747s will soon disappear from passenger service by the tow remaining US operators. That’s not news. But this video from CBS Sunday Morning is an entertaining and revealing look at Boeing’s iconic jetliner. While air freight companies will continue to fly 747s, many passenger airlines like United are planning to retire the jumbo by the end of the year. In fact United will fly their last passenger flight on Tuesday November 7th. The video includes interviews with historians, pilots, and others connected with the 747.
An Incredible Journey
First flown in 1969, the 747 entered service with Pan American Airlines in January of 1970. Boeing has produced 1,539 747s (all variants). Since 1990, the Air Force’s two VC-25As (747-200Bs) carried the President of The United States. Other military 747s include the E-4B airborne command post, the YAL-1 airborne laser platform, a pair of (now-retired) Shuttle Carrier Aircraft for NASA. There were also several experimental types including the KC-33A aerial refueling tanker (not produced). There were also a few novel ideas for ‘the queen’. They included the 747 CMCA cruise missile carrier, and even the 747 AAC (Airborne Aircraft Carrier) which was intended to launch ten small fighter aircraft.
747s have also been used as aerial fire-fighting platforms, and for the Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). 21 major models of the 747 have flown since production began in 1968. A major star in movies, 747s demanded top billing in the Universal Pictures disaster films “Airport 1975” from 1974 and “Airport 1977” from 1977. The climactic scenes of 20th Century Fox’s 1990 drama “Die Hard 2” starred a 747 as did the 1996 Warner Brothers drama “Executive Decision”, Columbia’s “Air Force One“ from 1997, and New Line Cinema’s 2006 film “Snakes On a Plane.”