As the 747 passenger era grows to a close I thought I might look back at a future that never existed. A future that wishful thinking couldn’t produce and a plane that was impractical, it was the 1960’s and Boeing had a plane to sell that would most likely soon become obsolete. This is the story of how the jumbo jet got its mojo.
It’s the 1960’s and with the space race in full swing, it’s an exciting time to be alive. Technology is rapidly advancing and Boeing is keeping up. Last decade they produced the 707, the jet that really set the jet age on fire but now it’s time for something even better. The Boeing 747. The 747 was drawn up as a versatile airliner and originally was single-deck but as supersonic airliners threatened to eliminate the need for conventional jetliners within the next couple of decades Boeing came up with a plan. The plan was to design the 747 with a flip-up nose due to the high likelihood that jets would be replaced with supersonic and the jumbo could become a cargo airliner. The only problem? The cockpit was in the way, therefore a hump was put in to house the cockpit without getting in the way of the door.
When the 747 rolled out in February 1969 it was a marvel. The hump was something never seen before and people loved it. Concorde meanwhile was rolled out a few months later. The 747 started service in 1970 and after 3 years later the 747 had seemed to prove herself after 14 of the 16 airlines who originally ordered her cancelled. After entering service in 1976 Concorde flew between London and New York in less than half the time of the larger 747 and she was a marvel but here’s the thing, economics doesn’t care about looks. The 747 families expanded into more fuel-efficient variants and as time went on the debate on the future of air travel was over.
Concorde ultimately took her final flight in 2003 and the dreams of a supersonic future diminished. The 747 continues to fly to this day and although she is getting retired as a passenger airliner it really proves that the dreams and aspirations of the '60s were wrong, subsonic is the future, at least for now.
VH-OJA, the first airliner to fly from London to Sydney non stop image credit