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Transportation Technology

The Flying Giant Is 40 Years Old 366

Posted by timothy
from the ah-nostalgia dept.
Ponca City, We love you writes "Four decades ago, Boeing's prototype 747 took to the skies over Washington State for a 75-minute flight that helped bring cheap airline travel to millions of people and would remain the world's largest commercial aircraft for 37 years until the advent of the double-decker Airbus A380. What made the 747 unique was that it was the first 'wide body' aircraft with more than one aisle — a big step towards reducing the sense of traveling in a narrow tube, and inducing a sense more equivalent to flying in a large room with high ceilings. But back in the 1960s, convincing people that the 747 would fly was a tough call. Joe Sutter, the director of engineering on the project, even spent an hour with Charles Lindbergh, going over all the data to prove that the jumbo would not flip over or become unstable at high speeds. Boeing has sold more than 1,400 jumbos in the past four decades, worth, at today's prices, more than $350 billion and although we might complain of traveling in 'cattle class' we have the 747 to thank for being able to do so at affordable prices."
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The Flying Giant Is 40 Years Old

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  • by I_Can't_Fly (1442225) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @01:57PM (#26799941) Homepage
    And then hate how they treat you like a farm animal on flights. In fact maybe the flight crew and stewardesses should begin utilizing electronic cattle prods.

    It used to be fun to fly, not any more.

    • by Rinisari (521266) * on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:02PM (#26800035) Homepage Journal

      I wonder how much of that loss of fun is the airlines' fault and how much is the result of the FAA bureaucracy?

      • by Spazztastic (814296) <spazztastic@nOSPAM.gmail.com> on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:06PM (#26800101)

        I wonder how much of that loss of fun is the airlines' fault and how much is the result of the FAA bureaucracy?

        Or the result of greed on both parties.

        • by p0tat03 (985078) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @03:02PM (#26801197)

          How about the result of consumers winning out? I think people forget just how expensive air travel used to be - no wonder you were treated like a king. Free food, free drinks (some airlines even had free alcohol)...

          The fact of the matter is that airline travel is a *lot* cheaper and more accessible to the average person than it used to be. This is a good thing. It also necessitates us changing our expectation from "floating sky-palace" to "flying Greyhound bus", which is a more appropriate modern analogy.

          If you want the service of yonder years, you can still get it. In fact, you can still get it at approximately the same prices *you used to pay*.

          I for one welcome the democratization of long-distance travel.

          • by e2d2 (115622) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @03:16PM (#26801499)

            I think they could change this if they took a different approach to those on vacation - specifically creating routes for vacationers and everything they expect. Get them started on their vacation early by providing them with large seats, good food, good movies. For the commuter or typical traveler they could offer a more traditional approach.

            But imagine you want to fly to Japan from NYC. That's quite a long flight. Why not offer people on holiday the option to pamper themselves while flying? Give them a more leisurely route, better service, and better seating. Think a "cruise line" in the air. I bet people like myself would opt for it over the "sardine can to Asia" and be willing to spend the money on it. Sure I can fly first class now, but this whole everyone is the same approach is the past, we need more niche airlines that cater to specifics. I feel like a piece of cattle when flying, like somehow I'm not the consumer anymore and I'm just at the whim of the airline/FAA/TSA/various global agencies. It's become a "privilege".

            BTW, I love to fly. So much I decided to learn how to fly and get my own private pilot's license. But I hate flying the airlines. It's not the same. One is a chore, the other is an experience everyone should try at least once.

            • by p0tat03 (985078) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @03:29PM (#26801763)

              But they *do*. It's called first class! I know people who *do* pamper themselves when flying to their vacations, and it's a wonderful way to fly - but it's not for everyone, or indeed even a large portion of the traveling public.

              I think you're suggesting that the cost of first class be lowered - and perhaps it can, I'm certainly not privy to the finances of major airlines. I would like to point out, though, that most people I know only consider spending good money on *the vacation*, and not the means of getting there. I don't know about you guys in the US, but up here in Canada we have "vacation airlines" that service only popular vacation routes, and completely redefine "cattle class" (in the bad way). Consumers are clearly more about cheap than comfort, and unfortunately the airlines are giving them precisely what they want.

              • by david.given (6740) <dg@@@cowlark...com> on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @05:12PM (#26803779) Homepage Journal

                But they *do*. It's called first class! I know people who *do* pamper themselves when flying to their vacations, and it's a wonderful way to fly - but it's not for everyone, or indeed even a large portion of the traveling public.

                I fly long distance (London->Beijing, London->Dallas, about ten hours for either trip) quite frequently, and usually go British Airways. The BA long-haul planes are usually 777s, and carry four classes [seatguru.com]:

                • Economy (a.k.a. cattle car class); three rows of three seats. They're very narrow, but there's a surprising amount of legroom, far more than in short-haul flights. Can be very cheap (£300 return from Heathrow to Dallas!).
                • Premium economy (a.k.a. business class lite); 2-4-2 rows. Wider seats, possibly a bit more legroom, and best of all there's actually a bit more space between you and your unwashed neighbour so you don't actually have to make skin contact if you don't want to. This is tailored to business budgets, so it's more expensive than economy but not overly so.
                • Club World (a.k.a. pod people class). Lie flat beds in your own little cubicle! I got into one once, via a free upgrade, and they're fantastic. The bed is powered and turns into a comfortable chair. You sit head-to-feet with your neighbour, but there's a privacy screen so you never have to talk to them. Decent food, a menu, real crockery, etc. The price is scary.
                • First Class (a.k.a. I don't know anyone that rich class). I don't know what these are like, they don't let people like me into that part of the plane. I assume it's similar to Club World but more so. The price is similar to those long numbers written on the back of your stereo.

                Food and alcohol is free in all classes, and in fact these days, even in economy the food is pretty good. Snacks, drinks etc can be had for the asking; they encourage you to go to the galley rather than ring for a steward. Personal TVs all round, laptop power everywhere but economy. What's best, the staff have always been uniformly friendly and polite to me --- although it helps that I've flown enough to know how everything works and so know how to behave so I don't make their lives harder.

                BTW, if you're ever travelling long haul, go visit seatguru.com. It'll tell you everything you ever need to know about where the best seats are. (On these 777s, you want the front row premium economy seats. Extra legroom and storage and you can get out without climbing over your neighbour! Pity that these days they send me out economy class...)

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by dgatwood (11270)

            I don't know what flights you're flying on, but I used to be able to consistently get flights from CA to TN for $200-$300 round trip, and sometimes as low as $150. Last Christmas, I actually flew with frequent flyer miles first class because it was going to be somewhere around $1,000 for the round trip and it took 5,000 fewer frequent flyer miles for first class than it did for coach. This Christmas, it's looking like I'm going to have a hard time getting below $1500 for that round trip---more expensive b

      • by riverat1 (1048260) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:08PM (#26800137)

        A lot of the loss of fun has to do with deregulation. When the airlines all have to compete on price they're going to squeeze things as much as they can get away with. For most people air travel is expensive enough that they'll put up with it to get the cheapest possible prices.

      • by Alinabi (464689) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:19PM (#26800353)

        I wonder how much of that loss of fun is the airlines' fault

        100%. I'm not aware of any FAA regulation mandating 5 passengers per square foot.

        • by Herkum01 (592704)

          The obvious solution then is to reduce the number of square-footed people from flying. That would give the rest of us more room if only 1 person in 20 had square feet.

      • by tenchiken (22661) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:39PM (#26800749)

        Honestly, not the FAA's fault. In fact, it's no-one's fault other then when the 747 started to fly, flying was out of the reach of almost all Americans, save the jet-setters. Nowadays, you can get a non-stop from Denver to Atlanta for $169 bucks. Of course it's going to be a cattle call.

        Do I wish that I could have taken a trip on a 747 in the glory days of Pan Am? Absolutly. Would I rather live now and have the ability to fly to London for $500 bucks? You bet your a$$.

        • by Cyberax (705495) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @03:19PM (#26801563)

          The problem is: there's virtually no middle ground.

          You either pay through your nose for the business-class seats or you have to fly in cattle-like economic class.

          Personally, I don't want champagne, I don't want caviar - I just want some additional leg and elbow space. I'll gladly pay 1.5x normal rate for it! But usually there's just no such choice :(

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Judge_Fire (411911)

            A Premium Economy [wikipedia.org] option has actually started to emerge.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Alioth (221270)

            For the kind of routes the 747 flies, there IS that option. For example, British Airways has a "World Traveller Plus" - more legroom, mains plug for your laptop etc., and it costs about 1.5 times the normal economy fare.

            I'm flying on BA to Houston in March. Being a cheapskate, I took the normal economy class (I fit the seats, and even in the cheap seats, you get free booze and free food). The return fare from London to Houston is £300 *all inclusive* travelling midweek (about US $450) which is tremend

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Hordeking (1237940)

        I wonder how much of that loss of fun is the airlines' fault and how much is the result of the FAA bureaucracy?

        Don't forget the TSA. I really dislike the part where they ask "papers please".

    • by John Hasler (414242) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:14PM (#26800255) Homepage

      > And then hate how they treat you like a farm animal on flights.

      Nothing is stopping you from flying first class.

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      Feel free to fly in business class if you want to. You get VIP lounges in the airports, big seats, free drinks, all the perks you used to get in the old days. Oh, and a similar price tag...

  • Many people are skeptical that the A380 will sell. YET, think of when the 747 was launched, and when the A380 was launched... Around the same time with same economics...

    I think the A380 will be a success because there will be more cattle to transport at a more effective cost...

    Yeah... Great guess which plane I will be avoiding!!!!

    • by HTH NE1 (675604)

      I think the A380 will be a success because there will be more cattle to transport at a more effective cost...

      Yeah... Great guess which plane I will be avoiding!!!!

      Is it not the one that flies people to volcanoes to be blown up with nuclear bombs?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tenchiken (22661)

      Actually, the A380 is selling fairly poorly. Because of the production problems their recovery number is probably up at around 700 frames. They are nowhere close to that number now. Worse, most of their orders are from Emirates, and with the collapse of the middle eastern economies (on average 40 percent down so far) these orders are not likely to be completely fulfilled.

  • by TheLink (130905) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:02PM (#26800031) Journal
    Four decades ago:
    747 and concorde launched, first manned moon landing. 40 years later, NASA can barely keep the ISS running (or the shuttle from blowing up).

    I'm curious - how much better are the new planes compared to the 60s version of the 747 in terms of range, payload and efficiency?
    • by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice&gmail,com> on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:15PM (#26800267)
      Modern aircraft compare extremely well to their 1960s counterparts - the best example is that of 'ETOPS' (Extended Twin Engine Operational Performance Standard), or 'LROPS' as it is known today (Long Range Operational Performance Standard).

      Try finding a 1960s aircraft that is rated to fly for 208 minutes, or nearly 3 and a half hours, on one single engine. Thats how far the technology has come, its extremely reliable.
      • by Bearhouse (1034238) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:35PM (#26800677)

        Try finding a 1960s aircraft that is rated to fly for 208 minutes, or nearly 3 and a half hours, on one single engine. Thats how far the technology has come, its extremely reliable.

        Well, there was this one:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spirit_of_st_louis [wikipedia.org]

        It managed more than 33 hours, on a single engine, in 1927.

        Now get off my cloud.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by nhtshot (198470)

          That's an airplane designed to fly on a single engine.

          The parent is referring to a multi-engine design that is capable of flying for extended periods of time on a single engine.

          Also, he got the acronym wrong.

          ETOPS: Engines Turn Or Passengers Swim

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Waffle Iron (339739)

        the best example is that of 'ETOPS' (Extended Twin Engine Operational Performance Standard)

        To me, the alternate joke acronym seems to describe the situation more succinctly: "Engines Turn Or Passengers Swim".

    • Negative progress (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Roger W Moore (538166)
      It's worse than little - its negative progress. Five years ago if I was rich enough I could purchase a ticket on a craft, Concorde, capable of cruising at twice the speed of sound. Today there is no supersonic passenger aircraft in service. Since I understand that a vastly more efficient supersonic aircraft could be constructed today the problem seems to be one of being willing to take an economic risk rather than a lack of technical expertise.
      • by NorthDude (560769)
        The problem with supersonic passenger planes was that they could not fly at those speed over land, rendering most speed advantage moot.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by 0123456 (636235)

          "The problem with supersonic passenger planes was that they could not fly at those speed over land"

          Concorde will quite happily fly at supersonic speed over land, absent NIMBYs pushing governments to prohibit such flights. It really doesn't care what's ten miles below it.

      • Rolls Royce told Airbus in the 1990s that they could only improve on the Olympus 593 engines supersonic efficiency by single digit percentages - that is not enough to warrant either a reengining of the then-current Concorde airframes, nor a clean sheet design.

        Yes, the engines were that good. The problem is supersonic flight as a whole.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by WillAdams (45638)

          Moreover, the Concorde was cost-benefit-analysised at a time when jet fuel was in the tens of cents per gallon price range --- then the Arab fuel embargo hit and suddenly it was hard to justifiably profit on it (though for a long while they managed).

          Sadly the new tires were just being certified when the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred which was pretty much the final nail in the coffin.

          William

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Koreantoast (527520)
        There's no market for supersonic aircraft at this time. Boeing tested the market for one back at the beginning of this decade, and the response they got was lukewarm at best. Their decision to go with the 787 instead of the Sonic Cruiser is a reflection of shifting global needs: they don't want faster, they want more efficient. Besides, there were a ton of issues with supersonic aircraft on the environmental front, particularly with noise and emissions.
      • by radtea (464814) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:36PM (#26800689)

        Today there is no supersonic passenger aircraft in service.

        The economics of supersonic flight suck, although it wasn't apparent at the time.

        I've read accounts that suggest the 747's raised flight deck was designed that way because it was assumed the primary purpose of the aircraft would be cargo hauling, and they wanted access to the full diameter of the fuselage without hinging the nose, as is often done in cargo aircraft. The reason why cargo was targeted was because everyone believed that supersonics were going to own the passenger transport market "once a few bugs were worked out."

        It turns out those bugs--noise, engine sizing and fuel efficiency--are pretty difficult to work around, and cutting an five hour flight to two and a half hours isn't such a big deal when the time spent getting into and out of the airport are added in. It's more like cutting an eight hour experience to a five or six hour one. Not worth the price.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by the_humeister (922869)

        What are you talking about? The Concorde was one of the biggest money losers for Air France and British Airways. Sure you can fly from New York to London really fast, but you're burning so much more fuel in the process.

        Right now, the name of the game is efficiency in terms of passengers and fuel. And fuel efficiency is going up.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Wrong, Concorde was one of British Airways most profitable aircraft after the airline underwent privitisation in the mid 1980s - the Government was simply operating the aircraft badly before that.

          Concorde being unprofitable is a major myth of the aircraft, and one that still dogs it to this day.
          • Re:Negative progress (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Bearhouse (1034238) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @03:21PM (#26801599)

            You are right, but only because the French and the Brit Govs wrote off the development costs.

            "Concorde flew regular transatlantic flights from London Heathrow (British Airways) and Paris Charles de Gaulle (Air France) to New York JFK and Washington Dulles, profitably flying these routes at record speeds, in less than half the time of other airliners."

            However:

            "With only 20 aircraft ultimately built, the costly development phase represented a substantial economic loss. Additionally, Air France and British Airways were subsidised by their governments to buy the aircraft.

            Wikipedia, of course, so it must be true.

    • by DesScorp (410532) <DesScorpNO@SPAMGmail.com> on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:17PM (#26800301) Homepage Journal

      Four decades ago:
      747 and concorde launched, first manned moon landing. 40 years later, NASA can barely keep the ISS running (or the shuttle from blowing up).

      During the jet age, it was all about higher performance. Higher speeds, higher altitudes, longer ranges, higher load capacities.

      Aviation has matured, and now it's only about one thing: better efficiency. Our planes carry no more people than they used to. They go no faster or farther. Cost efficiency is the last frontier of a stable, mature... but boring... industry.

    • by Thelasko (1196535)

      Four decades ago: 747 and concorde launched, first manned moon landing. 40 years later, NASA can barely keep the ISS running (or the shuttle from blowing up).

      And how much of that work was done with a pencil and paper?

    • Quite a bit in several area such as how far they can fly on fuel, how much weight they can carry per ton of fuel, better navigation (GPS), better engines (more thrust, highly reliable, easier to maintain), better airframe design (CAD-CAM and Finite Element Analysis designs for max strength and min weight, better alloys of Aluminum, NC machining). All of these technical improvements that allow for safer, cheaper air travel and air cargo came from the Cold War and some from the Race to the Moon. So, don't say
    • Some numbers to consider:

      A380: Range: 14,800 km Capacity: 525 - 853 Speed: 900 km/h
      747-400: Range: 13,450 km Capacity: 416 - 524 Speed: 913 km/h

      Here's a more detailed comparison [howstuffworks.com]

      It should also be noted that today's 747's aren't the same as the ones that flew in the 60s. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_747#Improved_747_versions [wikipedia.org]
  • barrel roll (Score:2, Interesting)

    by m0s3m8n (1335861)
    Probably the coolest video of a Boeing passenger jet was the 707's barrel roll. The test pilot got in a bit of trouble BUT WAS NOT FIRED. Needless to say it was only done once.
    • by DieByWire (744043)

      Probably the coolest video of a Boeing passenger jet was the 707's barrel roll. The test pilot got in a bit of trouble BUT WAS NOT FIRED. Needless to say it was only done once.

      Well... he (Tex Johnston) actually rolled it twice that day.

      Those were the days...

    • Re:barrel roll (Score:4, Interesting)

      by JumboMessiah (316083) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:29PM (#26800551)

      That was Tex Johnston [youtube.com] and he actually did it twice [youtube.com].

    • Re:barrel roll (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Poppa (95105) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:34PM (#26800637)

      The Boeing President was so mad at Tex, that he didn't speak to him for years. This barrel roll was done in front of potential buyers, which did impress them.

      Remember that a commercial airplane is not designed for aerobatic maneuvers. Which means Tex had to maintain a 1G downward force during the roll to ensure fuel stayed in the bottom of the tanks.

      The President was mad because the Company bet the future on the 707. If it didn't sell (and/or if Tex crashed), then the Company would have folded.

      The same thing was true with the 747, the Company bet the farm on this one too. It is such a big investment of capital, that there is no room for failure.

      • Re:barrel roll (Score:4, Informative)

        by mschuyler (197441) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @04:15PM (#26802735) Homepage Journal

        But it did fail--initially. Boeing bet the farm on the 747 expecting ridership to increase. We entered a recession. It did not increase. Boeing went from 135,000 workers to 35,000 workers in the space of a few months. At the time Boeing was a one-horse show just like Seattle and the firm nearly went bankrupt. People left their homes to the banks and moved out of Seattle, Renton, Kent, and Auburn. Someone put up a billboard that said, "Will the last one to leave please turn out the lights." It took years for the local economy to recover. And the 747 caused it.

        Today Seattle and Boeing are both very much more diversified. Anf yeah, Boeing is laying off a few thousand workers--but it's not 100,000 workers.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by DerekLyons (302214)

          But it did fail--initially. Boeing bet the farm on the 747 expecting ridership to increase. We entered a recession. It did not increase. Boeing went from 135,000 workers to 35,000 workers in the space of a few months.

          You've got the and the effects of a number of events all confused.

          The 747 didn't fail - thought it's entry into service was rocky due to teething troubles with the engines.

          The huge jobs cuts occurred in 1971/72 - a year after the 747 entered service and a year before the recessi

  • To celebrate... (Score:5, Informative)

    by CompMD (522020) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:06PM (#26800111)

    ...Boeing will fire 10,000 workers!

    I don't say this to troll. I work in the aerospace industry and am watching bright, talented friends and coworkers get laid off left and right.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      ...Boeing will fire 10,000 workers!

      I don't say this to troll. I work in the aerospace industry and am watching bright, talented friends and coworkers get laid off left and right.

      And how would this be different from any other industry today?

  • We may very well see 747's in the air for another 60 years. Boeing keeps improving them, and they're wildly popular as cargo carriers. I'm not talking things like airshows, I mean real, frontline service, especially freight service. Is anything better on the horizon? The A380 is, face it, just a modernized 747 knockoff... it simply extends the 747's double decker philosophy completely along the fuselage. Boeing engineers are looking at doing much the same thing to the current design. The parts pipeline is c

  • what i mean by that is, to do better than the 747, one has to go faster further and cheaper. what mode of transport can outdo the 747 on all 3 counts at the same time?

    the 747 is outdone by the concorde in terms of faster, but not further or cheaper. and so the concorde failed because in the end it was a niche tool for the rich: it offered marginally better speed for exorbitant increases in costs. we can't put a nuclear engine safely in an airplane, and so there is no cheaper for the immediate future

    if we exclude extraterrestrial transport, transport on earth is pretty much at its zenith in our lifetimes. until some dramatic technological breakthroughs gives us a mode of transport that is, all at the same time, faster, further, and cheaper than the 747. in fact, on one count, further, the 747 can't really be topped. on that measure, the 747 pretty much is a dream: i, as a middle class westerner, can go anywhere on the earth i want in 24 hours. think about the history of mankind: that's a really incredible power. starting with us sitting on the back of horses, up through wheels, carriages, sails, the steam engine, rails, the ICE, jet engines... what else can there be?

    so until someone invents a technology that can move us as far as the 747, perhaps 10x faster (to make an appreciable difference since 24 hours is a very comfortable amount of time to go to the other end of the globe), and perhaps 2x cheaper, we are in a golden age of transport that will not be surpassed for a very long time. we already have technologies like ramjets that are only used in exotic military applications, so really the bottleneck is cheaper fuel

    until such future time, the 747 is the peak of human transportation technology

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by Locke2005 (849178)
      The 747 may very well be the peak of airplane technology, but for different reasons then you give. Quite simply, the development costs of bringing an entirely new aircraft to market have reached the point where it is no longer economically rewarding to do so. It is much cheaper to continue making incremental improvements to an existing design like the 747 than it is to design an entirely new aircraft from scratch. The technology exists to make a plane with more capacity and greater fuel economy than a 747,
      • by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice&gmail,com> on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:34PM (#26800649)
        Uhm, what? Lets have a look at the 'entirely new' aircraft to have been launched in the past 20 years:

        1. Airbus A330. Fantastic success, sold over 1,000 airframes and continues to sell well.

        2. Boeing 777. Fantastic success, sold over 1,000 airframes and continues to sell well.

        3. Airbus A380. Debatable, yet to be seen.

        4. Boeing 787. Fantastic success, yet to fly, sold over 900 airframes to date.

        5. Airbus A350XWB. Fantastic success, still 4 years to EIS, sold over 450 airframes to date.

        Clean sheet designs are still massively profitable.
  • ... or maybe not.

    I don't remember the last time I flew on anything 747 or 747-sized. My flights have all been on CRJ's [wikipedia.org] or EmbraerJets [wikipedia.org]. I really can't say if life is better with more than one aisle, or what it is like to be able to stand up and not hit my head in on the airplane ceiling.

    Although when flying alone it can be nice to be able to have a seat that is both a window and an aisle seat.
  • Luxury (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:29PM (#26800549)

    I remember flying from Washington D.C. to Washington state on a DC-10, around about 1990. The flight I was on had a grand total of 10 passengers in coach - the main purpose of the flight, according to a stewardess, was because they needed more planes on the west coast. I got an entire center row to myself - that's something like 6 or 7 seats. Since the arm rests flip up, I was able to stretch out and even lay down for most of the flight. They even had extra meals - I was a young guy back then, and quantity mattered more than quality.

    I think about that trip every now and then - usually when I'm crammed in coach nowadays with my knees pushing against the seat in front of me...

  • Apparently the submitter has never flown in a fully-loaded 747 for twelve hours.

  • by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:36PM (#26800685) Homepage
    I believe it was my friend, Galen Stephenson, who invented the term "cattle class" in the early 1990's. We had both recently graduated (late 1980's) and entered the workforce and started traveling for our respective jobs. Except Galen is 6'8" and big and invented the term to get his employer to spring for business class for him.

    The earliest use on UseNet was 1990 [google.com], and the earliest mention in the New York Times is 1999 [nytimes.com]. So I'm fairly certain Galen was the first inventor.

  • by Samschnooks (1415697) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:43PM (#26800813)

    Nevertheless, since that first flight, the 747 has fulfilled the faith of its designers and has led to reductions in air fares, opening up air travel to many in a way that was previously unimaginable

    The 747 was developed for the airline business before the Airline Deregulation Act [wikipedia.org] signed into law by Jimmy Carter. Before that, it was profitable for the airlines to operate under the "hub and spoke" business model: condense a bunch of folks going to a certain destination at a hub and then send them all at once to said destination. Which worked at the time because because all the airlines had to follow Federal rules; which, by the way, the airlines really miss those Government regulations.

    Now, the way to be profitabile in the air ravel business is smaller fuel efficient aircraft with schedules more like trucks: Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale to Tampa to New Orleans to Atlanta again - for example. Not get a bunch of people to go to Fort Lauderdale from Atlanta and go back. My point? Big jets for anything other than long haul (Ocean crossings) are not worth it. The 380 is not going to have the market Airbus thought it would have.

    New York to San Francisco? Please. The airline that runs the most flights between those cities is going to get the lucrative business travellers; not the airline that has a slightly cheaper fare that runs once a day, at most. Those once a day airlines are going to get the tourist business and you know what those flights are going to be like for a 380: 2 hours to board because the tourists have to figure out where aisle '34' is and where seat 'H' is. And then they have to figure out where they're going to put their trunk that should be checked. Then they'll argue with the stewardess about how this is a carry on, while their little brat is screaming because they couldn't get their French Fries from McDonald's. Then the .....

    In the meantime, rich fat cat Wall street Banker Federal Welfare receiver has his own jet and just sails over to San Francisco. Then the SOB has the nerve to comment on how your suit is wrinkled and how your tired and absent minded. ....

  • Lokheed and Boeing (Score:5, Informative)

    by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:45PM (#26800865) Journal
    Boeing 747's original design was to compete for the defense contract for the Strategic Air Command heavy cargo aircraft. Lockheed won the competition and got to build C5-J. Boeing lost the military contract but converted the design to civilian use and won the bigger market. What tipped the scale for Lockheed was that C5J had a low cargo floor and flip up nose that allowed it to deliver 60 ton tanks with its internal ramps. Boeing's low wing, high floor design needed infrastructure support to unload such cargo.

    With hindsight getting the civilian market was the bigger prize.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by thedonger (1317951)
      [from the summary]

      convincing people that the 747 would fly was a tough call

      Have you ever seen a C5 take off? It looks incomprehensibly slow as it lifts off the ground. I still watch large commercial and military jets with a sense of awe at what we achieved. Granted, it costs us a few hundred people every decade or two as one crashes...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by smellsofbikes (890263)

      To add to your comments about the C5 -- it can actually partially retract the landing gear on the ground squat down to truckload height, as well as drop a ramp for drive-on loading.
      details here [theaviationzone.com].
      Though they no longer have this capability, when they were first built they could caster the mainwheels up to 18 degrees for crosswind capability: the aircraft could take off at an 18 degree angle to the runway. That must've looked incredible. Castering mains was a big fad in the 1940's and many commercial aircraft

  • TFA, kinda off base (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @03:17PM (#26801523)

    Just like your typical USA-Today article, long on human interest, real short on accuracy.

    (1) The Boeing 377 StratoCruiser was roomier, with sleeping berths and a bar on the lower level.

    (2) The 747 was not suggested by any airline president, but by the development of large high-bypass turbofan engines.

    (3) The 747 was not a success for many, many years. The early models had many delays and glitches and the airlines lost tons of money on each one for many years.

    (4) Putting your wife by the runway on a first-time takeoff might not be a show of affection.

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