Con­corde may have been the most glam­orous pas­sen­ger plane in the skies, but it’s the good old Boe­ing 747 that’s the real su­per­star at 38,000ft.

The mighty jumbo jet is a gen­uine game-changer that con­tin­ued the com­mer­cial avi­a­tion revo­lu­tion of bring­ing more af­ford­able long-haul air travel to the masses.

It was un­veiled half a cen­tury ago on Septem­ber 30, 1968, and on Fe­bru­ary 9 the 50th an­niver­sary of the first test flight will be cel­e­brated.

It was a tremen­dous in­no­va­tion with the dou­ble-decker “bub­ble” for ex­tra seat­ing up­stairs, a twin-aisle wide-body fuse­lage typ­i­cally car­ry­ing up to 416 pas­sen­gers, which al­most dou­bled the ca­pac­ity of air­craft it re­placed, and ad­di­tional range.

It even re­quired the con­struc­tion of the world’s big­gest build­ing, at Ev­erett, near Seat­tle in Wash­ing­ton State – for Boe­ing to man­u­fac­ture it.

The story of this four-en­gine ti­tan – the tail fin is the height of a six-storey of­fice block – be­gan in the 1960s when Pan Am asked Boe­ing to de­sign an air­craft more than twice the size of the in­dus­try-stan­dard Boe­ing 707 and Dou­glas DC-8 jets.


Called The In­cred­i­bles, 50,000 Boe­ing staff – engi­neers, me­chan­ics, con­struc­tion work­ers, sec­re­taries – re­sponded by cre­at­ing the largest civil­ian air­craft in un­der 16 months.

New, pow­er­ful engines were needed too, with US man­u­fac­tur­ers Gen­eral Elec­tric and Pratt and Whit­ney ris­ing to the chal­lenge. The or­der was for 25 and to­day 1,548 have been built, though many are be­ing re­placed with more fuel-ef­fi­cient twin-en­gine air­craft such as the Boe­ing 777 and com­pos­ite-ma­te­rial Dream­liner and Air­bus A350.

It was an A-lis­ter too, ap­pear­ing in more than 300 films in­clud­ing Air­port 1975, Air Force One, Die Hard 2 and the in­sanely fun Snakes On A Plane.

Its 224ft wing­span is over 100ft more than the dis­tance of the Wright Brothers’ first flight in 1903.

Truly the Queen of the Skies. Huawei Mate 20 lite, £25 a month, £19 up­front cost, voda­

This puts the smart into smart­phone. Four ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence cam­eras cre­ate out­stand­ing scenery shots and can serve up the per­fect selfie. Hugely im­pres­sive kit – it even makes phone calls.

UN­VEILED First look at the jumbo in 1968

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