As we bid farewell to the 747, we look forward to a new generation of aviation innovation.
It looks like a storage closet, but you get a sense there’s something more going on inside.
A sign on the door says ‘High Voltage Test in Progress. Do Not Approach Test Area.’
Inside the room is a blue shipping container with metal tubes, lights and meters attached on one side.
This is one of Boeing’s Lightning Labs, and you guessed it, they’re about to make lightning!
The concept behind this is to test the effects of lightning on aircraft components and study how the parts, both large and small respond.
For safety reasons, the strikes are regulated, so do not carry the millions of volts contained in naturally occurring lightning bolts. Instead, the results are mathematically extrapolated to assess what might happen in the real world.
This is an example of the critical thinking and innovation that is so important to Boeing’s culture of safety, quality, and integrity.
Thinking outside the box
Innovation has been a cornerstone of the company’s successes since it was founded in 1916 – 13 years after the Wright Brother’s made their first ever flight over 32 metres -half the distance of a Boeing 747 wingspan!
The Boeing 747 was a prime example of innovation, designed and manufactured to meet the exponential growth in air-travel during the 1960s. To increase capacity, Boeing had considered elongating the fuselage on the 747’s predecessor, the 707, but this was not feasible given ground clearance limitations at take-off.
The solution was, almost literally to think outside the box, by designing the World’s first wide-body airliner, the 747 – also affectionately known as the ‘Jumbo Jet’, given its sheer size.
The 747 also became renowned for its distinctive hump, extensive landing gear and four engines. It was a game-changer that made air-travel far more accessible after it came into service in the early seventies.
It would no doubt have been a sad occasion for many at Boeing to see the last of the 747’s rolled off the production line in December 2022 concluding over 50 years manufacture of this iconic airliner.
Some 747’s will remain in operation, but as most operators have now retired the ‘Queen of the Skies’ the chances of getting to travel on one again are slim.
Leading the Way
Along with their competitors, Boeing are committed to a more sustainable future in air-travel which is a key reason for the withdrawal of the 747, in favour of more fuel-efficient aircraft. The successor to the 747 will be the twin engine 777X.
The Boeing 777X launch program was officially announced back in 2013, with its first delivery date targeted for 2020, yet this has been put back (possibly until 2025) due to program delays and other factors such as the Covid19 pandemic.
I’m not sure if I’ll get the opportunity to fly on a 747 again, although the prospect of flying on a 777X – or any new model of aircraft is always exciting.
What is certain, is that the airline industry continues to lead the way in innovation, safety, and sustainability. And at IMET Alloys, we are proud to share these values and to provide the technology to support the next generation of aviation.