Monday, October 01, 2018

Boeing's iconic 747 turns 50: A flashback

The world got its first glimpse of Boeing's 747 half a century ago, on September 30, 1968, as the first hulking jetliner rolled out of the factory in Everett, Washington, which had been built to produce the aircraft. Ever since, people have not stopped gawking at the iconic humpbacked aircraft, whose stately lines resemble those of a cruise ship.

The first test-flight aircraft, RA001, was more than double the size of Boeing's next largest commercial jet at the time. It was brought to life from drawings in just two-and-a-half years, by a team led by Joe Sutter, Boeing's fiery tempered chief engineer. Its design defied the wishes of launch customer PanAm and the cost almost bankrupted Boeing.

The 747 shrank the globe, introduced concepts and technologies that forever changed long-distance travel, from twin aisles to inflight entertainment. Boeing went on to sell 1,568 of the aircraft as it was redesigned and updated over the decades. While twin-engine jets like Boeing's 777 and later the Airbus A350 have mostly replaced jumbos on long distance passenger routes, air freight haulers are still buying a cargo version of the 747, whose hinged nose flips open.
So costly was the project, that Sutter had at one point been ordered to fire 1,000 engineers to save money. But he refused, instead demanding Boeing hire 800 more. He later wrote that he was certain Boeing was going to fire him for his defiance. Not only did he keep his job, he also got the extra manpower he wanted.
The aircraft was launched with a handshake agreement between the CEOs of Boeing and PanAm, in anticipation of a surge in passenger traffic and increasingly crowded skies.
30/09/18 Bloomberg/Times of India
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