The Boeing 747, often known as the”Jumbo Jet,” was a remarkable commercial jetliner for the own time. The world’s first ever wide-body airplane created, the so called”Queen of the Skies,” boasted an upper deck, and a passenger capacity that remained unrivalled for decades.
The -200 model followed in 1971, featuring more powerful engines and a higher MTOW (Max Take-Off Weight).
Boeing subsequently launched the -300 model in 1980, which resulted from studies to boost the capacity of the 747. The -300 featured fuselage plugs and a stretched upper deck. This variant, along with the -100, -200, and SP, were jointly called the 747″Classics.” It was now time to get a more significant update.
The most common version, the 747-400, entered service in 1989. This variant featured, along with the stretched upper deck of the -300, more lookup engines, and was the first to feature a 2-crew glass cockpit, eliminating the requirement for a flight engineer, and is also the most common variant in service. The -400 has a longer wingspan than the classics and has been fitted with winglets, which reduced drag, and is the most common aesthetic feature used to distinguish the variant from the -300.
The 747-400 dominated the long-haul market for many years to come. It was operated by nearly every major airline in the world, dominating every major international airport. It wasn’t until the late 2000’s that the -400 needed to face competition, after the bigger Airbus A380 entered service. Boeing eventually responded by launching a new bigger, more fuel-efficient version.
The third generation 747-8 was launched in 2009, with Lufthansa, and entered service in 2012. This version boasted a composite fuselage, as featured on the 787, and much more fuel-efficient engines. Additionally, it featured an increase in capacity, as a result of the stretched fuselage and upper deck. Sadly, it failed to capture the market and was unable to match, let alone surpass, the success of the -400.
The four-engine 747’s time is coming to an end, with an increasing number of airlines retiring the type in favour of more efficient twin engine aircraft. The latest passenger variant, -8, failed to attract as many sales as Boeing had expected, having earned less than 50 orders from mainly 3 airlines, as the quad can’t compete with the likes of the 777, 787, and Airbus A350.
Despite this the 747 enjoys a great reputation among the most prosperous airliners in history. As we see a growing number of smaller, twin engine aircraft in its place, the sector will always remember the beauty and elegance with which the Boeing 747 adorned our heavens.