2/09/1969: The “Queen of the Skies” Takes Flight

2/09/1969: The “Queen of the Skies” Takes Flight

DALLAS – Today in Aviation, At 11:34 PST, the prototype Boeing 747 took to the skies for the first time in 1969 from Seattle, Washington. Test pilots Jack Waddell and Brien Wygle were on the flight deck with Flight Engineer Jack Wallick.

“We called this fine team of aviators the Three Ws,” said the late Joe Sutter, “Father of the 747.” Sutter had led the engineering team that developed the aircraft in record time, just 29 months from conception to roll out.

A monumental occasion in aviation history. The prototype Boeing 747 takes to the air for the first time. Photo: Boeing

Delayed Maiden Flight

Initially, the maiden flight had been scheduled to take place on the anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ historic first flight on December 17, 1903. However, delays inevitably pushed back the historic event.

The prototype 747 was christened ‘City of Everett’ after the location of the factory where Boeing built the jet. Appropriately registered N7470, the aircraft remained with Boeing as a dedicated testbed for other variants of the 747 and, later, the 757 and 777. When it was retired in 1993, it had completed over 12,000 hours. 

Today the jet resides at the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field, Washington.

Chief Test Pilot Jack Waddell poses in front of “Waddell’s Wagon.” This was a mockup of the Boeing 747 nose atop a truck that was used in ground testing to show precisely how high the flight deck was above the ground. Photo: Boeing.

“Queen of the Skies”

The Boeing 747, also known as the “Queen of the Skies,” was the world’s first wide-body airliner. The development of the airplane, which had begun in 1963, was a considerable gamble for Boeing. The manufacturer would risk a significant amount of its net worth.

But it was a risk worth taking. The Boeing 747 is now one of the most recognizable airliners in the world. The aircraft revolutionized civilian aviation, opening air travel to the masses. Over 1,500 airframes have been built and are operated by many of the world’s international airlines. The type remains in production today, albeit in a cargo-only capacity.

Featured image: The maiden flight lasted just 75 minutes after a minor technical issue forced the jet to return to Boeing Field. (Photo: Boeing)

European Deputy Editor
Writer, aviation fanatic, and Airways European Deputy Editor, Lee is a plant geek and part-time Flight Attendant for a UK-based airline. Based in Liverpool, United Kingdom.

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