Last 747 Delivery: Key Takeaways from the Event

Last 747 Delivery: Key Takeaways from the Event

DALLAS — The first Boeing 747 was the result of the work of more than 50,000 Boeing employees called “The Incredibles.” They made aviation history by building the 747—at the time the largest commercial airplane in the world—in less than 28 months during the late 1960s.

Yesterday, Boeing celebrated the delivery of the final 747 to Atlas Air (5Y). Thousands of people, including current and former employees, customers, and suppliers, gathered to mark the delivery of the final Boeing 747-8 Freighter, the 1,574th produced over the course of 55 years.

Stan Deal, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, began the hour-long celebration by referring to the 747 as the “plane that changed the world forever.” What came were many who took to the stage to pay tribute to the Queen of the Skies.

Deal moderated a panel of speakers that included former Boeing executives and key employees of the program, as well as the current CEOs of Lufthansa (LH) and 5Y, two of the world’s largest 747 operators.

Photo: Daniel Gorun/Airways

Paying Tribute to the Boeing 747

On stage at the Boeing 747 Everett facility, Boeing CEO David Calhoun said that the company continued to have visions “just like this one,” adding that its production lines were full of innovation and thanking everyone who’d been involved with the Jumbo program. The Boeing CEO added, “If a company ever needed to stand tall on a legacy it was the Boeing Company.”

“Incredible” Carol Persak, an Integral Fuel Sealer, recounted volunteering from Renton to Everett to work on the Boeing 747 program. Back then, “[the 747] was a pretty big unknown—we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into,” but added, “we were young, and we liked adventure!” Working on the 747 enabled Carol to leap to other jobs, including becoming a Flight Test Technician. 

Photo: Daniel Gorun/Airways

“Incredible” Thomas Gray, a Flight Test Instrumentation Engineer, flew on the 747 prototype aircraft and was on board the initial 747 test flights. Thomas installed instrumentation for measurement and monitored many data points, such as pressure, fuel flow, and engine RPM.  Thomas came to the 747 Flight Test from the 737. He recounted, “When we did a stall in a small airplane, you knew you were falling out of the sky.” But on the 747, “it didn’t feel like you were stalling at all; it was easily controllable.” 

Thomas recounted that on a turbulence test flight, the engineers complained the thunderheads they flew through were not turbulent enough. Upon returning to Seattle, they flew through what they thought was an innocuous thunderhead that ended up having golf-sized hail. The hail ended up cracking both front windshields.

“I remember the pilot saying, ‘We’ve got to get a direct back to Seattle and clear all the airplanes out of the way’. When I got up to the cockpit, I could not see out the front of the airplane!  We managed to land at Boeing Field with the pilot looking out the side window!” 

Photo: Daniel Gorun/Airways

Another notable quote came from Lufthansa (LH) CEO Carsten Spohr, who said to the thousands gathered, “We just fall in love with Boeing designs.” He highlighted that the airline was the launch customer for the Boeing 737, the European launch customer for the Boeing 747, and the launch operator of the 747-8I.

“When I realized I had to come to the West Coast for this event, there was only one way to travel,” Spohr told the attendees. The CEO took an LH Boeing 747-8 from Frankfurt to San Francisco to arrive at the event, “in the nose of this wonderful airplane.”

He continued, “The customer experience is simply great, on every version, in every aspect, when you fly a 747. Passengers love it. The crews love it. And, by the way, (plane) spotters love it too because – especially the 747-8 — it’s just so damn good-looking.”

Teasing a possible cabin update for the plane, Spohr added, “That’s why we at Lufthansa are currently looking into another upgrade of the 747-8 in all classes to fly this amazing airplane way into the next decade, including the amazing first class in the nose.”

Photo: Daniel Gorun/Airways

Even John Travolta – Pilot, Actor, and Aviation Enthusiast got into the act. “I had to be here in person because, as a pilot, I know how great this plane is to fly.”

Recounting his pilot training experience at Qantas, he said, “[The 747] was the toughest program any commercial pilot will have to endure… After months of training, I earned my wings, and I experienced the most well-thought-out and safest aircraft ever built. It made my Boeing 737 training a breeze.”

Photo: Daniel Gorun/Airways

It was time for John Dietrich, President and CEO, Atlas Air Worldwide, to come on stage, just as Boeing was to open the Everett hangar doors to unveil the final 747. “It’s going to get a little cold,” Boeing’s Deal warned the crowd as the hangar doors began to open. The crowd cheered as the final Jumbo Jet came into view.

“To see our aircraft on this big stage is a very proud moment for all of us at Atlas Air,” said Dietrich. “Our company’s history and our success are directly linked to the 747 platform. With such a deep history with the 747 platform, it’s only fitting that Atlas Air is taking delivery of the last one ever to be built”

“As we take this final delivery, we look forward to the stories that are yet to be told. Today we celebrate, not necessarily an ending, but a beginning as well. The beginning of another exciting chapter driven by the mighty Queen of the Skies. And I will say she is the biggest and baddest commercial aircraft flying out there!”

Image: FluightRadar24

Featured image: Daniel Gorun/Airways

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