The Boeing 747 has been the Queen of Skies now for over 40 years and still continues to be the mainstay of many of the worlds airlines today. Being the first wide-body aircraft ever built, the Boeing 747 was the result of the demands of growing trans-continental(USA) and trans-oceanic travel markets in the 1960s.
Boeing 747 Layout
The Boeing 747 on its main deck has two aisles where typically the economy cabin has a seat configuration of three seats on each window side and four seats in the centre, known as 3-4-3. The distinctive bubble atop the front of the fuselage accommodates the flight deck and in the first 747s during the 1960s, there would be a first class lounge in the rear of the bubble which was accessed by a circular staircase. Following the oil crisis of the early 1970s, many airlines opted for foregoing the upstairs lounge and replacing this with extra seating to try and offset the higher fuel driven operating costs.
Boeing 747 Design intention
The fast paced growth of long distance travel that was present in the 1960s drove two different trains of thought. Firstly how to move more people at once, secondly how to move them more quickly.
With this in mind the Boeing 747 was designed to do the first, carry large amounts of passengers. To allow for contingencies should the second become the future focus of commercial aviation, and we have to remember that supersonic flight was a reality at that time, the 747 was also designed to be capable of carrying large volumes of cargo when configured as a freighter. For this reason the flight deck was housed in a bubble atop the main fuselage so as to enable a nose cargo door to be installed with clear passage to the main deck. Should the market fall out of the high volume passenger market due to Super Sonic Transport (SST) becoming the norm, then the 747 still had a market as a freighter.
Boeing 747 Variants
The Boeing 747 has come out in 6 main variants over its life cycle so far. Each variant has had several derivations with different properties such as; longer distance capabilities, higher density seating and various other customer driven requirements.
The main variants are:
Boeing 747 100
Boeing 747 200
Boeing 747 300
Boeing 747 400
Boeing 747 SP
Boeing 747 8
Boeing 747 Challenges
The introduction of this much larger aircraft caused its own headaches for airport operators, for instance, runways had to be strengthened. Boeing for their part equipped the 747 with 18 wheels to enable a better distribution of weight. Terminal gate areas also had to be widened to accommodate the greater wing span, as well as passenger assembly areas now needing to be able to accommodate two to three times as many passengers as previously.
The Boeing 747 design was such a departure from the technology then in use that it took 75,000 engineering drawings and 15,000 hours of wind tunnel testing to come up with the first Boeing 747 prototype. Five aircraft then completed a ten month 1,500 flying hour test program to gain certification for commercial operation.
It is interesting to note that the entire Boeing 747 fleet has logged 42 billion nautical miles (77.8 billion kilometers) which is equivalent to 101,500 return trips from Earth to the Moon. On the trips that make up that distance, more than half of the Earth population has been carried, a total of 3.5 billion people.
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