The Jet Age (1958 - Today)

Did You Know?

The entire fleet of 747s has logged many tens of billions of kilometers-enough to make more than 70,000 trips to the Moon and back!

Did You Know?

The Wright brothers could have flown their first powered flight within the 45-meter (150-foot) long economy section of a 747-400.

Did You Know?

The 747 fleet has flown 3.5 billion passengers-the equivalent of more than half the world's population.

Boeing 747 - 151

Boeing 747
Copyright The Boeing Company

Designed originally for Pan American to replace the 707, the giant Boeing 747 revolutionized long-distance air travel when it entered service in 1970. Carrying two and a half times more passengers than the 189-seat 707, the 400-seat 747 offered dramatically lower seat-mile costs and therefore much greater efficiency. Propelled by four powerful and efficient high-bypass turbofan engines, the so-called "Jumbo Jet" spawned a new generation of wide-body airliners from Airbus, Lockheed, McDonnell Douglas, and later Boeing.

Continental Airlines Boeing 747 Brochure
Continental Airlines

The Boeing 747 generated great public interest because of its enormous size. Airlines offered spacious legroom, piano bars, and lounges aboard their 747s to encourage passengers to fly. These amenities quickly disappeared in the face of economic reality and were replaced by revenue-producing seats.

Boeing 747 Spiral Stairs
National Air and Space Museum Archives

Because it was intended to serve as a cargo transport, the 747 was built with the cockpit well above the main cabin floor. Pan American suggested that passengers could sit in the area behind the cockpit. This inspired Boeing to connect the upper level with the main cabin by a graceful spiral staircase that was based on a similar design from the Boeing 377 Stratocruiser.

Boeing 747-151 N601US
Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum

Boeing 747-151 N601US

This nose section is from a Northwest Airlines Boeing
747-151. First flown in 1970, this 747 was the first built for Northwest and the first 747 to open service across the Pacific. It was retired in 1999.

Gift of Northwest Airlines, Inc.

Wingspan: 59.6 m (195 ft 8 in)
Length: 70.5 m (231 ft 4 in)
Height: 19.3 m (63 ft 5 in)
Weight, empty: 158,200 kg (348,800 lb)
Weight, gross: 333,400 kg (735,000 lb)
Top speed: 958 km/h (595 mph)
Engine: 4 Pratt & Whitney JT9D-3, 19,700 kg (43,500 lb) thrust
Manufacturer: Boeing Co., Seattle, Wash.

Why Not Display An Entire Boeing 747 in the Museum?
Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum

If the entire Boeing 747 were on display, its tail would extend all the way back to the far wall of the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall.

747 Types. In response to market requirements, the design of the Boeing 747 has evolved through a series of models that have greater range or capacity. The 747-400 shown here can fly 416 passengers a range of 13,450 kilometers (8,360 miles). It features an extended upper deck and winglets. The latest version, the 747-8, adds about 5.6 meters (18 feet) of fuselage and has engines derived from the Boeing 787. It can carry about 467 people a distance of 14,800 kilometers (9,200 miles).