Signaling the end of an historic 54-year production, the final 747 – known far and wide as the Queen of the Skies – rolled out of Boeing’s widebody factory in Everett, Washington, Tuesday evening in advance of its delivery to Atlas Air in early 2023.
“For more than half a century, tens of thousands of dedicated Boeing employees have designed and built this magnificent airplane that has truly changed the world. We are proud that this plane will continue to fly across the globe for years to come,” said Kim Smith, vice president and general manager, 747 and 767 Programs.
Braving chilly, but dry conditions, hundreds of employees gathered outside the factory to bid farewell to the 747-8. For David Bruton, witnessing the final rollout was an emotional experience.
“It’s a surreal feeling,” Bruton said. “I’ve helped walk many 747s out the door and out to the flight line, but this is the last one and it’s the end of an era.”
No formal events were held to mark the occasion, and employees were encouraged to stay away out of safety concerns. Many of those in attendance were already on site for second shift, while others made a special trip to witness the event from a safe distance.
Preparations are underway for employee and community events to celebrate delivery, which is scheduled for early next year. Details will be shared closer to that time.
Bruton, the third generation of his family to work on the 747, said the airplane has been the source of cherished memories.
“We watched the first 747 flight from Mukilteo Beach, looking out toward Whidbey Island with the chase jets. Then, I got to walk through the first 747 on the apron out here with my family,” Bruton remembered. “It was important to me to be out here today to watch this last one roll out because I was there for the beginning, so it was neat to be here for the end.”
James Wagner, who works on the 747 flight line field team, said his connection to the 747 goes back to his grandfather.
“My grandfather took pictures of this airplane when it was out on the flight line for the first time,” Wagner said.
For Wagner, watching the 747 reminded him of the generations of people who worked on the program over more than half a century.
“It meant a lot to a lot of people,” he said. “It fed a lot of people, put a lot of people through college, brought a lot of people places. That’s not lost on me.”
Benjamin Roehl, a second-shift seal manager for the 747 and 767 programs, said the legacy of the 747 will carry on beyond the final delivery.
“It’s one of those things that will never die,” Roehl said. “The 747 will always be known as the Queen of the Skies.”
“Long live the Queen,” Bruton said.
By Nate Hanson and Brianna Jackson