It has been an extraordinary airliner since it first flew in February 1969 and the story of the Boeing 747 isn’t over yet, with Lufthansa overnight taking delivery of the 1500th 747, a 747-8 Intercontinental at Everett north of Seattle.
The photo of the first such delivery to the German carrier has been used instead of the official photo, which is really not up to standard which might be expected for such an historic occasion.
Boeing has also circulated on social media a photo of Joe Sutter at the delivery ceremony, flanked by unnamed persons.
Joe Sutter, acclaimed as the father of the 747, was the manager of its design team in what were exciting times in civil aviation for very good reasons, but topped by the advent of this breakthrough ‘jumbo’ jet which proved even more illustrious in service than the great Boeing 707 family that led the transformation of air services from the late 1950s.
The initial version of the 747, the -100, began service with Pan American in 1970. Qantas waited for the B model, more latterly known as the 747-200, which it introduced in September 1971, and which was definitely the right call in that it had a smoother introducion into service and took the airline into a long period of growth and market leadership.
The Boeing 747 models all enjoyed long service lives, with many converted to freighter versions as they reached an operational age where the costs of the maintenance and rebuilding required for continued safe and reliable service exceeded their replacement with newer more fuel efficient versions of the jet, or competing designs, including the Boeing 777s.
For that reason alone it is likely that the last 747s to fly in passenger service will be -8s, and most probably, in Lufthansa service, well into the 2020s if not 2030s, barring some technological or operational ambush in a game where abrupt change can be counted on.