Boeing 747-400F – Milan Malpensa, November 2007

Emirates Sky Cargo Boeing 747-400F N497MC (cn 29258/1220) lining up on runway 35R at Milan Malpensa, November 2007 – © MXPhotos


What has made the 747 extraordinary aside from its distinguishing hump and its Hollywood status, has been the customers who have helped the 747 fleet log more than 57 billion nautical miles (121.5 billion kilometres) which are equal to more than 137,000 trips from the Earth to the moon and back! It is through partnerships with our customers that air travel became a possibility for much of the world. 747s have flown more than 5.9 billion people – the equivalent of 78 percent of the world’s population. And as the 747’s role continues, it provides a service that the original designers foresaw and optimized the 747 to perform as the world’s finest freighter – a testament to an airplane that was built to last.

Boeing 747-400 – Milan Malpensa, August 2008

Japan Airlines Boeing 747-400 JA8921 (cn 27645/1262) on short final to runway 35L at Milan Malpensa, August 2008 – © MXPhotos

Boeing 747-8F – Milan Malpensa, August 2016

Cargolux Italia Boeing 747-400F LX-YCV (cn 35805/1407) on short final to runway 35R at Milan Malpensa, July 2013 – © MXPhotos


“Over the last 50 years, the 747 has become legendary, today it is a bridge to a romantic era of flight, an era that we should continue to aspire to resurrect. But more than that the 747 is a reminder of the power of the human spirit and what we can accomplish with our hearts, minds and hard work. It reminds us that even though we may lose hope in a world that seems filled with strife, we can turn our eyes to the skies and see those great contrails of the Queen of the Skies crossing the heavens and know that we can still overcome great adversity and accomplish incredible things.” – Mike Lombardi, Boeing Historian

Boeing 747-8F – Milan Malpensa, May 2014

Nippon Cargo Airlines – NCA Boeing 747-8F JA13KZ (cn 36138/1431) on short final to runway 35R at Milan Malpensa, May 2014 – © MXPhotos

Boeing 747-400 – Milan Malpensa, April 2015

Thai Airways International Boeing 747-400 HS-TGT (cn 26616/1097) on short final to runway 35R at Milan Malpensa, April 2015 – © MXPhotos

(Boeing Commercial Airplanes – MXPhotos)

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