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The Flying Giant Is 40 Years Old

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the ah-nostalgia dept.

Transportation 366

Ponca City, We love you writes "Four decades ago, Boeing's prototype 747 took to the skies over Washington State for a 75-minute flight that helped bring cheap airline travel to millions of people and would remain the world's largest commercial aircraft for 37 years until the advent of the double-decker Airbus A380. What made the 747 unique was that it was the first 'wide body' aircraft with more than one aisle — a big step towards reducing the sense of traveling in a narrow tube, and inducing a sense more equivalent to flying in a large room with high ceilings. But back in the 1960s, convincing people that the 747 would fly was a tough call. Joe Sutter, the director of engineering on the project, even spent an hour with Charles Lindbergh, going over all the data to prove that the jumbo would not flip over or become unstable at high speeds. Boeing has sold more than 1,400 jumbos in the past four decades, worth, at today's prices, more than $350 billion and although we might complain of traveling in 'cattle class' we have the 747 to thank for being able to do so at affordable prices."

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366 comments

Oh how I love planes.. (4, Insightful)

I_Can't_Fly (1442225) | more than 5 years ago | (#26799941)

And then hate how they treat you like a farm animal on flights. In fact maybe the flight crew and stewardesses should begin utilizing electronic cattle prods.

It used to be fun to fly, not any more.

Re:Oh how I love planes.. (4, Insightful)

Rinisari (521266) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800035)

I wonder how much of that loss of fun is the airlines' fault and how much is the result of the FAA bureaucracy?

Re:Oh how I love planes.. (4, Insightful)

Spazztastic (814296) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800101)

I wonder how much of that loss of fun is the airlines' fault and how much is the result of the FAA bureaucracy?

Or the result of greed on both parties.

Re:Oh how I love planes.. (5, Insightful)

riverat1 (1048260) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800137)

A lot of the loss of fun has to do with deregulation. When the airlines all have to compete on price they're going to squeeze things as much as they can get away with. For most people air travel is expensive enough that they'll put up with it to get the cheapest possible prices.

Re:Oh how I love planes.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26800253)

So Airlines weren't competing on price prior to deregulation? Prior to deregulation, airlines weren't trying to maximize profits?

Re:Oh how I love planes.. (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26800529)

So Airlines weren't competing on price prior to deregulation?

No. Airfares were set by the FAA, so they competed on the quality of service during the flight. If it's the same price and equivalent schedule, do you go for the "free" salmon meal or the peanuts?

Prior to deregulation, airlines weren't trying to maximize profits?

Since they couldn't, by law, change the fare, they tried to maximize profits by having the most passengers on the most profitable routes by offer the best of the least expensive services.

Feel free to pontificate on other stuff you don't understand though.

Re:Oh how I love planes.. (2, Interesting)

phanboy_iv (1006659) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800673)

Given the current distress of the airline industry, I don't think the hyper cost cutting that happened after dereg is working, and it won't be too long before airlines realize that they will have to offer a good experience to get customers, as they used to.

Making customers happy is long term good business, and works fine in a deregulated market. The companies have to realize this on their own, though.

Re:Oh how I love planes.. (2, Informative)

riverat1 (1048260) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800659)

From AC: "So Airlines weren't competing on price prior to deregulation? Prior to deregulation, airlines weren't trying to maximize profits?"

Before deregulation they were regulated much like public utilities with built in profits. They had assigned routes they could fly and other airlines had to get regulatory approval before they could fly the same routes. But the prices were high enough that many people just didn't fly. I was born in 1952 but never took a commercial airline flight until 1982 and that was paid for by my employer. I've still only flown 4 times for something other than business.

Re:Oh how I love planes.. (3, Insightful)

Alinabi (464689) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800353)

I wonder how much of that loss of fun is the airlines' fault

100%. I'm not aware of any FAA regulation mandating 5 passengers per square foot.

Re:Oh how I love planes.. (1)

Herkum01 (592704) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800541)

The obvious solution then is to reduce the number of square-footed people from flying. That would give the rest of us more room if only 1 person in 20 had square feet.

Re:Oh how I love planes.. (4, Insightful)

tenchiken (22661) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800749)

Honestly, not the FAA's fault. In fact, it's no-one's fault other then when the 747 started to fly, flying was out of the reach of almost all Americans, save the jet-setters. Nowadays, you can get a non-stop from Denver to Atlanta for $169 bucks. Of course it's going to be a cattle call.

Do I wish that I could have taken a trip on a 747 in the glory days of Pan Am? Absolutly. Would I rather live now and have the ability to fly to London for $500 bucks? You bet your a$$.

Re:Oh how I love planes.. (1)

Tickety-boo (1206428) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800233)

I agree with you with regard to flying "Western" carriers. The few times I have flown on a Korean or Japanese airline 747 (to keep this on topic) it has been completely different. They actually treat you like you paid for the flight, and that it is their job to try to make you happy. A complete 180 from "Sit down and shut up"-Continental.

Re:Oh how I love planes.. (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800729)

But you pay more for it. I have flown to Japan from the US twice and from Europe twice and every time ANA or JAL was significantly more expensive than their European or American competitors(for the record I've flown United, Continental, Finnair and British Airways). While none of the flights were the seat of luxury, they were certainly bearable. I almost considered ANA last time because it was only $250 more than BA, but I still couldn't rationalize spending that much money for essentially the same service.

For the record, I am 6'2(185 centimeters) and I certainly don't like getting crammed into a seat, but if you stay up all night before you can just spend the entire flight sleeping anyway.

Re:Oh how I love planes.. (4, Informative)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800255)

> And then hate how they treat you like a farm animal on flights.

Nothing is stopping you from flying first class.

Re:Oh how I love planes.. (1)

mlheur (212082) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800717)

> Nothing at the airline is stopping you from flying first class.

There, fixed it for you. My income and the people paying for my seat do stop me from flying first class.

Re:Oh how I love planes.. (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800523)

Feel free to fly in business class if you want to. You get VIP lounges in the airports, big seats, free drinks, all the perks you used to get in the old days. Oh, and a similar price tag...

Re:Oh how I love planes.. (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800647)

Considering that from what I have read the 747 wasn't supposed to be a passenger plane from the beginning but a freight plane.

The Standard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26799987)

What's amazing is that the 747 is still the de facto standard.
The technology behind large capacity long-haul air travel is still the same as it was forty years ago.

Re:The Standard (1)

Endo13 (1000782) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800903)

Amazing, I guess... but it's also sad.

777 slimmer and faster than 747 (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800001)

It's amazing how Boeing's newest production jumbo, the 777, is slimmer and faster than the hulking 747.

Contrast that with the average width of the American ass, and there's probably some kind of rule that can be proved. I don't know what it is, but also consider that the average airline seat size hasn't changed in the last 30 years and you're looking at an industry that is out of touch with mainstream America.

I hope Obama has a plan to fix our sagging economy!

Re:777 slimmer and faster than 747 (5, Interesting)

JumboMessiah (316083) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800209)

FYI,

Standard cruise on a 747 is .85 Mach (567MPH) and a 777 is .84 Mach (560MPH).

Both of these planes are capable of much greater speeds, the limiting factor..... the sound barrier. They are not designed for the shock wave build up such speeds will generate.

If you were watching the NatGeo special on Air Force One, you'd of saw the interview with the Air Cap F-16 pilot who had to radio AF1 to actually slow down so he could limit his fuel burn. AF1 was cruising at .90 Mach at the time.

Don't think for a second these lumbering giants can't get up and move... Those cruise speeds are chosen for maximum efficiency and to limit air frame fatigue.

747s have broken the sound barrier (5, Interesting)

tenchiken (22661) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800845)

747s have broken the sound barrier on at least two occasions. One was during certification, and a second during a in-flight screw up on China Airlines 006. (Powered descent).

Both airframes survived.

Re:777 slimmer and faster than 747 (0, Offtopic)

Who Is The Drizzle (1470385) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800295)

I hope Obama has a plan to fix our sagging asses!

fix'd!

Re:777 slimmer and faster than 747 (3, Informative)

cpuh0g (839926) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800319)

747-400 still has slightly longer range than 777. The longest flights are still on 747s - Newark NJ -> Singapore (nonstop). Chicago - Hong Kong (nonstop), etc etc. I prefer the 777 because they have more modern amenities in coach like seatback entertainment systems instead of a single giant screen for the whole cabin like its 1981 or something. *SOME* airlines (NOT UNITED) have actually upgraded their economy class on the widebodies in the past 20 years.

Re:777 slimmer and faster than 747 (1)

drsquare (530038) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800833)

I prefer the 777 because they have more modern amenities in coach like seatback entertainment systems instead of a single giant screen for the whole cabin like its 1981 or something.

That's to do with the airline not the plane. Last year I was in a 747 with entertainment systems in every seat. But that was Virgin atlantic, I can't speak for US airlines.

Re:777 slimmer and faster than 747 (1)

cpuh0g (839926) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800909)

Yes, agreed. Some airlines do have some decent economy class seating. United is not one of them.

Re:777 slimmer and faster than 747 (1)

tenchiken (22661) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800893)

Actually, I think the 772LR is the longest range plane that Boeing sells.

United, IIRC, is getting ready for a refit of the cabin shortly.

Re:777 slimmer and faster than 747 (0, Flamebait)

introspekt.i (1233118) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800323)

I hope Obama has a plan to fix our sagging economy!

And our sagging asses....Maybe American should hold off on the bon bons and Mickey D's so they can fit on planes.

Re:777 slimmer and faster than 747 (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800929)

I like my wife's sagging economies.

Here is the ironic part... (1)

SerpentMage (13390) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800017)

Many people are skeptical that the A380 will sell. YET, think of when the 747 was launched, and when the A380 was launched... Around the same time with same economics...

I think the A380 will be a success because there will be more cattle to transport at a more effective cost...

Yeah... Great guess which plane I will be avoiding!!!!

Re:Here is the ironic part... (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800399)

I think the A380 will be a success because there will be more cattle to transport at a more effective cost...

Yeah... Great guess which plane I will be avoiding!!!!

Is it not the one that flies people to volcanoes to be blown up with nuclear bombs?

Re:Here is the ironic part... (2, Interesting)

tenchiken (22661) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800683)

Actually, the A380 is selling fairly poorly. Because of the production problems their recovery number is probably up at around 700 frames. They are nowhere close to that number now. Worse, most of their orders are from Emirates, and with the collapse of the middle eastern economies (on average 40 percent down so far) these orders are not likely to be completely fulfilled.

So little progress in aerospace. (4, Insightful)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800031)

Four decades ago:
747 and concorde launched, first manned moon landing. 40 years later, NASA can barely keep the ISS running (or the shuttle from blowing up).

I'm curious - how much better are the new planes compared to the 60s version of the 747 in terms of range, payload and efficiency?

Re:So little progress in aerospace. (4, Informative)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800267)

Modern aircraft compare extremely well to their 1960s counterparts - the best example is that of 'ETOPS' (Extended Twin Engine Operational Performance Standard), or 'LROPS' as it is known today (Long Range Operational Performance Standard).

Try finding a 1960s aircraft that is rated to fly for 208 minutes, or nearly 3 and a half hours, on one single engine. Thats how far the technology has come, its extremely reliable.

Re:So little progress in aerospace. (5, Funny)

Bearhouse (1034238) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800677)

Try finding a 1960s aircraft that is rated to fly for 208 minutes, or nearly 3 and a half hours, on one single engine. Thats how far the technology has come, its extremely reliable.

Well, there was this one:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spirit_of_st_louis [wikipedia.org]

It managed more than 33 hours, on a single engine, in 1927.

Now get off my cloud.

Re:So little progress in aerospace. (1)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800849)

I haven't laughed so hard on slashdot in a while. That was awesome. I have no mod points at the moment so a simple, "you're bloody hilarious" will have to suffice.

Re:So little progress in aerospace. (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800815)

Well that's why the 747 has four engines. It's a 60s design.

AFAIK the whole idea of ETOPS was to allow twin engine planes that meet the spec to do transoceanic flights.

If the engines of the newer 747 models are about as reliable as those in twin engine planes, then the 747 is probably going to be safer wrt engine failures.

Negative progress (2, Insightful)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800289)

It's worse than little - its negative progress. Five years ago if I was rich enough I could purchase a ticket on a craft, Concorde, capable of cruising at twice the speed of sound. Today there is no supersonic passenger aircraft in service. Since I understand that a vastly more efficient supersonic aircraft could be constructed today the problem seems to be one of being willing to take an economic risk rather than a lack of technical expertise.

Re:Negative progress (1)

NorthDude (560769) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800437)

The problem with supersonic passenger planes was that they could not fly at those speed over land, rendering most speed advantage moot.

Re:Negative progress (2, Informative)

0123456 (636235) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800681)

"The problem with supersonic passenger planes was that they could not fly at those speed over land"

Concorde will quite happily fly at supersonic speed over land, absent NIMBYs pushing governments to prohibit such flights. It really doesn't care what's ten miles below it.

Re:Negative progress (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800469)

Rolls Royce told Airbus in the 1990s that they could only improve on the Olympus 593 engines supersonic efficiency by single digit percentages - that is not enough to warrant either a reengining of the then-current Concorde airframes, nor a clean sheet design.

Yes, the engines were that good. The problem is supersonic flight as a whole.

Re:Negative progress (2, Insightful)

Koreantoast (527520) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800483)

There's no market for supersonic aircraft at this time. Boeing tested the market for one back at the beginning of this decade, and the response they got was lukewarm at best. Their decision to go with the 787 instead of the Sonic Cruiser is a reflection of shifting global needs: they don't want faster, they want more efficient. Besides, there were a ton of issues with supersonic aircraft on the environmental front, particularly with noise and emissions.

Re:Negative progress (4, Insightful)

radtea (464814) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800689)

Today there is no supersonic passenger aircraft in service.

The economics of supersonic flight suck, although it wasn't apparent at the time.

I've read accounts that suggest the 747's raised flight deck was designed that way because it was assumed the primary purpose of the aircraft would be cargo hauling, and they wanted access to the full diameter of the fuselage without hinging the nose, as is often done in cargo aircraft. The reason why cargo was targeted was because everyone believed that supersonics were going to own the passenger transport market "once a few bugs were worked out."

It turns out those bugs--noise, engine sizing and fuel efficiency--are pretty difficult to work around, and cutting an five hour flight to two and a half hours isn't such a big deal when the time spent getting into and out of the airport are added in. It's more like cutting an eight hour experience to a five or six hour one. Not worth the price.

Re:Negative progress (1)

Guysmiley777 (880063) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800695)

Speed takes thrust. Thrust takes fuel. Fuel costs money.

TANSTAAFL. There is no magic bullet that's been invented to make supersonic flight more efficient since the Concorde.

Re:Negative progress (2, Insightful)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800701)

What are you talking about? The Concorde was one of the biggest money losers for Air France and British Airways. Sure you can fly from New York to London really fast, but you're burning so much more fuel in the process.

Right now, the name of the game is efficiency in terms of passengers and fuel. And fuel efficiency is going up.

Re:Negative progress (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800791)

Um, can you buy a ticket on the Concorde today?

Nope. Turns out it was a firetrap. More reliable than the Shuttle, less reliable than a 747.

Damned fast, of course. If they had actually maintained the Concorde, it might still be flying. Alas...

We ran out of frontiers (4, Insightful)

DesScorp (410532) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800301)

Four decades ago:
747 and concorde launched, first manned moon landing. 40 years later, NASA can barely keep the ISS running (or the shuttle from blowing up).

During the jet age, it was all about higher performance. Higher speeds, higher altitudes, longer ranges, higher load capacities.

Aviation has matured, and now it's only about one thing: better efficiency. Our planes carry no more people than they used to. They go no faster or farther. Cost efficiency is the last frontier of a stable, mature... but boring... industry.

Re:So little progress in aerospace. (1)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800321)

Four decades ago: 747 and concorde launched, first manned moon landing. 40 years later, NASA can barely keep the ISS running (or the shuttle from blowing up).

And how much of that work was done with a pencil and paper?

Re:So little progress in aerospace. (1)

Windows_NT (1353809) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800423)

No, we can not use a 747 to run manned space flights, goto the moon, or fix the ISS. Not that they couldnt do it, but i dont know of any airlines that are charted to that territory

Re:So little progress in aerospace. (1)

twiddlingbits (707452) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800441)

Quite a bit in several area such as how far they can fly on fuel, how much weight they can carry per ton of fuel, better navigation (GPS), better engines (more thrust, highly reliable, easier to maintain), better airframe design (CAD-CAM and Finite Element Analysis designs for max strength and min weight, better alloys of Aluminum, NC machining). All of these technical improvements that allow for safer, cheaper air travel and air cargo came from the Cold War and some from the Race to the Moon. So, don't say NASA can't do things, more often than not NASA Engineering is crippled by politics and finances not "know how".

Re:So little progress in aerospace. (1)

WinPimp2K (301497) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800451)

Hmm...So you have 3 data points from NASA (Apollo, STS, ISS), one from a French/British government consortium (Concorde) and one data point from a commercial aircraft (747) and want to see if you can plot a trend?

Unlike the government controlled systems which had more to do with national pride and then degenerated into simple bureaucratic self-preservation, only the 747 actually had to succeed in the marketplace. And if there were no room for improvement, then there would be no replacements for the 747 being developed. However, the amount of improvement is going to be incremental and approaching a point of diminishing returns (in terms of R&D costs) without the introduction of truly disruptive technology.

I think we are past due for another Kondotteriev (sp?) cycle - of course, that cycle is a good for predicting future developments as blind faith in Moore's law is for continiung massive improvements in CPU power.

Re:So little progress in aerospace. (1)

RabidMoose (746680) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800457)

Some numbers to consider:

A380: Range: 14,800 km Capacity: 525 - 853 Speed: 900 km/h
747-400: Range: 13,450 km Capacity: 416 - 524 Speed: 913 km/h

Here's a more detailed comparison [howstuffworks.com]

It should also be noted that today's 747's aren't the same as the ones that flew in the 60s. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_747#Improved_747_versions [wikipedia.org]

Re:So little progress in aerospace. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26800691)

It's not the time period. It's Washington state. We're the guys who brought you Windows 95. There's 6 floating bridges in this country and we've sunk 2 of them.

We're just not very good at engineering. :-(

747 was not largest -commercial- aircraft .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26800087)

Hello, Mr American? The ruskies would like to have a word with your ethno-centric records department.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An-124

Re:747 was not largest -commercial- aircraft .. (1)

Koreantoast (527520) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800517)

Your own article says that the An-124 didn't go into first flight until 1982. I'd say that gives the 747 a few decades as "Queen of the Skies".

Re:747 was not largest -commercial- aircraft .. (1)

tenchiken (22661) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800713)

Sorry, at less then 60 actually build, and for being built for cargo rather then passengers, I would not consider the An-124 to be a viable commercial aircraft, just as I would not consider the C-5 galaxy to be in this space.

Re:747 was not largest -commercial- aircraft .. (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800943)

IIRC, that thing can't carry people because it doesn't have much pressurization. If we were discussing cargo aircraft, you'd be right.

barrel roll (2, Interesting)

m0s3m8n (1335861) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800091)

Probably the coolest video of a Boeing passenger jet was the 707's barrel roll. The test pilot got in a bit of trouble BUT WAS NOT FIRED. Needless to say it was only done once.

Re:barrel roll (1)

DieByWire (744043) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800511)

Probably the coolest video of a Boeing passenger jet was the 707's barrel roll. The test pilot got in a bit of trouble BUT WAS NOT FIRED. Needless to say it was only done once.

Well... he (Tex Johnston) actually rolled it twice that day.

Those were the days...

Re:barrel roll (1)

calix0815 (899216) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800899)

I saw an interview somewhere of an English concorde pilot and he talked about his flight with a french test pilot who told thim 'let me show you what condorde can do'. And he did a 707 style barrel roll.

Must be the coolest thing to do with a passenger plane. The only entertainment we passengers get ais the occasional semi-violent turbulence, but they never last long. Perhaps when they occasionally shuttle an empty 747 at night a crazy pilot will barrel roll the beast without anyone ever finding out :)

Re:barrel roll (3, Interesting)

JumboMessiah (316083) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800551)

That was Tex Johnston [youtube.com] and he actually did it twice [youtube.com] .

Re:barrel roll (3, Interesting)

Poppa (95105) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800637)

The Boeing President was so mad at Tex, that he didn't speak to him for years. This barrel roll was done in front of potential buyers, which did impress them.

Remember that a commercial airplane is not designed for aerobatic maneuvers. Which means Tex had to maintain a 1G downward force during the roll to ensure fuel stayed in the bottom of the tanks.

The President was mad because the Company bet the future on the 707. If it didn't sell (and/or if Tex crashed), then the Company would have folded.

The same thing was true with the 747, the Company bet the farm on this one too. It is such a big investment of capital, that there is no room for failure.

Re:barrel roll (1)

Bearhouse (1034238) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800921)

Yup - see it here:

http://www.aviationexplorer.com/707_roll_video.htm [aviationexplorer.com]

It looks impressive, but it's 1G (positive) all the way. Has been done in all sorts of big stuff, including a Concorde and a VC10 (with me in it!).

To celebrate... (4, Informative)

CompMD (522020) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800111)

...Boeing will fire 10,000 workers!

I don't say this to troll. I work in the aerospace industry and am watching bright, talented friends and coworkers get laid off left and right.

Re:To celebrate... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26800599)

...Boeing will fire 10,000 workers!

I don't say this to troll. I work in the aerospace industry and am watching bright, talented friends and coworkers get laid off left and right.

And how would this be different from any other industry today?

The real flying giant is 62 years old (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800131)

Hughes H-4 Hercules [wikipedia.org]

Re:The real flying giant is 62 years old (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800379)

Except it hasn't flown in 61.9 years.

Hindenburg is older (1)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800395)

The Hindenburg [wikipedia.org] was used for transatlantic flights 20 years before the Hercules was built.

Re:Hindenburg is older (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800563)

Except that the H-4 still exists.

Re:Hindenburg is older (1, Funny)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800911)

Burn!

Re:The real flying giant is 62 years old (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26800479)

Which conveniently, in the event of a plane crash, carried plenty of wood for heating fuel while waiting for rescue!

The 100 year career (1)

DesScorp (410532) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800161)

We may very well see 747's in the air for another 60 years. Boeing keeps improving them, and they're wildly popular as cargo carriers. I'm not talking things like airshows, I mean real, frontline service, especially freight service. Is anything better on the horizon? The A380 is, face it, just a modernized 747 knockoff... it simply extends the 747's double decker philosophy completely along the fuselage. Boeing engineers are looking at doing much the same thing to the current design. The parts pipeline is cheap and well established, and the plane is, by accounts of pilots themselves, easy to fly and safe.

This thing will be around a long, long time.

Re:The 100 year career (3, Insightful)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800221)

If the A380 is a modernised 747 'knockoff', then the Boeing 787 is a modernised Airbus A300 'knockoff'. Doesn't detract from the fact that either plane is simply fantastic.

Cheap and painful (1)

Shrike82 (1471633) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800169)

although we might complain of traveling in 'cattle class' we have the 747 to thank for being able to do so at affordable prices

Ah yes, the age old practice of shafting your customers, but justifying it with "At least it's cheap!"

Re:Cheap and painful (5, Insightful)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800247)

Consumers have voted with their dollars, and apparently they prefer traveling in "cattle class" to traveling on the Concorde. Who are we to criticize the airline industry for giving the customer what they want?

Re:Cheap and painful (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800341)

The problem with that is the size of the market - Concorde had a very small following that could afford the price of the seats regularly, while cattle class on a modern aircraft is well within reach of more than 75% of the population of a western nation.

Re:Cheap and painful (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800591)

Which is exactly my point -- the 747 is successful because of its economics, not because if its technology.

A whole hour! (0, Troll)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800173)

even spent an hour with Charles Lindbergh, going over all the data to prove that the jumbo would not flip over or become unstable at high speeds.

Wow, a whole hour devoted to analysing the plane's stability at high speeds? If that is correct, I'm amazed the plane flew at all.

Re:A whole hour! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26800275)

Uh, Mr. Sutter already had the data that the plane would be stable at high speeds. It merely took him an hour to convince Charles Lindbergh of that fact.

Re:A whole hour! (1)

Amazing Quantum Man (458715) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800307)

Did you even RTFA?

Boeing had done the analysis in depth. Lindbergh was the suit from Pan Am, who had to be convinced.

Re:A whole hour! (5, Funny)

Binestar (28861) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800313)

Wow, a whole hour devoted to analysing the plane's stability at high speeds? If that is correct, I'm amazed the plane flew at all.

It was a 1960's hour. You have to adjust for inflation and ADD in 2008, that's over a month in 2008 time.

Re:A whole hour! (1)

NekSnappa (803141) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800439)

I think you read this wrong.
I believe that what that sentence is saying is that the Boeing guy spent an hour convincing Lindbergh "that" the plane would fly. Not that they were doing back of envelope calculations to see "if" it would fly.
Poorly worded I admit, had to read it a couple of times myself.

What we do to save $$ (1)

slackoon (997078) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800177)

As long as it's cheap I say squeeze me in like a sardine and send me on my merry little way!

it might just be the culmination of transport (4, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800263)

what i mean by that is, to do better than the 747, one has to go faster further and cheaper. what mode of transport can outdo the 747 on all 3 counts at the same time?

the 747 is outdone by the concorde in terms of faster, but not further or cheaper. and so the concorde failed because in the end it was a niche tool for the rich: it offered marginally better speed for exorbitant increases in costs. we can't put a nuclear engine safely in an airplane, and so there is no cheaper for the immediate future

if we exclude extraterrestrial transport, transport on earth is pretty much at its zenith in our lifetimes. until some dramatic technological breakthroughs gives us a mode of transport that is, all at the same time, faster, further, and cheaper than the 747. in fact, on one count, further, the 747 can't really be topped. on that measure, the 747 pretty much is a dream: i, as a middle class westerner, can go anywhere on the earth i want in 24 hours. think about the history of mankind: that's a really incredible power. starting with us sitting on the back of horses, up through wheels, carriages, sails, the steam engine, rails, the ICE, jet engines... what else can there be?

so until someone invents a technology that can move us as far as the 747, perhaps 10x faster (to make an appreciable difference since 24 hours is a very comfortable amount of time to go to the other end of the globe), and perhaps 2x cheaper, we are in a golden age of transport that will not be surpassed for a very long time. we already have technologies like ramjets that are only used in exotic military applications, so really the bottleneck is cheaper fuel

until such future time, the 747 is the peak of human transportation technology

Re:it might just be the culmination of transport (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26800425)

You ignore the beauty of rail technology.

rail is cheap (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800639)

and on that judgment, can not be beat (for land transport)

but i can't go to hawaii by rail, so on "further", rail is permanently limited, and as for faster, it sucks taking 3 days to get to san francisco from new york, as opposed to 6 hours

now what we could do is build some sort of global mach 1 maglev rail system so i could take a supsersonic bullet train on superconducting rails to moscow from new york via a bering straight tunnel/ bridge

but then the idea of rail being cheap disappears. building such a system and maintaining it is a colossal cost

Re:rail is cheap (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800841)

Rail is not cheap, unless you want to bumble across the country at 40mph.

The cost of electrifying and increasing the speed limit by about 20mph (120-140? I forget, but it's something like that) on the west coast rail line in the UK has been absolutely enormous; and that's a small country with high population density where rail makes some kind of sense.

Re:it might just be the culmination of transport (1, Troll)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800465)

The 747 may very well be the peak of airplane technology, but for different reasons then you give. Quite simply, the development costs of bringing an entirely new aircraft to market have reached the point where it is no longer economically rewarding to do so. It is much cheaper to continue making incremental improvements to an existing design like the 747 than it is to design an entirely new aircraft from scratch. The technology exists to make a plane with more capacity and greater fuel economy than a 747, but the economic incentives to do that simply are not there. The design of the new Airbus wasn't driven by pure economics, but rather by massive subsidies from the British and French governments; it is still an open question whether huge development costs were actually worth it. Any private company would simply have ordered a 747 instead.

Re:it might just be the culmination of transport (4, Interesting)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800649)

Uhm, what? Lets have a look at the 'entirely new' aircraft to have been launched in the past 20 years:

1. Airbus A330. Fantastic success, sold over 1,000 airframes and continues to sell well.

2. Boeing 777. Fantastic success, sold over 1,000 airframes and continues to sell well.

3. Airbus A380. Debatable, yet to be seen.

4. Boeing 787. Fantastic success, yet to fly, sold over 900 airframes to date.

5. Airbus A350XWB. Fantastic success, still 4 years to EIS, sold over 450 airframes to date.

Clean sheet designs are still massively profitable.

Coming soon to a flight near you... (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800367)

... or maybe not.

I don't remember the last time I flew on anything 747 or 747-sized. My flights have all been on CRJ's [wikipedia.org] or EmbraerJets [wikipedia.org] . I really can't say if life is better with more than one aisle, or what it is like to be able to stand up and not hit my head in on the airplane ceiling.

Although when flying alone it can be nice to be able to have a seat that is both a window and an aisle seat.

Re:Coming soon to a flight near you... (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800493)

CRJ's are fast too. Just shy of being as fast as a 747. Plus they don't spend as much time climbing and descending from altitude. So hops are pretty quick.

Re:Coming soon to a flight near you... (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800913)

CRJ's are fast too. Just shy of being as fast as a 747. Plus they don't spend as much time climbing and descending from altitude. So hops are pretty quick.

True, the smaller jets to scoot around pretty well. And they load quicker, too, since they take far fewer passengers.

Though I wouldn't mind a little headroom in the aisle one of these days...

Frist Ninnle Pist! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26800383)

The 40th anniversary was YESTERDAY, you Ninnles!

The 747 was hardly the first giant in the skies either. Think of planes like the H4 Hercules, the Bristol Brabazon, the Convair XC-99/B36, Lockheed R6V Constitution or the Saunders-Roe Princess. Most of these were the result of bad timing. The 747 was the right plane at the right time and the rest that followed were really just more of the same.

The fact that yesterday was also the 45th anniversary of the Beatles on Ed Sullivan just adds to that thought...a watershed moment.

Luxury (2, Interesting)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800549)

I remember flying from Washington D.C. to Washington state on a DC-10, around about 1990. The flight I was on had a grand total of 10 passengers in coach - the main purpose of the flight, according to a stewardess, was because they needed more planes on the west coast. I got an entire center row to myself - that's something like 6 or 7 seats. Since the arm rests flip up, I was able to stretch out and even lay down for most of the flight. They even had extra meals - I was a young guy back then, and quantity mattered more than quality.

I think about that trip every now and then - usually when I'm crammed in coach nowadays with my knees pushing against the seat in front of me...

"Flying In a Large Room High Ceilings" (1)

aquatone282 (905179) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800633)

Apparently the submitter has never flown in a fully-loaded 747 for twelve hours.

Inventor of the term "cattle class" (3, Interesting)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800685)

I believe it was my friend, Galen Stephenson, who invented the term "cattle class" in the early 1990's. We had both recently graduated (late 1980's) and entered the workforce and started traveling for our respective jobs. Except Galen is 6'8" and big and invented the term to get his employer to spring for business class for him.

The earliest use on UseNet was 1990 [google.com] , and the earliest mention in the New York Times is 1999 [nytimes.com] . So I'm fairly certain Galen was the first inventor.

Flying Museum Piece (1)

DieByWire (744043) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800757)

There aren't a lot of airplanes with 40 year production runs. The 757 didn't even go 25, and it's a great airplane.

To put it in perspective, Boeing is still building 747's while the front section of one of Northwest's early ones is on permanent display at the Air & Space Museum.

I still remember watching the first one make it's first take off on TV, then running out to the back yard to see it off in the distance. Now there are 747's in museums.

Man I'm feeling old.

Outdated airline economics (5, Interesting)

Samschnooks (1415697) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800813)

Nevertheless, since that first flight, the 747 has fulfilled the faith of its designers and has led to reductions in air fares, opening up air travel to many in a way that was previously unimaginable

The 747 was developed for the airline business before the Airline Deregulation Act [wikipedia.org] signed into law by Jimmy Carter. Before that, it was profitable for the airlines to operate under the "hub and spoke" business model: condense a bunch of folks going to a certain destination at a hub and then send them all at once to said destination. Which worked at the time because because all the airlines had to follow Federal rules; which, by the way, the airlines really miss those Government regulations.

Now, the way to be profitabile in the air ravel business is smaller fuel efficient aircraft with schedules more like trucks: Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale to Tampa to New Orleans to Atlanta again - for example. Not get a bunch of people to go to Fort Lauderdale from Atlanta and go back. My point? Big jets for anything other than long haul (Ocean crossings) are not worth it. The 380 is not going to have the market Airbus thought it would have.

New York to San Francisco? Please. The airline that runs the most flights between those cities is going to get the lucrative business travellers; not the airline that has a slightly cheaper fare that runs once a day, at most. Those once a day airlines are going to get the tourist business and you know what those flights are going to be like for a 380: 2 hours to board because the tourists have to figure out where aisle '34' is and where seat 'H' is. And then they have to figure out where they're going to put their trunk that should be checked. Then they'll argue with the stewardess about how this is a carry on, while their little brat is screaming because they couldn't get their French Fries from McDonald's. Then the .....

In the meantime, rich fat cat Wall street Banker Federal Welfare receiver has his own jet and just sails over to San Francisco. Then the SOB has the nerve to comment on how your suit is wrinkled and how your tired and absent minded. ....

Lokheed and Boeing (4, Informative)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800865)

Boeing 747's original design was to compete for the defense contract for the Strategic Air Command heavy cargo aircraft. Lockheed won the competition and got to build C5-J. Boeing lost the military contract but converted the design to civilian use and won the bigger market. What tipped the scale for Lockheed was that C5J had a low cargo floor and flip up nose that allowed it to deliver 60 ton tanks with its internal ramps. Boeing's low wing, high floor design needed infrastructure support to unload such cargo.

With hindsight getting the civilian market was the bigger prize.

original (1)

DigitalJer (1132981) | more than 5 years ago | (#26800907)

As I understand it, the original prototype mentioned in the parent is still in service today, as a cargo plane for UPS or FedEX or something.

Sort of cooks in its own juices, doesn't it...sure proves the point that the Boeing engineers were not only on to something, they perfected it - right out out of the gate.

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