Boeing 747 - Four Decades of the Jumbo Jet


40 years ago the Boeing 747 made its first flight across the skies of Washington State. It lasted a total of 75 minutes. In the forty years that followed, the 747 became an icon of travel and helped bring mass tourism to many countries around the world.

Many features made the 747 a unique airplane.  It was the first airplane with a wide body and with more than one aisle. Although this is a normal feature in today's long-distance jets it was something very new at the time. Everything was so big and you had the feeling that you were in a large room.

It was the first three-deck plane. Passengers could reach the upper deck through a winding staircase. Originally, this area was only for first class travelers - today it is used as an additional passenger area. The upper deck was also where the cockpit was. Pilots had to get used to this perspective from which they took off and landed the new plane.



A Boeing 747 - Virgin Atlantic

A Virgin Atlantic 747


The engines of the new plane were gigantic and in the early days there were problems with overheating.

Airports also had to adapt to the gigantic Boeing. Runways had to be extended, taxiways made wider.  Airlines at first were doubtful if they could fill up the new jumbo with enough passengers in order to make money with the new plane. In fact, the 747 was too big at the beginning. The oil crisis of the 1970s brought a crisis to the airlines and fewer passengers. But as time went on, the new fleets attracted more and more customers and were bought by airlines around the globe.


Since its birth in 1969 the 747 has succeeded in bringing airline travel to more and more people and it has made travelling cheaper. The operating costs of a jumbo carrying 400 passengers are less than those of two airplanes with 200 passengers each.

The 747 is a true success story and may well stay on for years to come.


Related Topics


  • additional = extra
  • aisle = a long passage between the rows of seats in a plane, church or theatre
  • although = while
  • attract = catch the attention of
  • customer = here: a person who travels by plane
  • deck = floor
  • doubtful = uncertain, not sure
  • extend = to make longer
  • feature = characteristics, elements
  • fleet = group of planes controlled by the same airline
  • globe = world
  • icon = symbol
  • in fact = in reality
  • jumbo = a Boeing 747
  • make money = earn money
  • operating costs = the money you spend on operating an airplane
  • originally = at first
  • runway = a long wide road on which a plane takes off and lands
  • stay on = continue flying
  • succeed = to do well
  • taxiway = the road on which the aircraft drives to the runway
  • unique = single; there is only one of its kind
  • wide = not narrow
  • winding staircase = the stairs go up to the next floor in a circle