Boeing's final 747 to be delivered to Atlas Air more than five decades after first flight

The last commercial Boeing 747 will be delivered to Atlas Air this week, ending its reign as «Queen of the Skies» 53 years after capturing the world’s attention as a Pan Am passenger jet.

Designed in the late 1960s to meet demand for mass travel, the world’s first twin-aisle wide body jetliner’s nose and upper deck became the world’s most luxurious club above the clouds.

But it was in the seemingly endless rows at the back of the new jumbo that the 747 transformed travel.

The final delivery comes after Qantas retired its last Boeing 747 in 2020 which was bought in 1971 and made air travel accessible to many Australians for the first time.

Air France-KLM chief executive Ben Smith said it also introduced flying for the middle class in the US.

«Prior to the 747 your average family couldn’t fly from the US to Europe affordably,» he said.

The jumbo made its mark on global affairs, symbolising war and peace, from America’s «Doomsday Plane» nuclear command post to papal visits on chartered 747s nicknamed «Shepherd One».

As a Pan Am flight attendant, Linda Freier served passengers ranging from Michael Jackson to Mother Teresa.

«It was an incredible diversity of passengers. People who were well dressed and people who had very little and spent everything they had on that ticket,» Ms Freier said.

When the first 747 took off from New York on January 22, 1970, after a delay due to an engine glitch, it more than doubled plane capacity to 350-400 seats.

«It was the aircraft for the people, the one that really delivered the capability to be a mass market,» aviation historian Max Kingsley-Jones said.

«It was transformational across all aspects of the industry.» …

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