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Boeing 747 takes flight, February 9, 1969

-February 09, 2018

The increasing popularity of air travel motivated Boeing to create the largest civilian plane in the world in the late 1960s. The result was the Boeing 747 jumbo jet, which made its first test flight on February 9, 1969.

Named the “City of Everett” for the city it was built in, the first 747 was piloted by Jack Waddell, who flew with co-pilot Brien Wygle and flight engineer Jess Wallick. It took flight at 164 mph, circled the airport at 2000 feet then climbed to 15,500 where tests were performed. After about an hour in the air, it returned to Paine Field.

Further testing revealed the JT-9D engines were underpowered for the plane's weight and size, which caused delayed deliveries in the early 1970s, but the Boeing 747 was certified by the FAA on December 30, 1969.


The Boeing 747-400 can fly nonstop from New York to Tokyo with 421 passengers.

In 1966, Pan American Airway ordered 23 passenger and two freight jumbo jets for $550 million, and Boeing got to work. The company built the largest building in the world by volume in Everett, WA to construct the 747. Electrical engineer Malcolm Stamper was tasked with leading a team of over 50,000 people to develop and build the 747, which they did in less than 3 years.

The design required 4.5 million parts, used 75,000 engineering drawings, and built on the high-bypass engine technology that had been developed for the C-5A gigantic military transport plane.

The original 747 had a 195-foot, 8-inch wing span and a swept-wing design that set the wings at 37 degrees for high cruising speeds over long distances. The nearly 232-foot plane had a 225-foot fuselage and a tail as tall as a six-story building. It weighed in at 735,000 pounds, twice the previous Boeing 707 model.

Different 747 models have been modified to serve as Shuttle Carrier Aircraft for NASA, Air Force One, and the Dreamlifter, which transported large composite structures, like fuselage sections of the 787 Dreamliner, to Everett, WA and other facilities for final assembly.

Boeing delivered the 1500th 747 to Lufthansa in Germany in 2014, and has produced 1540 planes as of November 2017, but The Wall Street Journal reported the company has considered ending production due to declining orders.

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For more moments in tech history, see this blog. EDN strives to be historically accurate with these postings. Should you see an error, please notify us.

Editor's note: This article was originally posted on February 9, 2017 and edited on February 9, 2018.

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