Recently, the Museum of Flight in Seattle finished the first phase of restoring the historic first 747 to its original 1969 appearance. To celebrate this accomplishment, they hosted an afternoon seminar with Joe Sutter, who led the engineering team and is credited as the “Father of the 747”, Brien Wygle, the former Boeing Chief Pilot in 1969 whoÂ was in the right seat during the first flight, and noted author Clive Irving, who wrote one of the authoritative books on the 747. Before the main events on October 18th, we had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Sutter, Wygle, and Irving.
The 747 was an aircraft that was developed quickly by today’s standards, according to Sutter. “I was asked to investigate large aircraft designs in April 1965, Pan Am placed its first order in 1966, and we rolled out the first aircraft in 1968, with first flight in 1969, followed by entry into service in early 1970.” For an aircraft the size of the 747, three years from initial concept to rollout of the first model is still today unprecedented.
According to Irving, “It was a large program, and Joe was in the middle of the chain of command, and whenever there was a critical decision to be made, and no one else wanted to make it, Joe made it. He was the one in the end who signed off on everything, and took full responsibility.
Roll out of RA001, the first 747 – Photo: Boeing
You will not find that speed in today’s environment.”It was a massive undertaking, and at one point, we were spending $5 million a day on the project. I was directed to cut 1,000 engineers by leadership, and I polled my crew and asked what they can do without; they said, ‘nothing, we need 800 additional engineers!'” said Sutter. “We were relegated to an old warehouse on the Duwamish River before the Everett factory was built, while the team heading up the government-sponsored SST program were housed in brand-new offices and buildings.”
When asked about how he felt being “relegated to a side project” compared to the high-profile SST program, Sutter replied, “We had a job to do, and we were going to build an airplane that did that job. We were going to get our job done, and we had the attitude that if we did a good job, the plane would have a great future.”
The money shot: 747 line inside the Boeing factory
Back in the 1960s Boeing made a big gamble. They decided to build the world’s largest airliner, the Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet. To build such a beast, they would need a large facility. After careful consideration, Boeing decided to build a large factory in Everett.
Since the first 747 rolled off the line in 1968, every other 747 has been built under the same roof. Even today, the 747-8 is built in theÂ sameÂ factory.
In case you didn’t know the aircraft type, there is a large sign on the wall.
Although Boeing offers public tours of the facility, they do not allow cameras. I was lucky enough to participate in a media event and take photos of the 747 line in the factory and I wanted to be able to share. Enjoy…
The First Class cabin of a British Airways 747-436 (G-BNLK) – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter
The entire reason I ended up in Poland was because my travel thought process doesn’t work like that of a normal person. If I see an enticing airfare, on a new airline or a new product, I tend to book it, then figure out the details later.
In this case, I had discovered that British Airways was offering some reasonable fares in their most recent Prime First product across the Atlantic. Better still, one leg (LHR-ORD) was going to be on a 747. In this case, G-BNLK.
I flew to Heathrow from Seattle aboard a G-VIID, a 777-236ER built in 1997. The only advantages I can point out between it and the 744 are the larger overhead bins and slightly more modern AVOD In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) system.
The legs to and from Warsaw were aboard an A320. Club Europe is a bit tight, but the lamb rogan josh was nice. What was not nice was arriving into Terminal 3. The flight arrived early, giving me a two-and-a-half-hour layover. Ample time to change terminals and go to the lounge, right?
Wrong – this is Heathrow! Having to walk half a mile from gate 24 to the transfer bus was the first nuisance. The second was the fifteen minute drive to Terminal 5. This was followed by another aimless walk to the connections desk and finally, Fast Track security. It is “Fast Track” in name only – I was stuck behind at least three passengers who forgot the 3-1-1 rule. Noticing that we were at gate B42, I realized that I Â would have no time to visit the Concorde Room (British Airways’ first class lounge), which I was really looking forward to.
Boarding was also a little odd. Instead of BA staff looking at IDs, security was inspecting everyone’s travel documents to confirm the ability to enter the United States. Evidently, he was either very suspicious or just slow. I shallÂ stop dwelling on my sub-par airport experience and talk about the aircraft experience, as it was infinitely better.