The Boeing 747 once carried the space shuttle, and has been credited with making air travel more accessible to the general public. Now, more than five decades later, the last all-new 747 has been built.
Among those paying tribute to the plane was actor John Travolta, who attended a tribute to the Boeing 747 last week in Everett, Washington.
“As a pilot, I know how great this plane can fly,” Travolta said. “There is nothing like seeing a 747 fly, to remind you that there is magic, too, here.”
CBS News’ Chris Van Cleef visited Boeing’s Everett plant where the plane was in final assembly mode, just days before it rolled off the line and made its first test flight, dipped in about 120 gallons of paint.
Sherry Moy has been building 747s for the past 15 years, her father started the business on the same line 43 years ago.
“Every time you finish a job, you know it’s going to be the last time you do it. And that just kind of hits the core of your heart,” said Moye. “My favorite thing about the 747 is that it’s so iconic that you see it in the sky, you see it in the airport, and you know exactly what that is. And it brings you a lot of pride knowing that, hey, yeah, I helped build that.”
“It’s not just another plane,” Moy told Van Cleef.
The 747 was the world’s first jumbo jet. Twice the size of any other airliner when it first returned in 1969. Pan Am welcomed its first passengers a year later.
With a spiral staircase, first-class lounge and iconic hump, it was an instant hit.
“This aircraft marks a point in history, the first time that anyone on planet Earth could get on a plane and fly,” Michael Lombardi, a Boeing historian, told Van Cleef.
“It democratized air travel,” Van Cleef said.
“Because of its size, range, and economy. Now, flight is more affordable.”
Over 118 million flight hours and counting, the 747’s four engines have carried passengers, six American presidents and even the space shuttle across the country and around the world.
After 1,574 of the 747s were built, this marked the end of Boeing’s Queen of the Sky line. But for the thousands of people at the Everett plant who work on board, it truly marks the beginning of a new chapter. They’re all moving to new jobs on other lines, and building new planes that will fly for decades to come.
While those newer, more fuel-efficient planes are nearing the end of this queen’s reign, especially as a passenger plane, the last 747, a freighter, will likely deliver the goods for years.