An emotional event marks the final delivery of the iconic double-decker airplane that changed commercial aviation
It was 1967 when Boeing mechanics in Everett, Washington started riveting together a massive, new airplane that became widely known as the “Queen of the Skies.”
The 747 was the first commercial airplane capable of long-range travel, reaching points anywhere in the world. Not only that, the 747 was the first twin-aisle airplane. As a result, she had double the capacity of any commercial airplane at the time. That fact opened the skies to many, as opposed to what had previously been just a few.
Fast forward to the last day of January, 2023 in the same Everett factory where the 747 was born. There were wide smiles, coupled with tears and camera-shutter clicks, as about 10,000 people celebrated the delivery of the final 747.
That last airplane, a 747-8 Freighter, was the 1,574th manufactured, capping a production run spanning more than five-and-a-half decades. It outlasted any number of airplane programs that came and went during that span—both at Boeing and its competitors.
The final 747 is revealed during the ceremony honoring the airplane’s legacy. (Craig Larsen photo)
Thousands of employees—both current and former—were joined by customer and supplier representatives, government officials and a global online audience. They gathered to pay tribute to the last of its kind, a four-engine behemoth with the distinctive hump that changed the commercial aviation industry forever.
Employees watch as factory doors open revealing the final 747.
Veteran Fabrication employee Joey Nguyen, who volunteered to help at the event, has worked on 747 parts in Auburn, Washington, but had never seen a completed 747 before Tuesday. “To see it in person—the last one—it’s really amazing. It’s massive,” he said.
Participants were emotional as they took photos near the airplane and at a special selfie station.
“It’s really cool to think about how many families and generations have worked on this airplane. It’s making me emotional,” said Nathalie Moyano, who works in Digital Transformation.
“When I first had my internship at Boeing, I came to the factory on a tour above the plane,” she continued. “It was the most incredible thing to just see the wings—standing above them—and realizing that thing flies. It’s amazing we build these products.”
Employees pose for photos beside the final 747 prior to the ceremony. (Josh Green photo)
Atlas Air, the world’s largest operator of the airplane took delivery of the final airplane, bringing its current 747 fleet to 56.
The hour-plus event featured remarks by past and present Boeing leaders and customer representatives. Renowned entertainer (and pilot) John Travolta, who provided narration for many of the videos at the event, even made a surprise appearance.
The 747 program employed tens of thousands of people during its production run, and those on the program at the end are being integrated into other programs.
The final 747 now joins hundreds of its kind serving the in-service fleet, which will be delivering people and goods around the world for decades.
“We turn a page today, but we don’t close the book,” said Stan Deal, Boeing Commercial Airplanes president & CEO. “While it is bittersweet to see 747 production ending, Boeing teammates will be supporting our customers operating these highly capable airplanes for many years to come.”
Atlas Air gave the Queen a fitting flyaway; after the aircraft left Boeing’s Everett plant, pilots traced a crown in the sky with “747” in the middle.