It’s probably the most recognizable airplane of the last 50 years, and today, more than half a century after this majestic queen of the skies first took to the air, the last of the Boeing 747 ‘Jumbo’ jets has rolled off the production line.
Our own relationship with this iconic airplane stretches back almost as many years. The AkzoNobel Aerospace Coatings’ team was honored to paint the last 747, newly delivered to Atlas Air, having only very recently re-painted the first RA001, now residing in the Museum of Flight in Seattle.
Early 747s benefited from AkzoNobel’s Aeroflex coating to protect the exterior of the wings. Over the years, AkzoNobel increased the range of coatings. Much of the exterior of the last Atlas 747 – as well as its fuel tanks and interior wing structures – feature AkzoNobel’s primers. The company’s Aerodur 3001/3002 Basecoat/Clearcoat system is also used as an exterior top coat, while AkzoNobel’s Eclipse topcoat is used for the aircraft’s markings.
Mike Suhara, one of a team of Technical Services Consultants for AkzoNobel Aerospace Coatings, says the aircraft was simply immense in every sense: “We used to joke that you could put 100 people on a job to paint a 747, and you wouldn’t be able to find them all. The wing flap canoes, for example, could accommodate two or three painters and you’d never know they were there.”
The height of the aircraft was also a challenge: “A 747 is 65ft tall at the tail,” he continues, “which meant you couldn’t reach it using a standard lift, you had to have a 60ft lift to get up there. But at that height, the sensation of movement is greatly multiplied, which meant that the tip of the tail could be a weird place to be when you were painting it.”
Lufthansa was the world’s largest passenger operator of 747s, with the aircraft also proving popular with the freight carriers, Atlas, Cargolux and UPS. In total, more than 1,550 747s have been built, and remarkably almost 450 are still flying. The most popular of all the models were the 747-400s; some 45 of the ‘Special Performance’ (SP) aircraft were also built, and over the years, the AkzoNobel team has worked on nearly every variant and type. This includes working on a Dreamlifter, the large cargo freighter version with a volume of 65,000 cubic feet.
The team of AkzoNobel is sorry to see production of the 747 finally come to an end, but it is not the end of the story, only a closing of a chapter. We will be continuing to support this magnificent airplane for many years to come.