Thousands of people gathered at the Boeing plant in Everett, Washington on January 31 to mark a tremendous milestone in aviation history – the delivery of the final 747. In attendance were current and former Boeing employees and leaders, customers, suppliers and relatives of company founder Bill Boeing; Joe Sutter, considered the “Father of the 747;” and the employees known as the “Incredibles,” who made the 747 dream a reality.
“It’s an incredible honor for me to be here today for this milestone occasion in aviation history. I’m very proud to represent the more than 5,000 employees of Atlas Air. We all share a deep admiration for today’s guest of honor – the awesome Queen of the Skies,” John Dietrich said. “To see our aircraft on this big stage is a very proud moment for all of us at Atlas. Our company’s history and success is directly linked to the 747 platform. Our founder, Michael Chowdry, launched Atlas Air over 30 years ago with a single 747-200 freighter. Since then, we became…and still are…the world’s largest operator of 747 aircraft. Over the years, we have spanned the globe with nearly every variant of the 747, operating more than 100 different tail numbers into more than 800 airports in over 170 countries.”
The event, hosted by Stan Deal, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, began with a processional of flags with customer logos in chronological order from the dates of their initial purchase of the 747. At the front of the line was Charles Trippe, the grandson of Juan Trippe, founder of Pan Am and the airplane’s first customer. Atlas Air 747 Fleet Captain Tom Vize carried the final flag, the Atlas flag, a bookend to the 747’s majestic run.
A number of speakers followed, reflecting on the transformative impact the iconic aircraft has had on commercial aviation for decades.
Former Boeing CEO Phil Condit was there, along with current CEO David Calhoun. Leaders from Lufthansa, UPS, Japan Airlines and Pratt & Whitney joined John in sharing commentary about the 747 program.
Actor and aviation enthusiast, John Travolta, who is licensed to fly the 707, 737 and 747 models, was also there. He said, “I had to be here in person. As a pilot, I know how great this plane is to fly.”
John Dietrich took the opportunity to express his gratitude to all involved in the transfer of the final 747.
“We’ve heard so many stories today about the 747’s impact. And as we take this final delivery, we look forward to the stories that are yet to be told,” said John. “Today we celebrate not an ending, but a beginning – the beginning of another exciting chapter driven by the mighty Queen of the Skies! Thank you to Boeing, our great customers and all of our employees!”
John and Stan met on stage for a dramatic reveal of the final 747 ever to be produced.
A custom split livery was designed for this aircraft, with the Atlas Air logo on the right side and tail of the aircraft and the Apex Logistics logo on the left side. To honor the legacy of this special 747, a decal is included to the right of the nose featuring Joe Sutter.
As he wrapped up his remarks, John said, “She is the biggest, baddest commercial aircraft flying out there.”
The finale was the unveiling of the special flight plan created for the inaugural flight – one more tribute to the mighty Queen in the form of a crown drawn in the sky, along with a 747 nested within the shape.