Boeing 747: The original jumbo jet turns 50

Boeing 747: The original jumbo jet turns 50

The name says it all

A British Airways jumbo approaching Heathrow Airport near London. This picture shows why the Boeing aircraft officially designated the 747 was quickly given the nickname "jumbo jet" shortly after its market launch 50 years ago. The four-engine jet is simply huge.

Boeing 747: The original jumbo jet turns 50

Old friends

Boeing President Bill Allen (left) and the head of the US airline Pan Am, Juan Trippe, on February 9, 1968 after the maiden flight of the first 747. The two had a long-standing friendship. According to legend, Trippe is said to have approached Allen as the plane-maker was finishing plans for the wide-body aircraft: "If you build it, I'll buy it." Boeing's answer: "If you buy it, I will build it."

Boeing 747: The original jumbo jet turns 50

Traveling in elegance

The new 747 was not only praised for its technical innovations, it also stood for glamor. With a lounge serving cocktails, it promised a sleek and relaxed travel experience. At more than 70 meters (230 feet) long and with a wingspan of almost 60 meters, it offered space for between 366 and 550 passengers, depending on how the seats were arranged.

Boeing 747: The original jumbo jet turns 50

Catastrophes

Unfortunately, the jumbo jet is also associated with great calamities. The crash of a Lufthansa plane in 1974 shortly after takeoff in Nairobi cost 59 lives. In 1977, two jumbos collided at an airport in Tenerife and 583 died in that accident. In 1988, 270 people were killed in the crash of a jumbo over the small town of Lockerbie in Scotland after the explosion of a terrorist's bomb on board.

Boeing 747: The original jumbo jet turns 50

Open wide

An unforgettable characteristic of the jumbo jet is its hump — the upper deck, in which, among other things, the cockpit is located. This design allows the cargo version of the plane to have a bow door that allows for generous loads. Today, Boeing practically only sells the four-engine aircraft in the freight version since it uses so much fuel and other more efficient planes are available.

Boeing 747: The original jumbo jet turns 50

A heavy load

The US space shuttle Discovery rides piggyback on a giant — here a photo from 2012. The Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) were two modified 747-100s made to transport the space shuttle for the US space agency NASA. They were normally used to return the shuttles to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida whenever one arrived at an alternative landing site.

Boeing 747: The original jumbo jet turns 50

Air Force One

Out of the 1,548 jumbo 747s built, only a few will ever be able to call themself "Air Force One" even though US President Donald Trump has also ordered the next presidential aircraft based on the 747 model line. The Japanese emperor and the Sultan of Brunei also use the "Queen of the Skies" as their official government plane.

Boeing 747: The original jumbo jet turns 50

Ed Force One

The British heavy metal band Iron Maiden lands in May 2016 with its chartered Boeing 747 at the airport in Dusseldorf. At the time metalheads and plane spotters secured the best seats to watch the plane — dubbed the "Ed Force One" after the band's mascot, the monster Eddie — land and takeoff. Incidentally, the plane was flown by lead singer Bruce Dickinson himself.

Boeing 747: The original jumbo jet turns 50

A flying dinosaur

Like the even bigger Airbus A380 (in the foreground), the 747 no longer meets the economic requirements of airlines that prefer long-haul dual-engine aircraft such as the A350 or the Boeing 777 and 787. In the past year there were only a total of 18 new orders for the 747 jumbo jet, in all there are only 24 unfinished orders on the books.

Fifty years ago saw the maiden flight of the Boeing 747. The jumbo jet became the world's dominating passenger aircraft in no time, offering new (big) opportunities to airlines around the globe.