Boeing 747 will no longer be produced after all pending orders for the jumbo jet are expected to be met later this year. The Queen of the Sky has had a long and glorious production cycle for more than half a century, but it is coming to an end as the planemaker delivers the last unit in just a few months.
The end of an ERA
Boeing has made several versions of the jumbo during its life cycle. Their latest and most significant is the 747-8 variant, first launched in 2005, about seven years before it entered commercial service. The 747-8 came in two forms, a freighter and a freighter known as the “Intercontinental” and the more popular 747-8I.
Boeing initially predicted demand for about 300 airframes for this type, but the aircraft struggled to get orders. According to the company, 48 passenger aircraft have been delivered, with 102 examples of 747-8F delivered to customers worldwide. Although the 8I passenger variant has been out of production for some time now, there is a demand to keep the freight production line running.
A Boeing spokesman told Simple Flying that only five 747s remained to be delivered and that they were all cargo. In addition, the final delivery is scheduled for October at Atlas Air. Four of the remaining five aircraft will join the Atlas Air fleet, and one will go to fellow cargo giant U. P. S.
With the turn of the century, a new trend emerged in the global aviation industry. As technology advances and twin-engine aircraft become more capable, airlines move away from gas-gazelle quad-jets. The COVID-19 epidemic could worsen the situation by suppressing passenger numbers for months, but that’s not the only reason I never really stopped (for irony) orders for the 747-8.
The aircraft began production of the A380 a few years after the announcement of the new 747. The European jumbo came as a big shock to Boeing as several airlines, such as British Airways and Emirates, chose the A380 instead of the 747.
Is the jumbo jet dead?
At the height of the epidemic, several airlines had to make tough decisions about the future of their jumbo jets. The relatively new Airbus A380s were shipped to long-term storage, but the older 747s weren’t lucky enough in most cases. This has further reduced the presence of the ancient 747 forms in the sky.
Since the travel demand has not yet recovered to pre-epidemic levels, the need for large jumbo jets does not exist. Moreover, industry experts question whether that need will ever return as better alternatives gradually emerge. Increased passenger capacity and extended range are two features that make jumbo jets desirable. However, now that the number of passengers is low (or is still being recovered), airlines are forced to deploy these planes on long-haul routes at low acquisition rates.
Some narrowbody aircraft like the Airbus’ A321XLR can change all that. A single-island airliner with sufficient range to serve transatlantic routes without stopover can be a game-changer for airlines, especially on long-distance, medium-demand routes.