Boeing 747: The Trailblazer – Part 2

By David Hopwood | March 3, 2020

In our recent article, we spoke of how the 747 rose to prominence, back in the 1980s. Today, we look at the story of the 747 ahead from its most majestic days, till date, when it is remembered (and flown by a few) as a symbol of nostalgia and opulence. The gargantuan size, the mind blowing history and a diversity of applications, because of which a number of 747s still fly today, in the age of efficient twin engine jets, certainly gives the jumbo-jet a touch of magic.

Mike Lombardi put it the best when he said:

‘Even when you understand all the science of airplanes, I still think there’s a little bit of magic there too.’

This especially holds true to the scintillating 747!

Back in the 1980s, the 747-400 was a gigantic leap in terms of technology and utility. Nicknamed by many as the ‘Longreach’, it had the capability to fly non-stop for 7,670 miles (14,200km) at maximum capacity. Back then, Cathay Pacific had some of the longest routes in the world, stretching from Hong Kong to Europe, all the way to the United States flying east from Asia’s World City. For airlines like Cathay, the 747 was indeed nothing less than a boon.

The Cockpit and systems redesign meant that the flight engineer was no longer required in the 747. Not only was there a financial saving with crew costs but this was a demonstration that technology was shaping the future of aircraft design like never before. From the 1980s, all the way till early 2000s, the 747 ruled the skies for long haul high demand routes.


However, everything great that ever took off has to eventually land. In 2005, Airbus launched the A380, which snatched the 747’s title for largest commercial aircraft ever built. Even though Boeing tried to give the A380 a stiff competition by making an efficient and longer version of the jumbo-jet, the 747-8, it was clear that the days of quad-engine, fuel thirsty jets was coming to an end. The A380 program took off with momentum, however, just fifteen years after its launch, the production came to a halt earlier this year.

Today’s aviation is much different than what it was 50 years ago. Back then, the market was in awe of supersonic speeds and ultra high-tech engineering that would allow for radical aircraft designs –the Concorde, Lockheed C-5 Boeing’s SST. The 747 stood the test from all these magnificent pieces of engineering, held its ground and blossomed. In the period from its conception till date, almost 80% of the world’s population has flown on the 747 (considering the number of passengers that the aircraft has carried)!

While commercial aviation today is more about greener, cleaner and efficient aircraft like the Dreamliner, the A350 XWB, no aircraft comes close to the grandeur and charisma that the 747 carried with it. For more than half a century, the 747 created a legacy, carved history and paved the way for the future.

What are your thoughts of the majestic jumbo-jet? Have you flown on one? Let us know in the comments!

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