Even before Boeing’s 747 flew its first passengers back in 1970, the world knew this was something special. And from day one, the Anderson family has quite literally had their hands on nearly every single 747 built, working on the production line in Everett, Washington.
Kelvin “Andy” Anderson was a supervisor on the prototype; his son, Vic, is now a lead mechanic on the last one (and about 875 before it).
“He turned them on, and I’ll be turning them off. Means a lot to our family,” Vic said.
“CBS Mornings” was there in December as Vic Anderson took his dad to see the final assembly of the last “Queen of the Skies,” just days before it rolled off the line.
It took its first test flight, and got bathed in about 120 gallons of paint ahead of its final delivery Tuesday.
“I’m going to miss it,” said Andy. “I already miss it.”
Back in 1969, Andy Anderson was in the same plant as they built the world’s first jumbo jet, twice the size of the largest airliner to date. “It crossed everyone’s mind whether it was going to get off the ground or not,” he said.
Asked what went through his mind when he saw the first one fly, Andy smiled and said, “It gave me goosebumps! Everybody wanted to fly a ’47. They still do, right?”
And for more than five decades, its four engines have carried millions of travelers, six presidents, and even a space shuttle across the country, and around the world.
But newer, more fuel-efficient planes with two engines are bringing about the end of the 747.
Boeing historian Mike Lombardi said, “This airplane marks the point in history, the first time that any person on planet Earth could get on an airplane and fly … You could say that it shrunk the world.”
Boeing engineers thought this mid-century engineering marvel would only fly passengers for a decade before supersonic planes like the Concorde became the norm. They designed the 747 to live on as a freighter, which is how it got that iconic hump – allowing for a nose that could open to load cargo.
So it’s fitting the final 747 is a freighter that’ll be delivering for years to come.
After building 1,574 747s, Boeing will deliver the very last one on Tuesday to Atlas Air, for use as a cargo plane. Vic Anderson said, “I never thought I would outlast her.”
As Andy Anderson put it, “She’s still the queen.”