The joint U.S. and German SOFIA project to develop and operate a 2.5-meter infrared airborne telescope in a Boeing 747-SP is now in its final stages of development. Flying in the stratosphere, SOFIA allows observations through the infrared and submillimeter region, with an average transmission of ≳ 80%. SOFIA is characterized by a wide instrument complement ranging from broadband imagers, through moderate resolution spectrographs capable of resolving broad features due to dust and large molecules, to high resolution spectrometers suitable for kinematic studies of molecular and atomic gas lines at km/s resolution. This broad range in instruments will enable SOFIA to make unique contributions to a broad array of science topics. First science flights will begin in 2009 and the observatory is expected to operate for over 20 years. The sensitivity, characteristics, science instrument complement, and examples of first light science are discussed.