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Looking Back - Early Years of the Boeing 747

Cargo carriers apart and a small number of the last version, the 747-8i, Boeing's Queen of the Skies has departed the airways for most passenger services, with the COVID-19 pandemic hastening the aircraft's demise. With the help of photographers around the world, we take a look at the early years of the Boeing 747

Above: The unique main gear of the 747

Adrian Pingstone

1) Rollout! The giant is revealed to an astounded world


2) The airline that started it all

Ken Fielding

3) Inevitably Trans World Airlines were second off the mark

Michel Gilliand

4) Given the distance of Australia from everywhere else, Qantas were a big user of the 747, including both the early Pratt & Whitney and later Rolls-Royce powered versions

Dejan Milinkovic

5) Lufthansa operated the -100 with Pratt & Whitney engines, the -200 with General Electric engines and although currently grounded, still have the -400 and plan to return the -8i to service

Aero Icarus

6) JAL were the world's biggest user of the 747, operating every version of the type except the 747SP

Lothar Spurzem

7) Although not the biggest user, Air Canada made great use of their small fleet for many years across the Atlantic

Michel Gilliand

8) Alitalia found the 747 ideal and replaced their early -100s with the later -200

Ken Fielding

9) Another airline with a small fleet of 747s, Ireland's national carrier made significant and long-standing use of the aircraft to New York and Boston, where many people have Irish ancestry

Steve Williams

10) Air France kept a number of their early -100s in use throughout most of the design service life of the type, using them alongside later -200s and -400s.

Michel Gilliand

11) Most of the US majors were early customers but found the aircraft too big for domestic routes, including Continental. The 747 made a comeback with the airline however, when transatlantic services began in the 1980s.

Ken Fielding

12 to 14) United and Northwest were two of only four US airlines to consistently use the 747 - the others being Pan Am and TWA - and although American disposed of their initial fleet, the airline brought the aircraft back in the shape of the 747SP in the 1980s

Piergiuliano Chesi

15) Delta attracted some visibility in the UK with their 747s being used on interline services with Pan Am to London Heathrow; the aircraft operated a domestic service for Delta before being used across the Atlantic with a Pan Am flight number, providing passengers with a one-aircraft service

Piergiuliano Chesi

16) National were another US airline to try their luck to London when they were awarded rights to Heathrow from Miami. The service didn't last long however before National were merged into Pan Am


17) Vying with the US airlines and most others around the world for 747 space at Heathrow were BOAC and subsequently British Airways. Most of the 747-100s remained with the UK airline for their entire service life

John M. Wheatley

18) When is a Stretched Upper Deck, or SUD, version of the 747 not an SUD - when its an early version modified by Boeing at the request of KLM. The Dutch airline was unique in having a number of its early aircraft altered dramatically, as well as ordering the regular -300 version which came with the Stretched Upper Deck as standard.


19) Air India were another relatively big user, taking delivery of -200s, -300s and -400s. For a long time the 747 was standard equipment on the airline's route network

Michel Gilliand

20) Although not great in numbers of aircraft in use at any one time, Swissair were another consistent user, with early versions being replaced by the SUD -300


21) Like a number of airlines, SAS found the 747 too big for its network and later settled on the Douglas DC-10 for its intercontinental routes

Lars Söderström

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