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As 747s exit the skies, Emirates opens new era with sustainable fuel flight

The last Boeing 747 was delivered to American airline Atlas Air on Tuesday, ending more than half a century of production.

Boeing employees who designed and built the first 747, known as the “Incredibles,” returned to be honoured at the Everett factory in Washington, United States.

The 747 jumbo jet has captured the public’s imagination since production of the Queen of the Skies, as the aircraft came to be known, began in 1967.

As the first twin-aisle, or wide body aeroplane, the 747 enabled airlines to connect people across vast distances and provided non-stop trans-oceanic flights.

Pilot and president of the Australian and International Pilots Association Anthony Lucas told The New Daily that the 747 “revolutionised” air travel.

“It became popular because it was an aeroplane that brought air travel to the masses,” he said.

“A 707 had been the biggest plane flying around. It had under 200 passenger seats. Then the jumbo came along and it was 350.

“That lowered the cost of flights, and therefore more people could travel.”

The aircraft “shrank the world”, according to Stan Deal, Boeing president and chief executive officer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

Some of the trailblazing design concepts on the 747 included overhead bins and in-flight entertainment.

Early models redefined luxury air travel with a spiral staircase to an upper-deck lounge.

A Pan American (Pan Am) air hostess serving champagne in the first-class cabin of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet. Photo: Getty

Boeing produced 1574 aeroplanes over the life of the 747 program.

The flying kangaroo

The 747 become an iconic fixture in Australian skies with Qantas building its long-haul ambitions around the aircraft.

Between 1971 and 2020, Qantas operated scores of Boeing 747s.

For a period the jumbo was the only plane in the Qantas fleet, enabling the airline to effectively connect Australia to the rest of the world.

The 747 was the “backbone of the entire operation”, Mr Lucas said.

“I think jumbo really turbo-charged the success of Qantas as an international airline because it carried more people faster and further.”

747

Qantas farewelled its final 747-400 in July 2020. Photo: Getty

Emirates’ historic flight

As the sun sets on one era of air travel, another dawns.

On Wednesday, Emirates completed a milestone demonstration flight on a Boeing 777-300ER, powering one of its engines with 100 per cent Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).

SAF is produced from certified bio-feedstock, including used cooking oil, energy crops, forestry residues, animal fat and other waste products.

It is blended with regular jet fuel and produces up to 80 per cent less emissions on a life-cycle basis than traditional jet kerosene.

Qantas has committed to using 10 per cent SAF in its overall fuel mix by 2030 and about 60 per cent by 2050.

Emirates chief operating officer Adel Al Redha said the goal of Tuesday’s flight was to reduce the airline’s carbon footprint.

“This flight is a milestone moment for Emirates and a positive step for our industry as we work collectively to address one of our biggest challenges – reducing our carbon footprint,” he said.

“It has been a long journey to finally see this demonstration 100 per cent SAF flight take off.

“Emirates is the first passenger airline in the world to operate a Boeing 777 powering a GE engine with 100 per cent SAF. Such initiatives are critical contributors to industry knowledge on SAF, and provide data to demonstrate the use of higher blends of SAF for future regulatory approvals.”

Mr Al Redha said that he hoped the flight would help open the door to scale up the SAF supply chain and make it more available and accessible across geographies and, most importantly, affordable for aviation industry adoption in the future.

The New Daily has written previously on how Boeing has been actively involved in projects and strategies aiming at decarbonising the aviation sector.

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