The First Wide Body Airplane: Boeing 747

“A First Time for Everything” is a short series about the fact that things that are now everyday events had to start somewhere. In this fourth edition, the arrival of the widebody.

The Boeing 747

Shortly after the new Schiphol airport opened in April 1967, KLM decided to acquire the Boeing 747 to cater for the stream of travellers it expected to transport to their destinations in the 1970s. This meant immediate change for the young Schiphol. In 1969, a “head” equipped for the 747 was attached to the end of C Pier. The opportunity this change presented was seized upon to find out what the best number of aviobridges would be. It turned out that there was very little difference between using two aviobridges or three, so they settled on two.

KLM First Boeing 747

The arrival of the 747

The 747 was an exceptional aircraft for its day and its 353-passenger capacity, in the KLM constellation, was a huge leap forward compared with the largest aircraft KLM had in operation at that time. This had all sorts of consequences for handling, crew, maintenance and catering. Schiphol too had to adjust and, all in all, several years of preparations preceded the arrival of the 747.


KLM took delivery of PH-BUA, the “Mississippi”, on 31 January 1971, with all the appropriate ceremony. Under the excited gaze of press, passengers, KLM directors and many others, the aircraft landed at a foggy Schiphol at 10:45 a.m. after a non-stop, 10-hour flight from Seattle.

Disposable tableware made its entrance

The processes in the cabin underwent considerable changes in the 747. The catering came on new trays and tableware, and single-use or disposable tableware made its entrance in economy class. Trays were developed so that the tableware could fit together like Lego bricks. The cabin crew numbered thirteen and strict new working methods ensured the entire aircraft could be covered by a crew of this size. The purser took on more personnel-related tasks and came to be less directly involved with passengers. Henceforth, the role of purser became more that of cabin crew manager.

KLM First Boeing 747

Pretend to be passengers

A lot of practicing went on in the days leading up to the first commercial flight to New York on 14 February 1971. Crew and plane were put through their paces, both on the ground and in the air, with the aircraft carrying a large number of KLM staff who had volunteered to be pretend passengers. Nothing was left to chance.

Posted by:   Frido Ogier  | 
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It is the real Queen of the Skies, nice KLM’s story about its experience. Thanks for sharing. I also wrote something about the 747 beginnings, I would like to share with you.

Henry Mulder

The first KLM 747 can be seen at Ielystad Airport. La Grande Dame is there part of the aviation museum Aviodrome.

Roger Sou[part

No, the first KLM 747, the PH-BUA, was scrapped many years ago. The one in Lelystad is a later version, with a SUD, unlike the first 7 KLM 747ns. Six of those were later modified with a SUD, but that is a different story.

Henry Mulder

Thank you, Roger. Did not knew this.

Didier Pinçon

Dear Frido, My name is Didier, I’m French and I’m a KLM fan since a very long time, and I think…I’m sure, you are the person I’m looking for, since… years and years.

Plerase contact me on this E-mail.

Have a nice day Best regards Didier

Frido Ogier

Hi Didier, thanks for your message. What kind of question do you have?

Kind regards, Frido


bonjour etes vous collectionneur sur klm
suis francais

Didier Pinçon

Hello Frido, it is concerning the early KLM 747-206B fleet and the hangar for maintenance at Schiphol…

Frido Ogier

I do hope I can help you. What’s your question?

The hangar at Schiphol was opened in january 31th 1971 and is still in use. Its name is ‘Jan Dellaert’ and named after the first stationmanager of Schiphol. This hangar is specially built for wide body maintenance.

Miquel Polman

The KLM had some 747 highlights…first 747-200 in 1971, first 747-200M combi with GE CF6-50 engines in 1975, first airline to convert the -200 into SUD,stretched upper deck and the first airline in europe to receive the 747-400 in 1989…Stunning!!

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