Jan 31, 2023 - Economy

The last 747 gets delivered today

Source: Boeing; Graphic: Lindsey Bailey and Rahul Mukherjee/Axios; Note: Graphic for illustrative purposes only

Boeing's last commercial 747 is set to be delivered today, more than 50 years after the iconic plane helped change air travel forever.

Driving the news: The last "Queen of the Skies," as they're sometimes called, is a freighter variant made for cargo operator Atlas Air.

Why it matters: The 747 — the world's first twin-aisle passenger jet — came to symbolize the era in which mass travel by air became not just possible, but commonplace.

  • Yet advances in airplane design and engine technology eventually led airlines to favor more efficient twin-engine designs, like Boeing's 777 and Airbus' A350.

What they're saying: "On the ground, it's stately, it's imposing," Iron Maiden lead signer and — fun fact! — 747 pilot Bruce Dickinson told Reuters. "And in the air it's surprisingly agile."

Yes, but: The 747 isn't disappearing from the wild blue yonder anytime soon.

  • Germany's Lufthansa and South Korea's Korean Air both still offer 747 passenger service — though many other airlines, like British Airways and KLM, have retired their fleets.
  • Cargo operators such as Atlas, however, are still flying their 747s.

The intrigue: Today's delivery comes at a sensitive moment for Boeing, which is still recovering from the 737 Max debacle and has suffered numerous delays in its Starliner spacecraft program.

The bottom line: It's a big day in aviation history, and plenty of avgeeks — including yours truly — will be pouring one out in the 747's memory.

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