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Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet – History

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How did the 747 idea evolve?

In 1963 Boeing was among a group of plane makers that were competing for a military contract to build a very large transport. One of the main requirements for the military transport design was for a nose loading cargo door with clear access to the main deck. The Boeing design featured a bubble atop the fuselage forward of the wing leading edge.

The contract went to Lockheed and General Electric to build what was to become the C5 Galaxy.

During this time, commercial aviation was growing at a rapid pace. The jet age was finding its feet with the very popular Boeing 707 and Douglas DC8 being the workhorses of the day. Juan Trippe of Pan Am, one of Boeings biggest customers, approached Boeing to press them to look at building an aircraft twice the size of the 707 and DC8. Trippe advocated that a larger aircraft would be the solution to the congestion at airports, reducing the number of relatively smaller aircraft required to move the same amount of people.

The firstBoeing 747 100 rolls out of the factory. Note the logos of all the airlines who had ordered this aircraft and the cabin crew uniforms of each of these carriers.

Boeing 747 Design

In 1965 Boeing put together a design team to work on the new airliner which was already given the Boeing 747 designation. The proposal Boeing had put forward for the military transport, the CX-HLS, was taken as a start point. Some features were retained, but others such as the high wing design were discarded. The design also had to be future proof. At this time in aviation, it was felt that supersonic travel had every chance of becoming the norm, so Boeing had to take an each-way bet. The design team for the Boeing 747 had to come up with an aircraft that met the requirements of airlines who wanted mass passenger movement, but at the same time had the ability to be an effective freighter.

Pan Am launches the Boeing 747

Pan Am became the launch customer for the  Boeing 747 in April 1966 by ordering 25 Boeing 747 100s. Being involved from the beginning of the design and development of the Boeing 747, Pan Am influenced these phases more than any other airline before or since.

This Boeing 747 131 was the aircraft that flew the ill-fated flight TW800 from New York to Rome via Paris on 17 July 1996. The flight crashed into the ocean with 230 lives lost off the coast of East Moriches, New York. A short circuit causing a fuel explosion was determined to be the cause.

Twin or Single Deck for the Boeing 747?

Initial designs of the 747 called for a twin-deck aircraft, with two decks running the full length of the fuselage. This gave a very effective increase in capacity, however, the ability to evacuate two decks of passengers was found to be not possible within the recommended 90-second limit. Boeing opted for a single main deck which was then widened from the standard economy configuration of the day of three and three with a single aisle to a twin-aisle layout with seating in three four three.

Boeing 747 made possible through new engine technology

One of the main enablers that made such a larger aircraft possible was the advent of high bypass turbofan engines. General Electric had applied the principal to the C5 Galaxy project. The high bypass turbofan delivered twice the power of turbojets which were in use at the time and used one third less fuel. Pratt and Whitney were also working on this concept and in 1966 Pan AM, Boeing and Pratt and Whitney agreed to develop the JT9D as the powerhouse for the 747.

A KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) Boeing 747-300. The 747-300 was distinguishable as the first 747 to have a stretched upper deck but did not sport the winglets that were added to the 747-400.

Arguably one of the most recognisable aircraft in the skies, the Boeing 747, also known as the Jumbo Jet or Queen of the Skies, reigned supreme as the largest flying commercial airliner until the introduction of the Airbus A380.

Boeing 747 History Time Line

Notable Events.
1963 The U.S. air-force commissions studies into a large transport aircraft capable of carrying over-sized cargo which cannot be accommodated by aircraft of the day.
March 1964 The outcome of the Air-force study was a requirement for the CX-HLS(Heavy Logistics System).
1965 Lockheed and General Electric are given the military contract to build the C5 Galaxy.
1965 Design study begins on a new airliner already designated 747. Pan Am and other airlines are invited to share their requirements.
April 1966 Pan Am orders 25 Boeing 747 100s on Boeings 50th anniversary.
1966 Boeing, Pan Am and Pratt and Whitney initiate the development of the JT9D engine for the 747.
30 Sep 1968 The first 747 was rolled out of the Everett plant in front of the press.
09 Feb 1969 The Boeing 747 made its maiden flight which had very pleasing results.
13 Dec 1968 One of the test aircraft was damaged when landing short at Renton. The outer landing gear was torn off as well as damage to two engine nacelles.
1969 Boeing took a 747 to the 28th Paris airshow where it was shown to the public for the first time.
Dec 1969 Boeing was awarded its FAA airworthiness certificate. The 747 was ready for commercial operations.
15 Jan 1970 The first delivery 747 for Pan am was christened by First Lady Pat Nixon. she was named Clipper Victor.
22 Jan 1970 Pan Ams’ inaugural 747 flight took place from New York to London. It was delayed from the 21st of Jan due to engine overheating.
Feb 1971 The Boeing 747 200 was introduced into service. With more powerful engines and a greater Maximum Takeoff Weight, this variant had achieved a range of 6,000NM/11,000Km making it viable on international routes previously not possible with the 747 100.
03 Aug 1973 The first 747 100SR short range high seating capacity aircraft for Japan Airlines domestic market was rolled out.
17 Jun 1975 Boeing announced that the Rolls Royce RB211-524B would be an alternative choice of power-plant on the 747 200.
1976 The 747 SP was introduced into service. This variant was 48feet 4 In / 14.73M shorter than the 747 100 and was delivered to Pan Am and Iran Air in the same year. It operated the Tehran to New York route which was then the longest non-stop route.
21 Dec 1978 ANA (All Nippon Airways) received their first 747 100BSR a further development of the 747 100SR. This variant had a great Maximum Takeoff weight and it was strengthened for a high cycle (takeoff and landings) versus flying time ratio.
20 Jun 1979 First flight of the 747 100B which used the stronger air-frame of the 747 100SR with added fuel capacity to allow for a range of 5,000NM/9,300Km.
11 Jun 1980 Swissair places an order for the first Boeing 747 300
05 Oct 1982 Maiden flight of the Boeing Boeing 747 300
23 Mar 1983 Swissair takes delivery of their first Boeing 747 300
1985 Work begins on the design of the Boeing 747 400.
26 Feb 1986 Maiden flight of the Boeing 747 100BSR, a high capacity variant with a stretched upper deck as added to the later 747 300.
Feb 1989 The 747 400 enters service with Northwest Airlines on the Minneapolis to Phoenix route.
Sep 1989 The 747 400 combi version enters service with KLM.
Sep 1990 The last 747 300 is delivered to Sabena.
Nov 2002 The 747 400ER enters service with QANTAS
Apr 2005 The final 747 400 is delivered to China Airlines
14 Nov 2005 Boeing announces plans for the Boeing 747 8

If there is more you want to learn about this airliner, please visit: Boeing 747 Home, Boeing 747 Specs, Boeing 747 Order Book,  Boeing 747 Interior and Boeing 747 Assembly,

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18 thoughts on “Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet – History”

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    Any early-morning.
    A 747-400 eases her main-trucks
    off the tarmac of yet another runway.

    Her Pratt and Whitneys,
    annular chambers
    seeded with blue-flame,
    sing-growl their way skywards,
    pull-thrusting 400 tons
    of plane-fuel – cargo-people.

    She accelerate-climbs into
    the already sun-drenched,
    cumulus-whipped, cirrus-swept,
    azure-sky of the blue-planet’s
    snug-held mantle.

    Business-deals – lover’s-meetings,
    holiday-fun – family-reunions.
    Needed-medicine – wanted-luxuries,
    necessary-food – nonsense-trivia.
    All within her metal-firm cocoon.
    Hopes-fears – needs-wants,
    safely closeted.

    Eleven hiccough-less hours
    lie before her flawless
    Pliable-flexible body-metal
    easily rides twisting-shearing,
    compressing-bending-pulling loads
    imposed between air-mass and air-frame.
    Well within her design limits.

    Did ancient-man, with all his
    emotion-folly, his ego-bent
    and mind-twisted,
    Did he really build this
    finely-honed, daily-used,

    Raymond Hattingh

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