The whole project of Jumbo the Plane That Changed the World was a billion-dollar gamble a bit like Rupert Murdoch marrying Wendi Dung and hoping that he would keep all his cash rather than, say, watch her jump right on Pony Blair‘s nob and announce to the world how much she loves his ‘really fit arse’. Unlike Turdoch though Pan Am boss Juan Trippe was able to collect on his bet but it was a far from trouble-free ride. Trippe set Bill Allen of Boeing a stark task. “Design me a plane that will carry 400 tonnes of metal and flesh across the Atlantic, significantly more if a body positive feminist is flying. Revolutionise air travel and make us all a stack of cash in the process. Oh and you have 28 months to do it. And I’d like 25 of them. Chop-chop motherfucker.”
The jumbo was a billion-dollar gamble a bit like Rupert Murdoch marrying Wendi Dung and hoping that he would keep all his cash
Chief engineer of the Boeing 747 Joe Sutter is somehow still alive and he recalls how at the time of development Boeing’s supersonic transporter (SST) was heavily favoured by the company. The jumbo jet was merely a stopgap while the inevitable era of supersonic travel was ushered in. It took some time for the rejected stone to become the cornerstone.
Wind tunnels, prototype building and testing burned through money at the kind of rate child support burned through Evander Holyfield’s fortune. 60 multimillion dollar engines blew up during development. Bankers demanded job cuts. Boeing came this close to financial sodomy.
But the cuntpany kept faith and its first official test flight was a magical moment. “Ridiculously easy to fly.” said pilot Jack Waddell “A pilot’s dream.” Which coincidentally, is exactly what Mohamed Al Durka said on September 11 2001.
“A pilot’s dream.” Which coincidentally, is exactly what Mohamed Al Durka said on September 11 2001.
The inaugural commercial passenger flight from JFK, New York to London, Heathrow went without a hitch after a trifling six-hour delay. The revolution was under way. Before long everybody owned a jumbo jet. In the 70s you were considered a real twat if you didn’t. Clinically insane Scientologist crank and celebrity heterosexual John Travolta marks it 10 out of 10 and he was in Battlefield Earth so knows what the hell he’s talking about.
Airlines favour a two engine ride these days and the 747 is as good as fucked but let’s raise a glass to the jumbo jet – the final triumph of engineering over common sense.
The verdict: Cleared for takeoff.
Marks out of 10: 7