Boeing To End Production Of The B747 “Queen Of The Skies” In Two Years Time – The End Of An Era

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In recent financial filings The Boeing Company revealed that demand for the B747 has decreased so much that the company will now discontinue the production of the iconic airliner within two years.

First flown commercially in 1970, the 747 held the passenger capacity record for 37 years and became a favorite with travellers who would be sad to see the “Queen of the Skies” go.

The only remaining orders for the 747 are now a few cargo jets as well as the most prominent outstanding delivery: Two “Air Force One” aircraft that will transport U.S. Presidents for the decades to come.

The most recent version of the 747, the Boeing 747-800 had just 47 orders for the passenger version and 90 orders for the freighter model. The popularity decreased in times when other models such as the Boeing 777 and the 787 Dreamliner became more popular with the airlines, even pre-Covid19 times.

As Bloomberg reports now, the end of the 747 program is imminent and production will conclude as soon as the last cargo’s and AF1 have been completed. Boeing has not yet confirmed this report.

Boeing Co. hasn’t told employees, but the company is pulling the plug on its hulking 747 jumbo jet, ending a half-century run for the twin-aisle pioneer.

The last 747-8 will roll out of a Seattle-area factory in about two years, a decision that hasn’t been reported but can be teased out from subtle wording changes in financial statements, people familiar with the matter said. …

Boeing correctly anticipated the trend with the twin-engine 777 and the 787 Dreamliner. With prodding from Joe Sutter, a famed engineer who’d led the original 747 program, the planemaker decided to develop a relatively inexpensive upgrade of the four-engine plane to steal sales from the A380.

The strategy would have been successful, had the 747-8 not been bedeviled by early mismanagement, blowing its budget and deadlines, said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with Teal Group.

The Chicago-based company has lost about $40 million for each 747 since 2016, when it slowed production to a trickle, making just six jets a year, Jefferies analyst Sheila Kahyaoglu estimated. All told, Boeing has recorded $4.2 billion in accounting charges for the 747-8, which has been kept alive as a freighter. The 747 notched its last order as a passenger jet in 2017 — for Air Force One.

Boeing, meanwhile, had been preparing for years to wind down the 747 program, and its sales team has been sounding out customer interest in a potential freighter version of the 777X. If such a model goes forward, it would bolster flagging sales of the largest twin-engine aircraft in the company’s lineup.

The telling omen that Boeing had written the iconic 747’s final chapter came in financial filings earlier this year. Gone was any indication that the company would continue to “evaluate the viability” of the program, standard phrasing it had previously used.

“At a build rate of half an airplane per month, the 747-8 program has more than two years of production ahead of it in order to fulfill our current customer commitments. We will continue to make the right decisions to keep the production line healthy and meet customer needs,” Boeing said for this story. …

Late last year Bloomberg already reported that the Triumph Group is auctioning off manufacturing equipment from their Hawthorne, California production plant that makes the 747-8 fuselage which was already a signal of things coming to an end.

While the aircraft has been the most glorious one in the skies, the 747 has also seen a good number of high profile accidents and bombings since it’s inception. The most notorious ones are the Tenerife Runway Collision, Japan Airlines flight 123 which crashed into a mountain, the PanAm Lockerbie bombing, TWA Flight 800 and Air India 182.

Conclusion

It’s sad to see the B747 disappear but of course even with production ended we’ll see the Queen of the Skies as the 747 is called for many decades at airports around the world. It’s not uncommon for aircraft to be in service for 20-30 years with proper maintenance. Usually the planes are being handed down from the big airlines to smaller charter companies.

Cathay Pacific operated it’s last 747 flight in September 2016 with a special flight Hong Kong – Tokyo/Haneda – Hong Kong. Singapore Airlines operated their last 747 flight in April 2012. Qantas just sent all of their 747’s into early retirement with an announcement this week but will hold some goodbye flights for the iconic jet.

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