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Boeing's 747, known as the 'Queen of the Sky,' set to take off for final time

The last Boeing 747-8 freighter, now painted and ready to officially take flight, will be delivered to Atlas Air on Tuesday.

EVERETT, Wash. — It took its first flight here in western Washington more than 50 years ago. 

Now the last Boeing 747-8 freighter, now painted and ready to officially take flight, will be delivered to Atlas Air on Tuesday.

It’s considered the plane that changed travel around the world. Artist Jeff Barlow was a child when the 747 came out.

“I look at it and I am just drawn to it,” Barlow said.  

He keeps a sketchbook with him wherever he goes, 

“I love to draw with a pencil," Barlow said. "It just has an energy to it that nothing else has."

Now sitting under Boeing’s first Super Jet, Barlow has been sketching the last 747 for Boeing as it prepares for delivery. 

"It's my favorite plane in the whole world," Barlow said.

Seattle Museum of flight docent Thomas Gray remembered watching the 747’s first test flight.

“You suddenly see a huge mass in the air, it was unbelievable,” Gray said.

More than 50 years later, Gray guides museum-goers through this massive plane, telling the history of how she came to be. 

“It was an incredible story,” Gray said.

It took 50,000 men and women to design and complete the 747. They were deemed, "The Incredibles." 

“Thousands of men and women that actually put their heart and soul into conceiving and building this airplane,” Gray said.

Gray was one of those employees who put his heart and soul into it. Before the museum, Gray was a test flight engineer for Boeing.

“We were the data gatherers for the 747 test airplane,” Gray said.

The patch on his jacket shows a number one for the original 747. Gray went on one of the first test flights on Feb. 25, 1969.

“It wasn't until the 747 actually went into service that we realized that it was going to be a game changer in the world,” Gray said.

“If we go back to the 1960s, just before the 747 first comes out, Seattle is probably best known for timber and for salmon,” said Michael Lombardi, Boeing historian.

Not only did this jet make it economically feasible for average people to fly, but they could go wherever they wanted in the world. 

“It captured the world's imagination and the source of that was right here in our area,” Lombardi said.

This plane put western Washington on the map as an aviation powerhouse. Boeing employed thousands of people, growing the community.

"The hard work, the imagination, the dedication of people right here in our region," Lombardi said. "They did this."

In late 1969, Ebony Magazine published a photo of Gray working on the Jet.  

Lombardi said the press initially called her jumbo or wide body, but Boeing preferred to call her the Super Jet. The name the plane is most known by came a bit later and stuck.

"The Queen of the Sky is the proper nomenclature for this airplane,” Gray said.

The Queen of the Sky is no longer in production and her delivery and eventual last accent from Everett are on the horizon.

“Sad isn’t quite the right word," Barlow said. "Because, you know, I think part of the magic is that it's finite."

With the last shadowing finished, Barlow is intent on documenting the final 747 as it is delivered.

“It just feels really, really important to me,” Barlow said.

The Queen of the Sky is still expected to fly for many more decades.

“So I’ll just keep looking up to the sky and hope I see another one,” Barlow said.

Boeing told KING 5 the 777 is taking the place of the 747. More than 1,500 747’s were produced.

The last 747 will officially be delivered on Tuesday and the aircraft will take flight Wednesday, leaving Everett for the last time.


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