The sun is setting on the planet's most recognizable jetliner. The very last Boeing 747 passenger jet was likely delivered in July -- a jumbo for Korean Air Lines -- and on November 7, 2017 United Airlines is retiring its Boeing 747 fleet with a retro-themed farewell flight from San Francisco to Honolulu.
The 747 has been a passenger favorite since being introduced in 1970 by fondly remembered airline Pan American World Airways. It's doubled as a flying White House as Air Force One, as well as being the setting for many a Hollywood airborne adventure.
Why the sun is setting on the Boeing 747
There are close to 500 of the big planes still flying, although many airlines are now replacing their passenger 747s with larger, more advanced, and more efficient twin-engine planes.
The most recent version of "The Queen of the Skies" is the 747-8 Intercontinental, with new wings, engines, and technologies unimaginable to the designers and pilots of the original 747, which debuted almost 50 years ago. While its unique silhouette will still be around for years to come -- albeit in fewer and fewer numbers -- there's little doubt that the "Queen's" impact on aviation is as big as its size.
The first wide-body
The 747 ushered in the era of the twin-aisle, wide-body passenger plane. But had it been up to Pan Am's founder, Juan Trippe, the celebrated jet might have been a double-deck version of the single-aisle Boeing 707.
Trippe pushed the plane's designers to come up with a double-decker, a shape that Boeing engineer Joe Sutter, known as the "father of the 747," called a "turkey."
It took a Boeing executive's initiative in a meeting in a Pan Am boardroom to change Trippe's mind. The dimensions of the room were exactly the same as the proposed wide-body 747's width and height, and Pan Am was impressed.
The interior of the 747 was developed in association with the Seattle-based firm Teague, Boeing's long-time cabin design partner.
It was the first plane to have almost vertical sidewalls and a high ceiling, giving passengers a feeling of space and openness.
Instead of a long, thin tube, the cabin was split up into "rooms," with galleys and lavatories installed as dividers.
It's a shape that has defined long-haul travel for nearly half a century.
[caption id="attachment_124676" align="alignnone" width="634"] The 747 swiftly garnered a reputation as a glamorous transport option.[/caption]
The 747's dimensions were huge compared to the 707s and...