Every day millions of people fly, it is an accepted way of life - but that has not always been the case. From the early days of commercial aviation, flying was limited to business travelers and those with the means to purchase the very expensive tickets. Destinations were also limited requiring a number of connections to fly between major cities. In 1969, that all changed as an incredible invention was revealed to the world. On Feb. 9, 1969, the Boeing 747, called the “Super Jet,” and dubbed the “Jumbo Jet” by the press took to the skies for the first time. To those whom have loved the plane through the years she is the “Queen of the Skies.”


The 747 quickly became the icon of commercial aviation. The 747 was postage stamp famous, an icon of pop culture, the backdrop of movies and television, and it even carried the Space Shuttle. The airplane introduced a number of technological and aviation firsts, the greatest being the invention of the twin aisle wide body design. It also marked the first commercial use of the high bypass turbofan engine.

Under the command of chief designer Joe Sutter, the 747’s design was based in safety. Boeing introduced quadruple hydraulic systems, redundant structures and four main landing gear (the plane is able to operate on two), Boeing also reinvented pilot training, moving away from strictly procedural training to behavioral training. It did not take long for the 747 to have a giant impact on air travel. It was the must-have flagship for the world’s airlines and attracted passengers with its luxury and passenger appeal.


What has made the 747 extraordinary aside from its distinguishing hump and its Hollywood status,has been the customers who have helped the 747 fleet log more than 57 billion nautical miles (121.5 billion kilometers) which are equal to more than 137,000 trips from the Earth to the moon and back! It is through partnerships with our customers that air travel became a possibility for much of the world. 747s, have flown more than 5.9 billion people – the equivalent of 78 percent of the world’s population. And as the 747’s role continues, it provides a service that the original designers foresaw and optimized the 747 to perform as the world’s finest freighter - a testament to an airplane that was built to last.


“Over the last 50 years, the 747 has become legendary, today it is a bridge to a romantic era of flight, an era that we should continue to aspire to resurrect. But more than that the 747 is a reminder of the power of the human spirit and what we can accomplish with our hearts, minds and hard work. It reminds us that even though we may lose hope in a world that seems filled with strife, we can turn our eyes to the skies and see those great contrails of the Queen of the Skies crossing the heavens and know that we can still overcome great adversity and accomplish incredible things.” – Mike Lombardi, Boeing Historian

Click one of Mike’s favorite moments below to hear a special story about the image.