Production of the great Boeing 747 jumbo jet ends after 54 years and 1,574 planes

The last 747 manufactured. Photo via Boeing.

By Robert Willmann

A wonderful airplane designed to carry both passengers and freight emerged from the imagination of designers starting in 1967. Called the Boeing 747, it entered service on 22 January 1970 with Pan American World Airways, because Pan Am’s president had talked to Boeing’s president at that time about developing a new airplane. After 54 years of production and 1,574 planes, manufacturing ended on 6 December 2022 at a Boeing facility in Everett, Washington [1]. In 2014, the number of planes produced reached 1,500, with a delivery to Lufthansa Airlines in Germany. The last one produced is a 747-8 to carry freight, and will go to Atlas Air in 2023.

An article in the Northwestern University Transportation Library gives a history of the 747–,service%20on%20January%2022%2C%201970

I liked flying as a passenger in a 747, which made long flights more pleasant.

What a great airplane. It came into being when manufacturing was booming and taken seriously in this country.


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9 Responses to Production of the great Boeing 747 jumbo jet ends after 54 years and 1,574 planes

  1. KjHeart says:

    so the 747-8 will only be cargo planes from here forward –

    not enough people can afford the restrictions/requirements or costs to travel by air at the moment (unless one’s employer pays the cost)

    I want to travel in something large if on a transatlantic flight though…

    wonder if there will be a replacement


    • Bill Roche says:

      Wife worked for TWA. We flew the 747 to Morocco, Greece, Portugal, and Rio, over the years during the ’70’s. What a plane. She could upgrade our tickets for
      some more money and we’d sit in the upstairs lounge… another world of travel.
      I remember seeing it for the first time as we arrived at JFK for a flight – huge! Fifty years ago; a different time a different place.

  2. Whitewall says:

    I always enjoyed the 747 as well. Cabins felt roomy enough and the feel in flight made for a ‘Cadillac ride’. The most unusual model was the 747 SP…Special Performance. Looking at one straight on from the airport boarding area, you could see the unique nose and ‘hump’. Walking away to get the side view gave a ‘where’s the rest of it’ feel. The body was much shorter than standard size. Among the benefits of the SP was an ability to land on shorter runways near mountains. Places in South America benefitted.

  3. Fourth and Long says:

    They must have been remarkably well engineered and carefully tested airplanes, to state the not necessarily obvious. My most impressive encounter was on a flight back from Athens to JFK which was so excessively overloaded with luggage, equipment and passengers, not to mention fuel for the long flight that the plane had what seemed to me, a layman, great and lengthy difficulty taking off. The wings flapped up and down perceptibly. I think the crew needed a second or third attempt, but I may have been in some sort of altered state due to the weirdness of it and my forlorn meditations on returning to New York. My evil WW2 era US Army Air Corps and then Air Force daddy probably would have thunk poorly of me had I evidenced a sub-particle of apprehension, and he still walked the earth, so I manned up so to speak and only whispered inaudibly to the frightened lady in the next seat “don’t worry, the engineers know the airlines will misuse and insufficiently maintain..” but stopped myself thinking – wait /that’s no way to reassure a frightened person who may be petrified that she forgot to call her family and die without having said she loved them, so I lied and said don’t worry I’ve seen this often and everything will be ok. I neither have recollection of whether I ordered scotch or remembered to take a crossword puzzle or two along. My guess is I ordered more than one scotch because it’s an exciting thing to fly 650 mph 7 miles high over a giant ocean, but I remember little of it other than that takeoff. Evil papa got a degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering before signing up and liked to try to explain to me at too early an age how the theory of conformal mapping of analytic functions of one complex variable was of great utility in designing aircraft wings. I didn’t inherit those genes. Like TTG, he made intricate balsa wood airplanes. One day at Thanksgiving dinner the merciless atomic physicist, turned gamma turned cosmic rayexplorer turned computer scientist seemed to notice that I was down at the mouth and told me, for inspirational purposes perhaps but more likely to mess with my mind, about his favorite childhood book Sam Small the Flying Yorkshireman. Why should I read that, evil physicist daddy bomber navigator? And who was Sam Small exactly?

    Sam Small was an everyday ordinary Yorkshireman. With one notable exception. What was that?

    He could fly.

    As you suspected, as did I, the awful scientist was effing with my mind as was his usual practice. In fact Sam Small was a Rifleman, who was so obstinately stubborn concerning a rifle
    that a Sargent had rudely knocked it from his hands that it took the efforts of no less than the Iron Duke himself — directly preceding the battle of Waterloo — to convince him to pick it up:

    Sam Small

    It occurred on the evening before Waterloo,
    And t’troops were lined up on parade,
    The Sergeant inspecting ’em he were a terror,
    Of whom every man was afraid

    All excepting one man who was in the front rank,
    A man by the name of Sam Small,
    And ‘im and the Sergeant were both ‘daggers drawn’,
    They thought nowt of each other at all

    As Sergeant walked past he were swinging his arms,
    And he happened to brush against Sam,
    And knocking his musket clean out of his hand,
    It fell to the ground with a slam

    ‘Pick it up’ said t’Sergeant, abrupt like but cool,
    But Sam with a shake of his head,
    ‘Seeing as tha’ knocked it out of me hand,
    P’raps tha’ll pick the thing up instead.

    ‘Sam, Sam, pick up thy musket,’
    The Sergeant exclaimed with a roar,
    Sam said ‘Tha knocked it down, reet! then tha’ll pick it up,
    Or it’ll stay where it is on’t floor

    The sound of high words very soon reached the ears,
    Of an Officer, Lieutenant Bird,
    Who says to the Sergeant, ‘Now what’s all this ere?’
    And the Sergeant told what had occurred.

    ‘Sam, Sam, pick up thy musket’
    Lieutenant exclaimed with some heat,
    Sam said, ‘He knocked it down reet! Then he’ll pick it up,
    Or it stays where it is, at me feet

    It caused quite a stir when the Captain arrived,
    To find out the cause of the trouble,
    And every man there, all except Sam,
    Was full of excitement and bubble

    ‘Sam, Sam, pick up thy musket’,
    Said Captain for strictness renowned,
    Sam said ‘He knocked it doon, Reet! so he’ll pick it up,
    Or it stays where it is on’t ground

    The same thing occurred when the Major and Colonel,
    Both tried to get Sam to see sense,
    But when Old Duke o’ Wellington came into view,
    Well the excitement was really quite tense

    Up rode the Duke on a loverly white ‘orse,
    To find out the cause of the bother,
    He looked at the musket and then at Old Sam,
    And he talked to Old Sam like a brother

    ‘Sam, Sam, pick up thy musket’
    The Duke said as quiet as could be,
    ‘Sam, Sam pick up thi musket,
    Coom on lad, just to please me

    ‘Alright Duke,’ said Old Sam, ‘just for thee I’ll oblige,
    And to show thee I meant no offence’,
    So Sam picked it up, ‘Gradely, lad’ said the Duke,
    ‘Right-o boys… let battle commence.’

    By Stanley Holloway

  4. Pat Lang says:

    Lot of rides in this old bird. Most comfortable I ever rode in. I used to ride PanAm 103 a lot. Back in steerage you could find a whole row of empty seats and sack out for most of the trip.

  5. elkern says:

    Caught a red-eye flight from CA to PHL, prolly late 1980’s. With only a couple dozen passengers on board (!!! those days are gone), I was able to stretch out across all five seats in the middle near the back of the plane and actually get some decent sleep.

    Waking to sunlight, I took a stroll around the plane, then picked a window seat. It was a beautiful day, with huge cumulus clouds billowing around us. Coming into Philly, the pilots decided to have some fun, and they really got that elephant dancing. First I’d see nothing but sky to port and farmland to starboard, then vice versa. The pilots were swooping back & forth it so gently that it felt like we were flying straight & level. I don’t think anybody else on the plane realized what was happening.

    It was a lot more fun than flying Sardine Class these days.

  6. TTG says:

    My first flight on a 747 from from Hartford, Connecticut to NYC. It was the first flight of a 747 from Hartford enroute to somewhere in California. I’m pretty sure the governor was there along with a band and, of course, the press. We had to climb a long flight of moveable stairs to embark… real freakin’ long. A group of stewardesses, that’s what they were called then, were singing songs commemorating the flight accompanied by 2 or 3 acoustic guitars. This was in July 1973.

    SWMBO and I flew a Pan Am 747 from San Francisco to Hawaii in 1977 and returned CONUS in 1980 aboard a UA 747 to Chicago. The return flight was with two young kids.

  7. Mark Logan says:

    They built them in Everett but conducted crew training out of Boeing Field in Seattle and Moses Lake in eastern Washington. The bird is a bit over-engined by today’s standards and is designed to carry an ocean of fuel. However for training they carried minimum fuel and, of course, nary a passenger. At Boeing Field spectacularly short take-off runs and ridiculously steep climb-outs were a common sight for us locals, not to be seen anywhere else. Those white markings on the runway flashing by aree touchdown zone markings, this one was off before the last one was reached. IOW, they used about 1/4 of the available runway to get off the ground.

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