50 Years of the 747: Seven facts you didn't know about the queen of the skies

It's one of the most famous icons of the travel industry and it celebrated 50 years in service over the weekend.

The Boeing 747 was rolled out of its custom-built factory on September 30, 1968, and went on to fuel massive growth in air travel and tourism. 

The aircraft was originally designed for Pan Am, whose management was pushing for an entirely double-decker airliner. Boeing convinced them to compromise with the 747, which has two levels for first class at the front of the aircraft.

You may have flown in one; you've almost definitely seen one before. 

Richard Branson launching Virgin Airlines.
Richard Branson launching Virgin Airlines. Photo credit: Getty Images

Seven facts about the 747 to celebrate its 50th birthday

  • It's estimated the aircraft has flown more than 3.5 billion passengers in the last 50 years
  • Despite having an average passenger load of around 420, a modified 747 once carried 1087 people during Operation Soloman in Ethiopia
  • The world's first flight, that of the Wright Brothers, was shorter in length than the economy class of a 747
The golden age of flying. First class on a 747.
The golden age of flying. First class on a 747. Photo credit: Getty Images
  • One of the most famous 747s is the one flown by the American President, the Air Force One. Not many people know that there are in fact two Air Force Ones, which are identical
  • A 747-400 has over six million parts; around half of them are fasteners keeping the thing together
  • Over the past 50 years, 747s have flown more than 77 billion km - the same as going to the moon and back 101,000 times
  • Speaking of space, NASA has used the 747 to transport space shuttles. It's something that you need to see to believe

And here's a bonus fact:

Pan Am crew in front of one of their 747's.
Pan Am crew in front of one of their 747's. Photo credit: Getty Images

At the time there was no building big enough to build the massive aircraft, so Boeing had to make one. It remains the largest building in the world