13 Things You Didn't Know About The Boeing 747

Introduced in the 1970s with Pan Am, nothing has ever screamed "American prosperity" quite like a double-decker plane, the Boeing 747. Large enough to destroy even the most claustrophobic passenger’s fears, these airborne islands—with penthouse apartments for business class—blew minds every time their wheels eased off and on the tarmac.

The elephantine planes could have been reduced to a few years of hubristic service, but these jumbo jets beat the odds and rising fuel costs to enjoy an enormous reign as the “Queen of the Skies.” They still hold a few routes today, thanks to Lufthansa, KLM, British Airways, and United.

They were cool when we were in kindergarten, and they’re still cool now. Here’re some awesome 747 facts you probably don’t know.

1. 747s have flown more than 3.5 billion people

That is almost half the planet's population.

2. The 350-400 person 747 once carried 1,087 people at once

During the Operation Solomon evacuation, Israel played some serious clown airplane, tripling standard capacity by modifying the airplane. This beat Quantas' 747 evacuation record of 674. 

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3. It takes 90 gallons of paint to paint a 747

This is the same volume as a 30-minute shower with a decent-flow/Kramer-approved shower head, and looks sweet in time-lapse.

4. There are 14 stairs to the upper deck

Maybe not that impressive on its own, but this is a plane with stairs, people. Think about that!

5. That upper deck alone has the same square footage as a 737

Did we mention this is a big plane?

6. Boeing has modified around 15 of their 1,500 747 planes for special purposes

Air Force Ones, E-5 military command centers, space shuttle carriers, refueling tanker planes, and the Dreamlifter...the plane that looks like an anaconda that ate a horse. This one in particular was built to transport the fuselage of Boeing's new jumbo jet, the Dreamliner. A few others are also modified to be converted at a moment’s notice into cargo planes.

7. The Wright brothers could have fit their historic first flight inside a 747

And could have stayed strictly within the 150-foot economy section.

8. The landing gear tires are filled with nitrogen to prevent explosive tire blowouts

This, in turn, prevents spilled Bloody Marys.

9. It was originally designed to be converted into a cargo plane

When Boeing created the original design, they assumed supersonic travel was going to be the standard, but that subsonic cargo planes would be future-proof. It turned out that subsonic travel was pretty future-proof as well.

10. There are 365 switches, dials, and lights in the incredibly confusing cockpit

One for every day of the year. Apparently this is down from 971.

11. The engine fan diameter is almost as girthy as a B-29 bomber

Which was an enormous plane in its day.

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12. The engine noise of the current 747 is about half that of the original Pratt & Whitney engines

It is still, however, f***ing loud.

13. It would take Usain Bolt seven seconds to run from tip to tail

To be fair, the 747 can cover 100 meters in 0.36 seconds, besting Bolt’s time by 9.22 seconds.

Ethan Wolff-Mann is an editor at Supercompressor. He hasn’t flown in a 747 in years. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann.

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