First flight: 1969
Role: Wide-body, long-range jet airliner
Manufacturer: Boeing Commercial Airplanes
B-747 Jumbo Jet
Known by most people as the “Jumbo Jet,” The Boeing 747 is one of the world’s most recognizable aircraft. With the ability to function as either a passenger or transport plane, the B-747 is also one of the largest aircraft in the world.
As with most aircraft, the design for the B-747 came from a request from the military for an “oversized” cargo transport aircraft that could outperform their C-141 Starlifter. The military wanted a plane that could carry “outsized” cargo that couldn’t fit in any existing aircraft. During the early 1960’s Pan American Airlines was also pushing Boeing for a much larger airliner as well. The President of Pan Am, Juan Trippe knew that a larger airliner could easily keep up with passenger demand better than a bunch of smaller planes. Boeing used all of these recommendations and created the B-747, the world’s largest and first wide-bodied jetliner. The company felt that the B-747 was a smart plane to invest in due to the fact that the engines could easily be upgraded for the next big thing, along with the fact that even if passenger airlines began to decrease, there would still be a need for large cargo planes. In April of 1966, Pan Am signed the contract with Boeing and the first B-747 took to the skies on February 9, 1969. Since Boeing signed the contract with Pan Am, the B-747 was introduced with Pan Am in 1970 then followed by Continental Airlines and TWA.
Since the B-747 was designed for optimal cargo capacity, the passenger version created a second deck on the plane. This is partly due to the cockpit creating a hump above the main deck. The cockpit is raised to allow cargo to be loaded from the front of the plane on freight versions. This allowed airlines to create a first-class lounge or additional first-class seating in this second deck.
Of all the different variations of the B-747, there are a few unique ones that stand out amongst the rest. If you thought it couldn’t possibly get any bigger, the B-747 Dreamlifter will prove to you that it could. Modified to carry sub-assembly parts for Boeing’s future B-787, the Dreamlifter is the largest cargo airplane in service. The B-747 is also the current aircraft model for the President’s Air Force One and the Japanese Air Force One.
From a first-class luxury liner to the world’s largest cargo carrier, the Jumbo Jet will always be known as one of the largest planes to ever soar amongst the clouds.