How Did the 747 Get Its Iconic Hump? You Can Thank Pan Am for That
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
The 747, affectionately referred to as “the queen of the skies,” is one of the most recognizable planes in history thanks to its second deck. Unfortunately, the 747 is nearing the end of its life span, with airlines around the world retiring older 747-400 models and only a few opting to purchase the next generation 747-8.
We celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 747 earlier this year, and while the plane has been around for a long time, you still might be surprised to learn the story behind how the plane got it signature hump.
How The 747 Got Its Hump
When the 747 entered service in 1970, it was a revolutionary plane. However, there were plenty of airline executives who were skeptical about the commercial viability of such a large jet. The launch customer of the 747 was scheduled to be Pan American World Airways, which would go on to operate almost 75 747s. Pan Am’s founder, Juan Trippe, wasn’t convinced the 747 would work solely as a passenger plane, so he insisted to Boeing that the plane be readily convertible between a passenger and cargo configuration, which required that the nose cone be hinged so it could swing open.
This in turn created a real problem in terms of where to put the cockpit. Having the cockpit on a hinged nose carried a number of safety risks, and it made no sense to bend all the wires to and from the cockpit each time the nose was opened and closed. Boeing decided to raise the cockpit above the nose cone, and — in order to maximize the planes aerodynamic efficiency — the hump was born. Later versions of the 747 would extend the hump further back on the plane, creating more room for premium cabin seats in the upper deck.
Of course Juan Trippe was wrong, and the 747 ended up being a resounding success, with over 1,500 produced in the last 50 years. Many airlines choose to operate both passenger and cargo versions of the plane, but you might even find a hybrid 747 still flying today. KLM operates a number of 747 Combis, though instead of unhinging the nose cone, they’ve converted the rear of the plane into an additional cargo hold. This plane seats a maximum of 268 passengers, as opposed to 408 on KLM’s passenger-only version.
If the Queen of the Skies is still on your bucket list, you can still catch a ride on this aviation legend using points or miles. You might want to book that trip sooner rather than later, however, as airlines retire their fleet of 747s.
For the latest travel news, deals and points and miles tips please subscribe to The Points Guy daily email newsletter.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Earn 2x total points on up to $1,000 in grocery store purchases per month from November 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021. Includes eligible pick-up and delivery services.