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On the way out

Farewell to the Queen of the Skies

The plane nicknamed the Queen of the Skies is finally “flying off into the sunset”, says Claire Bushey in the FT. After five decades in service, the last Boeing 747 was delivered this week. Its creation, back in the late 1960s, is “the stuff of aviation legend”. An incredible 50,000 employees worked on the project. Constructing the factory in Washington state alone – then the largest building on the planet – “required moving as much earth as digging the Panama Canal”, and workers were so “fired up” that they would “sneak back into the factory at night” to do extra work on it. The giant airliner was unveiled at the 1969 Paris Air Show – just 28 months after the project began.

The 747 helped “make commercial flight affordable to the masses”. More than 1,500 have been built – the most famous of them being Air Force One – but its days have long been numbered, thanks to the industry’s shift from four-engined jets to more efficient twin-engined models. Because they are “built to last”, however, plenty will still be in service when the jet reaches its centenary in 2069. “We can lose hope in our world sometimes,” says Boeing historian Michael Lombardi. But we can still look up and “see the great contrails of the Queen of the Skies as she crosses the heavens, and we’ll know at that time that humanity can still overcome great adversity, and we can together accomplish incredible things”.