No wonder they call it the Queen of the Skies - it brought air travel to the mass market, has two decks and has the highest cruising speed of any current airliner (mach 0.855/650mph).

The Boeing 747 has definitely cemented its place in aviation history - and these incredible pictures show the beginning of its story as it celebrates the 50th anniversary of its launch this weekend.

Enterprising: The Boeing Jumbo Jet was enlisted to help get Nasa's space shuttle Enterprise into orbit. Photo / Getty Images
Enterprising: The Boeing Jumbo Jet was enlisted to help get Nasa's space shuttle Enterprise into orbit. Photo / Getty Images

They show the very first model to roll off the production line, the first commercial flight and, comically, how it was too big for some hangars.

The origins of the aircraft date to the early 1960s when Boeing's then chief Bill Allen was approached by Juan Trippe, head of now-defunct Pan Am Airlines, to build a bigger plane to address the growing problem of airport crowding.

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The 747 was known for its glamour. With a lounge, cocktail service and sometimes even a piano. Photo / Boeing
The 747 was known for its glamour. With a lounge, cocktail service and sometimes even a piano. Photo / Boeing

Boeing originally considered a fully double-decked aircraft, but the companies were concerned that it would be difficult to evacuate it in case of an emergency, opting instead for a twin-aisle 'wide body' design with an upper forward deck. The massive jet required the construction of the enormous 747 assembly plant in Everett, Washington, the world's largest building by volume.

Since it rolled off the production line on September 30, 1968, more than 1,500 747s have been delivered, and 500 are still in service. Now 50 years on, the 747 is being phased out of service in favour of the Boeing 777, which is believed to be more cost effective for airlines.

Four engines: The Boeing 747 makes its first takeoff. Photo / Getty Images
Four engines: The Boeing 747 makes its first takeoff. Photo / Getty Images

Watch our video to hear Captain Ross Aimer on what made the 747 so special