Boeing is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the rollout of the first 747 at its Everett final assembly line in Washington State just outside Seattle.
The first 747-100 emerged on September 30 1968, heralding the start of an aircraft program that ushered in a golden age of aviation and mass transportation via air travel.
There were 26 airline customers that had ordered the original 747, led by launch customer Pan Am.
Legend has it Boeing president and chief executive Bill Allen and Pan Am chief executive Juan Trippe, longtime friends agreed on an order for the 747 to the airline with a handshake while on a fishing trip.
The aircraft commenced flight tests in February 1969, with first delivery to Pan Am in January 1970.
As of August 31 2018, the total number of 747s delivered stood at 1,546, according to the Boeing website.
The initial 747-100 evolved over the decades to comprise variants such as the 747-200, the 747-300, 747SP, the 747 Combi, the 747-400, and the 747‑400ER (Extended Range)
Currently, Boeing offers the 747-8I (passenger) and 747-8F (freighter). However, there are only 22 outstanding orders for the 747 and all 22 are for the freighter version of the aircraft.
VIDEO: To commemorate the half century of the 747, Boeing published a tour of the original 747 at the Museum of Flight near its Everett facility on its Facebook page.
Locally, Air New Zealand retired its last 747-400 in September 2014, having operated the type for about three decades.
Meanwhile, Qantas was among the 26 airlines that ordered the aircraft, with its logo featured on the side of the fuselage of that original 747.
The airline started 747 service in September 1971 and has operated 65 of the type in total.
However, Qantas announced in May it planned to withdraw all its 747s from the fleet by the time it celebrates its centenary at the end of 2020.
Currently, the Australian carrier has nine 747s. It recently withdrew VH-OJT from service, with the aircraft ferried to the Arizona desert for its retirement.
VIDEO: A look at the history of the 747 from a 2016 post on Boeing’s YouTube channel.
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