Boeing may phase out iconic 747
For decades, the Boeing 747 was the Queen of the Skies. But the glamorous double-decker jumbo jet that revolutionized air travel and shrunk the globe could be nearing the end of the line.
Boeing has cut its production target twice in six months. Just 18 will be produced in each of the next two years. Counting cancellations, it hasn't sold a single 747 this year. Some brand-new 747s go into storage as soon as they leave the plant.
Boeing says it's committed to the 747 and sees a market for it in regions like Asia. But most airlines simply don't want big, four-engine planes anymore. They prefer newer two-engine jets that fly the same distance while burning less fuel.
“We had four engines when jet engine technology wasn't advanced,” Delta Air Lines Inc. CEO Richard Anderson said at a recent conference. “Now jet engines are amazing, amazing machines and you only need two of them.”
Delta inherited 16 747s when it bought Northwest Airlines in 2008. Northwest last ordered a 747 in 2001, according to Flightglobal's Ascend Online Fleets.
Seats to fill
Part of the problem is all those seats. A 747 can seat from 380 to 560 people, depending on how an airline sets it up. A full one is a moneymaker. But an airline that can't fill all the seats has to spread the cost of 63,000 gallons of jet fuel — about $200,000 — among fewer passengers.
They're too big for most markets. There aren't enough passengers who want to fly each day between Atlanta and Paris, for example, to justify several jumbo jet flights. Travelers want more than one flight to choose from. So airlines fly smaller planes several times a day instead.
“No one wants the extra capacity” that comes with jumbo jets like the 747 and the Airbus A380, said Teal Group aviation consultant Richard Aboulafia.
The 747 once stood alone, with more seats and a range, at 6,000 miles, longer than any other jet.
The plane was massive: six stories tall and longer than the distance the Wright Brothers traveled on their first flight.
On the early planes, the distinctive bulbous upper deck was a lounge, so it had just six windows. The plane epitomized the modern age of international jet travel.
“Everyone on the flight was dressed up,” recalls passenger Thomas Lee, who was 17 when he took the inaugural passenger flight on Pan Am from New York to London in 1970. “After all, it was still back in the day when the romance of flight was alive and thriving.”
International travel was mostly limited to those who could afford the pricy flights. The 747 changed that. The first 747s could seat twice as many passengers as the preferred international jet of the time, the Boeing 707. Long flights became more economical for the airlines. Ticket prices fell, and soon, a summer vacation in Europe was no longer just for the wealthy.
The plane's profile was enhanced by its role as Air Force One and by flying the space shuttle — piggyback — across the country. The 747 became the world's most recognizable aircraft.
Boeing began building 747s in the late 1960s. Production peaked at 122 in 1990. Overall, Boeing sold a total of 1,418 747s before redesigning the plane in 2011. The 747's success helped put Boeing ahead of competitors Lockheed, which left the passenger jet business in 1983, and McDonnell Douglas, which Boeing acquired in 1997.
But technology eventually caught up with the 747. In the '90s, twin-engine planes like the Airbus A330 and the Boeing 777 began to dominate long-haul routes.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Halliburton to close Indiana County office
- Obama overtime proposal slammed
- Consol again reworks offering for coal spinoff
- Data transfer in mergers tall task for chief information officer for Peoples Gas
- W.Pa. economy gains momentum as employers increase hiring
- U.S. Steel, Alcoa lead June decline
- Stocks inch up but S&P ends quarter at loss
- Snappers treat revitalizes Lawrenceville’s Edward Marc Brands chocolatier
- United Airlines announces investment in biofuel supplier Fulcrum BioEnergy
- Drillers to submit electronic records on fracking chemicals to Pa. DEP
- Greek default drama plays out