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Boeing 747 jumbo jet

A Jumbo Jet is loaded with luggage and passengers The Boeing 747 is one of the world’s largest airliners, also known as the “Jumbo Jet”. It can carry up to 568 passengers, but normally carries 467 in first, business and economy cabins. It cruises at up to 1041 km/h (646 mph), at an altitude of 10,000 metres (33,000 feet). Its maximum range is 14,815 kilometres (9205 miles)—more than a third of the way round the world. The first 747 passenger service begain in 1970. The newest version of the plane, the 747-8, entered service in 2012.

A cutaway illustration of a Boeing 747 (front)
The original version of the Jumbo Jet: the Boeing 747-100


The Boeing 747 first flew on 9th February 1969. (The very first plane, called the City of Everett after the place where it was built, is now kept in the Museum of Flight in Seattle, USA.) Just under a year later, on 21st January 1970, a 747 took off from New York bound for London with the first fare-paying passengers aboard. By July of that year, a million people had travelled in a Jumbo Jet. 

A later version of the Jumbo, the Boeing 747-400, looked similar to the original 747 on the outside, but inside, new technology made it almost a completely different aeroplane. For example, on the flight deck of the original version, there were 971 lights, dials and gauges; they numbered only 365 on the 747-400. The engines were 50% more powerful—and only half as noisy. 


The latest version of the Jumbo Jet: Boeing 747-8. It made its maiden flight in 2010 and entered service in 2012. A scale diagram comparing four of the largest planes ever built: the Hughes H-4 Spruce Goose (a 1947 flying boat made of wood...Read More >>A scale diagram comparing four of the largest planes ever built: the Hughes H-4 Spruce Goose (a 1947 flying boat made of wood that made only one flight; it still holds the record for the greatest wingspan), the Antonov An-225 Mriya (the largest aircraft), the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental (the largest version of the Boeing 747 Jumbo jet), and the Airbus A380-800 (the largest passenger aircraft).Officially announced in 2005, the 747-8 is the third generation of the 747. It made its maiden flight in 2010, and entered service in 2012. Appearing in two versions, the Intercontinental for passengers and the Freighter for cargo, the new model has a lengthened fuselage, re-designed wings and improved efficiency.

The 747-8 is the largest 747 version and the longest passenger aircraft in the world. Although there are other airliners that can carry more passengers, fly with greater fuel efficiency and have a longer range, the Boeing 747’s ability to transport heavy cargo means the plane is still in demand among freight operators. And the US Air Force plans to acquire a Boeing 747-8 for the next version of Air Force One, the aircraft used by the US President.


The Boeing 747 is assembled from around 6 million parts, of which about half are fasteners or rivets. The main body of the aeroplane, known as the fuselage, is a framework of beams and ribs in the shape of a large tube. All the parts are made of lightweight aluminium alloys (aluminium mixed with other metals like copper and zinc to make it tougher).
The outer skin, also made out of aluminium alloy, is just 5 millimetres (0.2 inches) thick. Installed between it and the internal panels are soundproof and heat-resistant insulation materials. The wall is 19 centimetres (7.5 inches) thick.Fuselage and wings under constructionThe fuselage is assembled in three main sections, each lowered into position by cranes. The centre body is fitted to the wing assembly, followed by the front and rear sections. About 110 kilograms (250 pounds) of paint are used on the plane's exterior.


Features of the wings and tailplane


Each wing is 29 metres (95 feet) long and has about the same area as a doubles tennis court—enough room to park 22 medium-sized cars. The framework of each wing, a latticework of metal ribs, is covered with a sheet metal skin. (Near the wing tip, the sheet metal is just 2 millimetres thick.)
The aircraft’s fuel is stored inside this structure. There are seven fuel tanks—two main tanks and a reserve in each wing, plus the wing centre-section tank—storing a total of up to 242,470 litres (53,336 gallons) of fuel. A Jumbo drinks up 15 litres (3 gallons) for every kilometre it travels; or, to put it another way, one litre of fuel will drive it forward a distance of just under its own body length. The hollow insides of the 747’s tailplane provide extra fuel tanks. These add 650 kilometres (400 miles) to the plane’s range. 

The General Electric GEnx engine for the Boeing747-8


Three different makes of engine can be used to power a Boeing 747-400: they are Pratt & Whitney PW4056, General Electric CF6-80C2 or Rolls-Royce RB211-524G. The General Electric GEnx-2B67 is the only engine option for the 747-8. There are four engines in all, two on each wing, contained within engine cowlings (casings) attached to the wing undersides. The front entrance to the engine, known as the intake, is so large a person could stand in it. Just one engine on a 747-400 produces more thrust than all four engines on a Boeing 707.
Besides driving the plane through the air, the engines supply the power needed for the electricity used on board and to work its family of hydraulic pumps. A gearbox takes power from the engine to drive, amongst other things, an electric generator. Air is also diverted from the engine compressor to pressurize the cabin. (Air pressure, which keeps oxygen supplied to our lungs, is much lower at cruising altitudes, so air is pumped into the pressurized cabin to keep it comfortably at the levels to which we are accustomed on the ground.) An air conditioning system circulates air via a network of ducts around the pressure cabin. When full of high-pressure air the aeroplane’s take-off weight is increased by about a tonne. Hot air is also used to prevent icing on the wings and at the intake section of each engine.
A cutaway illustration of a Boeing 747 (rear)

Auxiliary Power Unit

The Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) is an extra, very small gas turbine engine fitted into the tail cone. It supplies the aeroplane with electricity and air conditioning while it is on the ground. The main engines provide this function while the plane is in the air. The APU may provide emergency electrical power for the plane’s flight control hydraulics (which work the ailerons, flaps etc.) while in the air.

Boeing 747-8 landing gear

Landing gear

The 747-8 landing gear is made up of 18 wheels. This many are needed to spread the plane's enormous weight on the runway. Two are positioned beneath the nose. The other 16, consisting of four four-wheeled carriages, or bogies, are arranged with one under each of the wings and two on the underside of the fuselage. The impact of landing is absorbed evenly by all four bogies through their shock absorbers. The main gear tyres are 1.3 metres (4.3 feet) in diameter, filled with nitrogen gas and fitted with anti-skid brakes. The main landing gear folds sideways under the wings after take-off.

The nose landing gear has two wheels positioned side by side. After take-off, they retract in a forward direction into the nose of the fuselage, powered by hydraulic jacks. Hinged doors close behind them. 


Flight deck

Seated on the flight deck are the pilot (the Captain, on the left) and co-pilot (the First Officer, on the right), with room for extra crew members to sit behind them. To the rear are rest bunks, where the pilots can take a break on a long, tiring flight. For much of the journey, the controls are switched to an automatic control system, or autopilot. It uses computers to manipulate the controls accordingly to travel along a pre-set route. Flight deck of the Boeing 747-8

Flight panel displays

Six cathode-ray tube (CRT) displays—three for each pilot—give all the information needed to fly the plane. The Primary Flight Display (PFD) shows the aeroplane’s attitude—the angle at which it is flying in relation to the Earth. The PFD also indicates the plane’s course, its speed and the height of the plane above the land or sea it is flying over. The Navigation Display (ND) plots the plane’s exact position and gives estimated arrival times at waypoints. It also gives indications of wind directions and speeds. The Engine Indication and Crew Alerting System (EICAS) gives information about the operation of the plane’s systems and engines.
At the Jumbo’s nose is the radome, containing a powerful radar. Constantly transmitting and receiving back radio signals, it enables the crew to watch ahead for other aircraft and approaching storms.


The staircase leading to the upper deck

Passenger cabin

Normally, the 747-8 carries 467 passengers, 26 in First Class, 89 in Business Class and 352 in Economy Class, but the seating can be re-arranged to accommodate many more. Galleys and lavatories can also be re-positioned to allow extra seating to be put in. The Boeing 747-8 has an upper deck reached by a curved staircase from the lower deck.

A VIP version of the plane has an AeroLoft above the passenger cabin that is equipped with sleeping areas with bunks. All 747-8 aircraft have larger windows than the 747-400 and can offer mood lighting.

 Chris Oxlade

More than 160 km (100 miles) of electrical wiring runs through the 747.


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