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Boeing celebrates 50 years of the 747

written by WOFA | October 1, 2018

Boeing is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the rollout of the first 747 at its Everett final assembly line in Washington State just outside Seattle.

The first 747-100 emerged on September 30 1968, heralding the start of an aircraft program that ushered in a golden age of aviation and mass transportation via air travel.


There were 26 airline customers that had ordered the original 747, led by launch customer Pan Am.

Legend has it Boeing president and chief executive Bill Allen and Pan Am chief executive Juan Trippe, longtime friends agreed on an order for the 747 to the airline with a handshake while on a fishing trip.

The aircraft commenced flight tests in February 1969, with first delivery to Pan Am in January 1970.

As of August 31 2018, the total number of 747s delivered stood at 1,546, according to the Boeing website.


The initial 747-100 evolved over the decades to comprise variants such as the 747-200, the 747-300, 747SP, the 747 Combi, the 747-400, and the 747‑400ER (Extended Range)

Currently, Boeing offers the 747-8I (passenger) and 747-8F (freighter). However, there are only 22 outstanding orders for the 747 and all 22 are for the freighter version of the aircraft.

VIDEO: To commemorate the half century of the 747, Boeing published a tour of the original 747 at the Museum of Flight near its Everett facility on its Facebook page.

Locally, Air New Zealand retired its last 747-400 in September 2014, having operated the type for about three decades.

Meanwhile, Qantas was among the 26 airlines that ordered the aircraft, with its logo featured on the side of the fuselage of that original 747.

The airline started 747 service in September 1971 and has operated 65 of the type in total.

However, Qantas announced in May it planned to withdraw all its 747s from the fleet by the time it celebrates its centenary at the end of 2020.

Currently, the Australian carrier has nine 747s. It recently withdrew VH-OJT from service, with the aircraft ferried to the Arizona desert for its retirement.

VIDEO: A look at the history of the 747 from a 2016 post on Boeing’s YouTube channel.


  • Brett


    think you have some dates wrong there….
    “The first 747-100 emerged on September 30 2018,” – maybe 1968
    “The aircraft commenced flight tests in February 1968” – should be 1969

  • Adam Muggleton


    You might want to correct the text to read 1968, not 2018 (for roll out)

    • australianaviation.com.au


      Hi Adam and Brett,
      Apologies for the typos. The story has been updated with the correct dates.

  • Ben


    Truly the Queen of the skies and long may she reign. An iconic and revolutionary design. It was the 747 that started my love of all things aviation (As an 8 year old child in an SQ 747-200 back in 1987). To see that the 747 is still in production after 50 years is nothing short of remarkable.

    I think the only major passenger model that has been in production longer is the 737.

    However for an aircraft of it’s size I don’t think you’ll find anything that will have a 50 year production year production run. It’s outlasted the DC-10/MD11 and L1011. The 777, A350 and the A380 are eclipsing it now. So the future seems to be focused on big twins – 777, 787 and A350. Maybe these will continue their success and it’s hard to predict the future, but I don’t know if they’ll be in production for 50 years. The 777 is nearly halfway there though.

    Even if they do – I doubt you’ll ever find a more revolutionary aircraft. At least until supersonic flight becomes the norm, or until regular passenger spaceflights become commonplace. Yes the latest game changer is trying to see what can make ULH flights possible. Probably nonstop SYD-LHR and SYD-JFK flights might not be far away. However the 747 is the aircraft that made long distance travel affordable to the everyday people. It pioneered the shrinking of the globe.

    It’s only sad that the 747-8 is not more of a success. It’s a magnificent looking aircraft. I suppose pure economics of the big twins will win out.

  • Ken Holland


    Still in my opinion the greatest aircraft ever designed and built.
    From January 1978 to October 2006 i enjoyed more than 20 flights within Australia and as far away as NYC,London,Tokyo and Vancouver.
    Was lucky enough to be allowed to visit with Pilots on Qantas flight between Honolulu and San Francisco in Januar 1978 and Cathay Pacific flight between Hong Kong and Vancouver in September 1983!

  • John Harrison


    The Boeing 747 what a wonderful aircraft, saw my 1st one at London Heathrow when Pan Am brought their aircraft to London for the first time. Couple of years later my 1st flight on board a Qantas B747-238B (VH-EBA) SYD to LHR. Then went on to flight many many flights on Boeing 747s. Within Qantas I’ve flew in all the types they operated, and only recently renewed that love. Took which could well be my last B747 flight, a Qantas B747-438ER from Perth to Sydney. Thanks for everything Boeing and our wonderful 747 aircraft.

  • Dwight Lee Bates


    I went to the 20th, 30th and 40th Anniversaries of the Boeing 747 since I was a Boeing “Incredible” As a Senior Propulsion Engineer . I flew 40 hours FAA Certifying the 747 engines in 1969. I would like to know where and when we are going to celebrate the 50th Anniversary in another ceremony. Please contact me so I can attend.

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