Earlier this week, an impressive airline milestone was reached when Boeing delivered their 1500th 747 to German airline company Lufthansa. Boeing's iconic double-decker 747 has ruled the skies since its inception in 1970. Capable of carrying up to 660 passengers a staggering 8,350 miles on one tank of fuel, the 747 dominates the long-distance airways. The commercial variant of the 747 was responsible for revitalizing the mass tourism market, more than doubling the passenger capacity of aircraft, and setting the standard for in-flight amenities and comfort. Beyond the obvious people-carrying implications, the 747 also ushered in a new era of cargo shipment efficiency, allowing the transport of large freight in bulk, a feat which was once impossible for air transit. Affectionately nick-named, "the Queen of the Skies," Boeing's masterpiece has served as the cornerstone of the airline industry for upwards of 35 years, but as the inevitable scarcity of fossil fuels looms above our heads, the 747's 1500 unit milestone comes at a troubling time - one where fewer and fewer carriers are willing to utilize these giants.
Worldwide orders for 747's have decreased dramatically as the popularity of Boeing's 777 and the Airbus A330 has taken off. Despite the smaller passenger and cargo transport capabilities of these planes, each of these modernized jets use significantly less fuel and are suited to traveling the same distance as their older, larger counterpart. In recent years the airline industry has struggled through turbulent times and today; riddled with bankruptcies, mergers, and low cost competitors, only a select few air carriers still utilize the 747.
With that said, delivery of the 1500th 747 is a momentous achievement and even the most eco-conscious modern traveler must look upon the legacy of Boeing's brainchild fondly - the 747 has revolutionized modern air travel, paving the way for leaner, more efficient models. The legacy of the 747 will be preserved and honored by airlines like Lufthansa, British Airways, KLM, United Airlines, and Delta - airlines which are thrilled to have the 747 as part of their fleet.
The 1500th 747, dubbed "the Intercontinental," dons Lufthansa's liveries, and is marked with a commemorative "1500th" logo displayed along the rear of the aircraft. While the future global demand for these jumbo jets remains unknown, what?s certain is that for Lufthansa and others these timeless artifacts are still relevant, proudly ferrying passengers around the globe. Whether or not the 747 can navigate the trials which lie ahead for the airline industry, this plane will forever remain an icon of air travel and luxury, inspiring dreams of flight which return us to our childhood.
Lufthansa's recent purchase of the 1500th 747 (and its subsequent order for 19 more) ensures us that, at least for the time being, we can still cruise the skies in style and absolute comfort - peering through the window of the aircraft's upper deck with child-like wonder - as we are whisked away to our destination in the largest aircraft to ever grace skies.