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The 747 Queen of the Skies

First Pan Am Boeing 747 at LAX

On display

The Flight Path Museum has two large British Airways 747-400 models on display in the Main Gallery sporting two different generations of livery (also known as paint scheme), an EVA Air 747-400 model hanging from the ceiling and an American Airlines 747SP in the Southeast area of the room, An additional smaller 1:200 model of an SAS 747-200 is on display in the international hallway.

The livery known as the Landor Scheme, named after the design agency that created it is a favorite of many enthusiasts due to its perceived elegance. It was in use from 1984 to 1997. More information.

The scheme known as “World Tails” was a novel approach to portray British Airways as a world carrier, serving not as the flag carrier for Britain, but for every country it serves. Each aircraft in the fleet would have a different motif painted on the tail. Each motif would be strongly influenced by one of the countries British Airways served. In practice it created confusion at airports as air traffic controllers often tell pilots to follow an airline to a certain position. With the different tails, pilots had difficulty distinguishing British Airways planes from others. Then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously critiqued the design calling the design “not British” before putting a handkerchief on the tail of a model 747 painted in that scheme. The scheme was short lived, in use between 1997 and 1999. More information.

The additional smaller 747-400 model is on display in the main gallery hanging from the ceiling in northwest corner of the room. Sporting the EVA Air colors, EVA first started flying to LAX in 1992 and continues to fly Taipei to LAX on a daily basis.

The American Airlines 747SP in the Southeast corner of the room is a model of the “Special Performance” or SP variant of the 747. Designed to be 47 feet shorter than the original 747-100, it was designed to fly fewer passengers further. It was eventually rendered obsolete with new variants of the 747 that were able to fly the same distances without the loss of passenger capacity. Only a few were built.

The 747-200 model in SAS “Viking” colors is an homage to the Scandinavian history revolving around Vikings with a stylized Viking ship embedded within the cheatline.

Some history

The Boeing 747 is often referred to as the “Queen of the skies”. Few aircraft in the history of commercial aviation have had not only an industry wide impact, but also a societal and economic impact as well. 

Built by Boeing in Everett Washington, it was the first aircraft to be considered a “wide body”. The 747 was not an incremental leap in size to existing jets of the day such as the 707 0r DC-8, it could carry more than double their passengers. With that capability, it could transport its passengers with more luxurious amenities due to its larger size and over longer distances, the 747 changed the industry.

A comparison between the cross section of a B707 (inner ring) and a B747 (outer ring)
Boeing 747-100 size comparison to the Boeing 707

The real change came in the ability to reduce airfare costs due to economies of scale made possible by the size of the aircraft. More people could access air travel due to plunging costs, making air travel accessible to the masses, opening up travel opportunities that did not exist until then.

The large size of the aircraft meant that airports had to be adapted to accommodate an aircraft that was considerably larger. This meant new terminal facilities to handle more passengers per flight, larger parking bays for the aircraft with a wider wingspan and longer fuselage. Runways and taxiways needed to be adapted to handle the larger aircraft as well as heavier weight.

 

Rendering of Terminal 3 at LAX adapted for use with the B747

The first 747 flight to LAX happened almost a year after entering service in December of 1970. Its first flight to London began a trend that made LAX a true hub for 747 operations long-haul to Europe, Asia and Oceania. As the 747 was further developed over the following decades, the aircraft became even more economical while increasing the amount of passengers and cargo it could carry, as well as carrying them further with increased range. The latest version of the 747, the 747-8, will continue to grace the skies for years to come.

B747-8 flying for Lufthansa at LAX

The 747 is a frequent visitor to Flight Path as the pads behind the Flight Path are often operated by 747s which will remain in cargo where the 747 is still unmatched for its lift capabilities.

1963

US Air Force Heavy Lift Progrgam

The USAF began studies on a heavy-lift cargo aircraft proposal. Boeing, Douglas and Lockheed all propose concepts.

1963

1965

Lockheed C-5 selected for USAF program.

The Lockheed C-5 Galaxy is chosen to fulfill USAF requirements for heavy lift capabilities. Boeing’s concept is significantly modified for potential passenger use.

1965

April 13, 1966

First 747 Order

The first order of 25 747-100 aircraft is placed by Juan Trippe, founder of Pan Am.

April 13, 1966

February 9, 1969

First Flight

Boeing 747 takes to the skies above Everett Washington.

February 9, 1969

December 13, 1969

First 747 is delivered

First 747 is delivered to Pan Am.

December 13, 1969

December 25, 1970

First 747 arrives at LAX

A Boeing 747 bearing Pan American World Airways markings, landed at Los Angeles International Airport on the evening of December 25, 1970: attracted big crowds while parked on the south side of the airport. Tours were conducted for the general public during evening of December 25th and morning of December 26th, followed by demonstration flights for airline executives, city administrators and press. The 747 departed from Los Angeles International Airport on the night of December 26, 1970.

December 25, 1970

December 30, 1969

747-100 is certified

The 747-100 is certified by the FAA for commercial operations.

December 30, 1969

Janurary 21, 1970

747 entry in service

First 747 enters passenger service with Pan Am. 

Janurary 21, 1970

February 25, 1970

TWA Begins LAX -JFK 747 Service

TWA begins Jumbo Jet Flights between JFK and LAX using the 747-100. Golden Wings later starts connection service from Santa Ana and Ontario airports to directly connect passengers to 747 flights.

February 25, 1970

October 11, 1970

747-200 First Flight

October 11, 1970

June 1971

747-200 enters Service

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines becomes the first operator of the 747-200

June 1971

July 4, 1975

747SP First Flight

The 747SP (Special Performance), a shortened version of the 747 takes-off for the first time. Though carrying fewer passengers, the 747SP allowed airlines to carry passengers further.

July 4, 1975

October 1975

747 carries 100 million passengers

The combined 747 fleet carries 100 million passengers to date.

October 1975

April 25, 1976

First 747SP enters service

Pan Am operates the first 747SP allowing longer routes to be flown.

April 25, 1976

October 5, 1982

First 747-300 Flight

October 5, 1982

March 28, 1983

First 747-300 enters service

The 747-300, first 747 with a stretched upper deck enters service with Swissair.

March 28, 1983

April 29, 1988

747-400 First Flight

First flight of the first 747-400

April 29, 1988

February 9, 1989

747-400 enters service

747-400 enters service with Northwest Airlines

February 9, 1989

November 14, 2005

747-8 launched by Boeing

Development of the 747-8, the newest and last evolution of the 747.

November 14, 2005

March 10, 2007

Over 1,500 747 orders booked

March 10, 2007

Feb. 8, 2010

747-8 first flight

Feb. 8, 2010

May 5, 2012

747-8i Enters service

Lufthansa uses the first 747-8i passenger aircraft on the Frankfurt to Washington D.C. route.

May 5, 2012

December 21, 2017

Delta retires the 747

Delta Airlines celebrates the retirement of their last 747-400 inherited from their merger with Northwest Airlines. The airline celebrated at the Flight Path Museum. ​

December 21, 2017

July 24, 2020

Last Qantas Airlines 747 leaves LAX for Mojave

The last 747-400 in the Qantas fleet is flown from LAX to Mojave Air and Space Port for retirement from Qantas service.

July 24, 2020

February 2, 2023

Last 747 delivered

The last 747 rolls off the assembly line in Everett Washington. A 747-8f is delivered to Atlas Air. Atlas Air is a Platinum Plus Sponsor of the Flight Path Museum LAX.

February 2, 2023

Sources: Flight Path Museum LAX Archives, 747 Timeline, Essay on 747 history

Jean-Christophe Dick

Jean-Christophe has over 15 years experience as Airport Planner, currently at ESA, and has been on the Board of the Flight Path Museum since 2017. He is currently serving as the Museum President and Airport Historian. He is also a pilot and award-winning photographer.
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