Pan Am 747 Exhibit Opens in New York Celebrating the ‘Queen of the Skies’ 50th

By Anna Breuer on 28 October 2019
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The Boeing 747 – often referred to as the Queen of the Skies – went into service nearly half a century ago with launch customer Pan Am. While the airline shut down in 1991, the Pan Am Museum, located in Garden City, New York, is celebrating with a special exhibition The Boeing 747: A Jumbo Jet Story. The exhibition opened on Saturday with a preview for donors.

Since its launch in 1970, over 1,500 Boeing 747 Jumbo Jets have graced the skies. The 747 was the largest and roomiest airliner in the world and Pan Am stressed this in its marketing.

“Chances are, you’ve heard about the plane with the spiral staircase in first class,” a 1969 Pan Am commercial went.  “The plane with the two wide aisles and the three wide-screen movies, and the 8’ (243 cm) ceilings in economy,” it continued.

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HOW THE BOEING 747 CAME TO BE

After Boeing lost the contract for a jumbo military cargo plane to arch-competitor Lockheed in the 1960s, Juan Trippe, Pan Am’s founder and CEO, asked Boeing to build a passenger version for which his airline would serve as launch customer. Pan Am committed to 25 of the new Jumbo Jets for $525 million ($3.4 billion in 2019 dollars), putting Trippe in the unique position of having tremendous influence in the design as well.

At Boeing, Joe Sutter, who would become known as the “father of the 747,” managed a team of 4,500 engineers. That team took just 29 months to design and build the graceful 747, crafting a glistening airborne response to the ocean liners of the early 20th century.

First Mr. Sutter had to convince Mr. Trippe to abandon his preference for a double-decker configuration (à la today’s Airbus A380). Using a plywood prototype, he managed to persuade the Pan Am founder to accept a twin-aisle cabin design with a hump-like upper deck lounge. This became the iconic aircraft fondly referred to as the Queen of the Skies.

Click here to continue to Page 2The Upper Deck and the Opening of the 747 Exhibition

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