Farewell 747: Boeing's last 'Queen of the Skies' is delivered to Atlas Air

The sale marks the end of the famous aircraft's 54-year production run

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The last of Boeing's 747s has been delivered to Atlas Air, marking the end of the aircraft's 54-year production run.

Known as the "Queen of the Skies", 1,574 of them were sold to more than 100 customers, with the aircraft used for more than 118 million flight hours and about 23 million flight cycles.

Over the years, the 747 has served as a cargo plane, a commercial aircraft capable of carrying about 500 passengers, transport for Nasa's space shuttles and the Air Force One US presidential aircraft.

But production has come to an end as Boeing turns to more fuel-efficient planes with two engines as opposed to the 747's four.

"This monumental day is a testament to the generations of Boeing employees who brought to life the airplane that 'shrank the world' and revolutionised travel and air cargo as the first wide-body," said Stan Deal, president and chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

"It is fitting to deliver this final 747-8 Freighter to the largest operator of the 747, Atlas Air, where the 'Queen' will continue to inspire and empower innovation in air cargo."

For its final flight, the pilots charted a course that made the shape of a crown with the numbers 747 etched in.

“We’ve carried everything on the 747 from race cars to race horses, from rocket parts to satellites, electronics, overnight express shipments — and various forms of perishables like fresh flowers, vegetables and fish," said John Dietrich, president and chief executive of Atlas Air Worldwide.

"The 747 has also been critical to carrying life-saving goods like medicine, vaccines and personal protective equipment during the pandemic and other times of need.

"We are proud to serve the US military as the largest provider of their airlift — carrying both troops and cargo — and the 747 is the backbone of this critical work."

Atlas Air designed a custom split livery for the aircraft, with the airline's logo on the right side and tail of the aircraft, and the Apex Logistics logo on the left side.

To honour the legacy of the “Queen of the Skies”, a special decal was included to the right of the nose featuring Joe Sutter, considered by Boeing to be the “father of the 747".

The 747 was the first twin-aisle aircraft. Boeing continued to improve on the original design with models such as the 747-400 in 1988 and the final 747-8 model that was launched in 2005.

The 747 was the largest commercial aircraft in the world until the Airbus A380 was launched in 2007.

The 747 also set several records. It was the first aircraft to have a flatbed seat, pioneered by British Airways in 1999.

The jumbo jet can travel the length of three Fifa football pitches, or NFL football fields, a second, Boeing said, and is capable of carrying 10,767 gold bars from Fort Knox.

The aircraft's production took place at a factory in the US city of Everett, north of Seattle. The site is the world's largest building by volume.

Boeing employees who designed and built the first 747, known as the "Incredibles", returned to be honoured at the Everett factory, where the journey of the 747 began in 1969.

The 747 made its first transatlantic passenger flight — from New York to London — in 1970, carrying 350 passengers, a record at the time.

Some airlines turned the second deck into a first-class lounge, while the lower deck sometimes featured lounges or even a piano bar.

One decommissioned 747, originally built for Singapore Airlines in 1976, has been converted into a 33-room hotel near the airport in Stockholm, Sweden.

50 years of the Boeing 747 - in pictures

Updated: February 02, 2023, 8:30 AM