British Airways’ decision to buy 18 Boeing Dreamliners is more than just a plane-spotter’s footnote.
It is also the clearest sign yet that the four-decade reign of the “Queen of the Skies” – as the Boeing 747 was quickly dubbed – is drawing inexorably to a close.
The jumbo jet has a long and proud history. It made its first flight, from New York to London, in 1970. At the time it was every bit as cutting edge as the Dreamliner – and its equally gigantic competitor, the Airbus A380 – is now. It was technically ambitious. It was unashamedly glamorous, with an upper deck originally designed to be a mile-high cocktail bar. More than anything, the jumbo was absolutely vast, long enough and wide enough to carry an unprecedented 400-plus passengers.
In the decades since, not only has the 747’s bulky, snub-nosed shape become – with Concorde – one of only two planes recognisable by all. It has also played a central role in bringing air travel to the masses. The Dreamliner and the A380 might be the start of a new era. But the old workhorse jumbo jet will not be forgotten.