Watch the First Boeing 747 Take Flight, 47 Years Ago
The first Boeing 747 flight took place on February 9, 1969. Today, exactly 47 years later, the Boeing 747 is one of the most recognizable aircraft in the world. The mesmerizing video above documents the airplane’s first flight, as well as the process that went into manufacturing the aircraft.
The Boeing 747, which also came to be known as the “Jumbo Jet,” was conceived at the very start of commercial jet travel in the 1960s. During its construction, Boeing had a team of some 50,000 people–mechanics, construction workers, engineers, secretaries and administrators–who were nicknamed “The Incredibles,” as they worked to make the superjet become a reality in 16 months.
In the year of its first flight, TIME magazine dubbed the jets “harbingers of a new era in aviation.” As the video explains, the space required to construct the world’s most monumental aircraft was monumental in itself; at 200 million cubic feet, its factory was the world’s largest building by volume.
At the time, it was believed that the 747 would be very quickly followed by supersonic aircraft such as the Concorde, which could exceed the speed of sound. However, the 100-seat Concorde failed where the 400-seat Boeing 747 prevailed, and supersonic transport was shelved by 2003.
However, the Boeing did not have a consistently good reputation. Within its first months of commercial use, passengers were treated to defective air conditioning, blinking cabin lights, and “long lines in front of the twelve toilets.” Shortly after its launch, TIME published an article bemoaning the rise in air travel that came with the Jumbo Jet:
Their great engines foul the air with noise and noxious fumes; their proliferating numbers crowd the airways with dangerous traffic jams. Each new plane seems to bring more problems than the last.”
Despite its initial gremlins, however, the Boeing 747 went on to cut the most recognizable shape in the air, earning itself the title “Queen of the Skies.”
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