The final resting place for many 747’s (Photo: Airliners.net)
The ‘747’, ‘Jumbo Jet’ or ‘Queen Of The Skies’ may soon be a rare sight. Why? Airlines simply don’t want to buy them.
The introduction of the 747 into commercial service with Pan Am in early 1970 saw massive support throughout the whole aviation industry. For nearly 40 years it held strong as the biggest and most amazing airliner in the world. Every major airline in existence had huge orders for the aircraft. Singapore Airlines once had over 50 747’s in their fleet, and had the largest fleet of 747’s in the world. In April 2012, they retired their last 747. Many airlines are beginning to do the same, and every day the chances of seeing a 747 take-off or land get smaller.
Years ago demand began to slip for the all-time favourite 747-400, and with that in mind Boeing ceased production announced plans for a next generation 747. A few years later, in 2012, the Boing 747-8i entered service with Lufthansa. Boeing hoped for this aircraft to take up many, many orders both in the passenger and freight variants. However, it was soon realised that there were just a handful of orders, only 2 of which were for passenger service. Orders were slim. Today, despite a new order from Korean Air, Boeing expects to manufacture just 18 747-8i’s over a year. It seems that airlines simply do not have an interest in the classic jumbo. Many freight companies have purchased 747-8i’s and are putting them into storage straight after delivery. With new advances in technology across the twin-engine market, airlines do not want to burden of extra costs on larger 4 engine aircraft. Smaller, 2 engine aircraft are simply more economical. Airlines prefer to use cheaper, smaller aircraft on their routes, but offer maybe 2 or 3 flights a day, as opposed to 1 high capacity flight. But why does the A380 still hold strong? It is a much larger aircraft than the 747. All airlines that wanted super-jumbo aircraft either for range, space or passenger numbers purchased A380’s well before the 747-8i announcement. And even if they had had the option, the 747 is smaller, yet will have similar operating costs to the A380.
With all this in mind, a less obvious question comes to mind. Air Force One? The Air Force One couple are heavily modified Boeing 747-200’s, and will be 30 years old in 2017 when they are due for replacement. But what happens if Boeing ceases 747 production? Boeing has apparently already been in talks with the US Air Force regarding the issue. The USAF wants a large 4 engine aircraft capable of carrying A LOT of equipment for LONG flights. Two options: Boeing 747-8i and the Airbus A380. But remember: we are talking about America…the United States Of! The Americans won’t dare have a European airplane flying around their President! Even their commercial airlines steer clear of Airbus aircraft. The AF1 project is attracting several bidders from companies willing to purchase 747’s now, and modify them for the Air Force’s use later on.
So, the end of the era is near. With a significant decline in numbers, the aircraft that was thought of as the most amazing piece of machinery in the world will soon become almost non-existent. Newer aircraft and updated technology continue to develop and pave the way for the future of air travel! Perhaps we are moving well away from the days where air travel was a romantic and fanciful affair. Maybe an extremely sad truth does exist that flying will soon become just another transport system like catching a bus or a train. And as we slowly bid farewell to the jumbo, these question remain uncertain. However, the Boeing 747 always was and will continue to be the world’s favourite airliner.
The Lufthansa Boeing 747-8i (Photo: Lufthansa)