The Boeing 747 is about my age.
The magnificient Seven Four Seven entered commercial service now exactly 30 years ago with Pan American World Airways, which launched the type back in 1966, on the New York JFK-London flight. The Boeing 747 was the first aircraft to exist in the widebody era, in 1970 the year I was born.
The history of the 747 goes all the way back to 1963 when the United States Air Force submitted a requirement for a heavy lift transport aircraft, Lockheed got the contract and made the C-5 Galaxy for the military. On the other hand, air travel was tremendously increasing in terms of passenger carried and airports were becoming congested with air traffic, so there was a need to plan higher capacity aircrafts than the existing ones in order to haul more passengers and freight without increasing congestion in air traffic. A new 747 could carry twice as many passengers as a 707. Pan Am, which was the first US airline to be granted permission to fly internationally, had always a strong relationship with Boeing since the early days of commercial aviation. They helped Boeing launch the 314 Flying Boat, the 707 with which America entered the jet age in the 1950's, and the 747 with which the airlines entered the widebody era as I explained above. When launched in 1966, an initial order of 25 airplanes was placed, and the Seattle aircraft maker had to build huge hangars to accomodate what was to become the 747.
Until the mid 1980's when the ETOPS regulation was set with the arrival of the 767, the 747 was the aircraft flown the most on the Trans Atlantic sector. Other airlines that quicly ordered the 747 after Pan Am include Air France, American, BOAC(now British Airways), Japan Air Lines and TWA. Many other international carriers followed later. Pan Am has flown for no less than twenty years the 747 across the Atlantic until they folded their wings in 1991. In our days the 747 is seen mostly on the Pacific Rim, now after three decades of service the 747 will continue to fly and it is expected to stay in the major international carriers for quite a long time, even if Boeing doesn't make any further derivative of it. The Boeing 747 is a beautiful giant bird and is certainly a masterpiece in aviation history. Can you beleive that its length is greater than the distance flown by Orville and Wilbur Wright in 1903? This is something that shows clearly the progress of aviation through the 20th century.