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46 years ago: Heathrow Airport welcomes the first Jumbo Jet

The Boeing 747 is one of the most recognisable planes in the world, with its signature hump and being nearly three times bigger than the largest flying jet, it is clear to see why. This is the aircraft that made flying glamorous, with the first class passengers dressed in their Sunday best, making their way up the spiral staircase to the “flying penthouse”. The Flying Penthouse was the epitome of luxury, once described by a Times reporter as “a luxurious auditorium some genie had wafted aloft.” Being social on the aircraft was also encouraged by the use of the onboard bar, where one flight attendant explained that passengers would happily discuss where they had been, or where they were going over drinks with other passengers. This truly was the luxurious part of flying which many of the younger generation of today’s society seem to have missed out on.

The first Pan Am crew pose outside the aircraft before its maiden journey

The first Pan Am crew pose outside the aircraft before its maiden journey

The first Boeing 747 touched down in Heathrow only 47 years ago, on 22nd January 1970 at 14:14 GMT, direct from New York… only 7 hours late due to technical problems. For the maiden fare-paying voyage, it is clear that this had not been an easy flight to make.

The returning passengers didn’t have such a smooth journey on the way back to New York due to a faulty compressed air bottle (used to open the aircraft’s door in an emergency), which meant that the take-off was delayed by nearly 5 hours at Heathrow. This resulted in thirty-six passengers transferring to another flight, leaving 117 to wait out the delay.

Within only 6 months of launch, the Boeing 747 had carried a million passengers, and became one of the most well known aircraft in the skies. It remained the largest passenger aircraft until it was beaten by the Airbus A380, which can seat up to 840 passengers, making its debut in the UK when it landed in Heathrow from Berlin on the 18th May 2006, 36 years later.