Queen of the Skies: Celebrating 50 years of the Boeing 747

Footage: Pathé

Fifty years ago today, the first jumbo jet in the world carried passengers from New York to Heathrow Airport.

The Boeing 747 brought mass travel to millions as it was bigger therefore carried more passengers, making air travel more affordable.

Alan Temple from Buckinghamshire was there on that day in 1970.

At the age of 76, he still works at the airport.

We were all geared up for this thing to arrive and then it appeared at the end of the runway, enormous. It touched down, and all the equipment was different to get the passengers on, get the passengers off. But I think everybody was really excited and everything was totally different to what we'd been used to."

Alan Temple, Ground Equipment Manger, United Airlines

The airline was Pan Am, later taken over by United Airlines.

Former Pan Am staff and others who spent many years on the jumbo jet remember the so-called 'golden era'.

I got on the airplane and I was like wow, this aeroplane is massive. It is so spacious, you could get so many people on it. It went on and on and on. It was just the most phenomenal experience for me to actually get to work on a jumbo jet. The early days of the 747, it was a completely different experience. It was dining and wining in the sky which now, especially our business class customers, they just want to get on board and sleep is important to them."

Helen Somerville, Flight Attendant

passengers have travelled by jumbo jet since 1970

However 50 years on, the plane they call the 'Queen of the Skies' is slowly being retired by airlines around the world and replaced with new, greener, more fuel efficient planes.

The 747 allowed many more people because they were competing for far more seats and therefore that brought the prices down. Because the aircraft actually had a range of 7,500 to 8,000 miles you can actually take it that much further. It literally shrunk the world. If you stayed on the aeroplane you could go around the world in 48 hours."

Ed Dolan, Flight Attendant
Credit: Pathé