The Jumbo Jet era was four decades old on 22 January 2009, as 40 years ago on that day Pan Am put its first Boeing 747-100 into service between New York and London.
The anniversary, which is being celebrated by a special package of narrative, images, graphics and interviews, marks not only the arrival of the 747 but also a significant milestone in history. For Boeing's Jumbo ushered in the era of truly large airliners - it was the world's first widebody - and a new generation of powerplants: the "big-fan" jet engines. Over the next 20 years, Boeing's development of 747's payload/range capabilities would also go on to open up new non-stop routes across the world.
That inaugural Pan Am flight, which was actually due to be operated on 21 January 1970, was postponed due to technical problems when the original aircraft allocated to flight PA2, "Clipper Young America" (N735PA), suffered engine problems and had to return to the gate. "Clipper Victor" (N736PA) stepped in and finally left Kennedy at 01:52 on 22 January, arriving at Heathrow at 14:02.
In an interview six months after the introduction, Pan Am's vice-president service Harold Graham told Flight International that the two points that worried his 747 passengers most were how easily check-in could be accomplished and whether bags would arrive at the destination terminal carousel within a reasonable amount of time. In practice, few problems were experienced.
Forty years on, Boeing has just delivered the last of the original 747s, and is now preparing to begin test-flying the first of the next-generation models, the 747-8 Freighter.