Boeing earlier this week completed assembly of its very last 747 airplane, the 1,574th such plane built in the past half century.
Still in its iridescent green protective coating, the giant aircraft was towed out of the widebody aircraft factory in a low-key exercise without any fanfare. Once the 747 has been cleared, it will be flown to another Boeing facility where it will be painted in the Atlas Air livery in anticipation of final delivery to the customer next year.
The 747 was born out of a failed bid by Boeing to market a large jet transporter to the US military in the 1960s. That contract for what became the C-5A Galaxy eventually went to Lockheed, but Boeing was convinced that its basic design, with its high-bypass turbofan engine, could be reworked for the civilian market, which was booming at the time.
On January 9, 1969, the first 747 prototype took to the skies over Washington state. It was a staggering 225 feet (68.5 m) long, had a wing area larger than a basketball court, and the tail was as high as a six-story building.
Without question the 747 was one of the safest and well designed airplanes ever built. It was years after that first flight before one was involved in an accident, and that was not due to a failure of the plane itself. It also flew like a dream, its large size making it look like it was lumbering slowly in the air. Its retirement is almost entirely related to fuel cost-savings, since the 747 has four engines and thus more fuel than more modern planes.
On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.
The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon
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The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.
"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News