As the hangar of Boeing’s Everett assembly plant opens its massive gates, she comes into view: the last 747-8 freighter plane.

On a frosty Tuesday, thousands of former and current Boeing employees along with actor and pilot John Travolta, airline executives, reporters and many others gathered in a ceremony to celebrate the last rollout of the 747-8, known as “The Queen of the Skies.”

The plane represents many accomplishments of the aviation industry, including becoming the first plane to fit more than 400 people and the first twin-aisle jetliner. That plane is the last of its kind, Boeing’s final 747.

Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said at the rollout ceremony Tuesday the 747 is a product and cultural legacy at Boeing. The history of the plane fuels innovation in other models as well, he said, adding that the investment in innovation will lead to “product legacy stories forever.”

Watch: Assembly of the final 747-8 Freighter

“Our commitment as a leadership team at Boeing is to maintain this innovation culture forever,” Calhoun said.

Among the people attending the celebration were former employees who worked on designing, building and delivering the plane — nicknamed “The Incredibles.”


One “Incredible,” Jim Aboytes, recalled in an interview Tuesday when he saw the first flight test of the first 747 taking off in 1969. Aboytes said at first he, at age 22, thought the 747 was too big to fly, so he crossed his fingers hoping it would take off. When it did, he felt relieved. 

Watch: Construction and first flight of the 747 in the 1960s

Aboytes worked as an electrician on about 40 747s. “I’ve worked on a lot of different airplanes, and I couldn’t believe the size of this [plane],” Aboytes said.

The last 747-8 freighter that was delivered to cargo carrier Atlas Air on Tuesday is the 1,574th Queen of the Skies. 

After 54 years of production, the plane will fly out from Paine Field on Wednesday. 

During the ceremony, Travolta narrated a recording, but then he appeared on the stage. Taping his voice wasn’t enough for the event, he said, because of how much he is fond of the “Queen of the Skies.” Travolta is licensed to fly 707, 737 and 747 planes. He said the training to fly a 747 was difficult, but it made his other trainings easier.


“Even when you understand the science behind flight, there’s nothing like seeing a 747 take flight to remind you that there’s also magic here,” Travolta said. 

The Everett plant was built just for the 747s at first. The building was not even complete by the time people were assembling the first plane in the 1960s, and it is now the largest by volume in the world.

The 747 played an important part in Boeing establishing its dominance in the aviation industry. The upper deck was one of the aspects of the plane that made the 747 recognizable among other planes. A modified version of the plane is still the White House’s Air Force One. The Queen of the Skies also became NASA’s Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.

The 747 was also important for Washington state’s economic development, said Boeing historian Michael Lombardi in an interview Tuesday. It brought jobs to communities in towns like Everett and helped put the area on the map as an aviation hub.

“The entire community in our Puget Sound area has benefited from this airplane and the revenue that it’s brought into Boeing,” Lombardi said.

Lombardi said that the 747 represents a pioneering and innovative spirit that is part of the Puget Sound area, which led to companies such as Amazon and Microsoft being founded here.


“You got Amazon and Microsoft,” Lombardi said. “Well, the reason that happens is Boeing.”

German airline Lufthansa was one of the buyers of the 747’s passenger variant and currently operates 19 747-8s. Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said he personally loves the model and said it is a “symbol of the world, which the 747 has made substantially smaller.” 

Scott Tomkins, one of the “Incredibles,” said the plane’s distinctive shape became synonymous with Boeing. Seeing the last plane, a cargo jet with six windows on each side of the upper deck, Tomkins said he feels sad about the end of the plane’s production but that he’s proud of the impact the plane has had on the commercial aviation industry.

The “Queen of the Skies” could carry 420 passengers, three times as many as the prior 707 model. As the plane developed, the final 747-8 passenger version could carry 470 people on long-haul routes. The 747’s long range allowed first-ever flights between major cities, and its jumbo size allowed for cheaper fares for passengers.

Even after Boeing delivered the last 747-8 passenger model to Korean Air five years ago, demand for the cargo model remained. Until it dried up.


The Everett plant currently assembles the 767 and 777. It will soon begin to set up a 737 MAX assembly line because of “the availability of highly skilled workers and factory space,” CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes Stan Deal said Monday.

Another “Incredible,” Kurt Eckley, worked on several 747s across the years, from when he joined in 1965 until his retirement in 2000. As he saw the rollout of the plane, Eckley said, “All good things come to an end, and so it was a long run for that airplane, so it worked out well.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story misstated the year Jim Aboytes first saw a test flight of the 747. It also incorrectly stated the location from which the final 747 will depart Wednesday.