More than half a century has passed since the original jumbo jet ushered in an era of glamorous new jets, providing affordable air travel for millions of passengers, but the last Boeing 747 made its debut on Tuesday. was to be handed over to favorite plane.
In a ceremony that will be broadcast live online at 4 p.m. ET, the aircraft will be handed over to its new owner, U.S. air cargo operator Atlas Air, in a ceremony at Boeing’s plant in Everett, Washington.
The last 747 will not carry paying passengers, but its delivery is another milestone in the unique double-decker ‘Queen of the Skies’ that revolutionized intercontinental travel and was featured in the James Bond film. and even provided piggybacks for space shuttles. .
With the 747’s last airliner entering service more than five years ago, the end of the 747’s permanent career is even closer, prompting airlines to scramble to switch preferences to smaller, more economical aircraft. .
Tuesday’s delivery is a long-awaited moment for the global aviation industry. Ever since Boeing announced it would cease production of his former flagship in July 2020, the plane enthusiast has been following every stage of the final build of his 747.
Registered as N863GT, the aircraft was first shown to the public in December when it rolled out of a Boeing assembly line covered in anti-corrosion green paint. In early January, photos of the aircraft already in Atlas Air paint appeared online.
A decal right next to the nose pays tribute to Joe Sutter, chief engineer of the Boeing 747 program who passed away in 2016 and is considered by many to be the “father” of the famous aircraft.
Interestingly, for jets that predated the Apollo moon landings (it took to the skies a few months earlier in February 1969), the Boeing 747 production line was the most direct recent competitor. It outlasted one of the Airbus A380s. 2003 and 2021.
It was the advent of European double-decker aircraft in the early 2000s that prompted Boeing to introduce the final version of the 747 in 2005.
The B747-8I (or B747-8 Intercontinental), called this last variant of the venerable jumbo jet, proved to be the swan song of a large four-engine airliner.
Now, the A380 is making a comeback, with airlines scrambling to get stranded aircraft back into service as air traffic recovers after COVID-19. Jet with engine.
As of December 2022, only 44 747 airliners will be in service, according to aviation analytics firm Cirium. That total is down from more than 130 jetliners in service at the end of 2019. It was just before the pandemic undermined demand for air travel. Especially on international flights, where 747s and other widebody jets were used mostly. Most of the passenger versions of these jets were grounded in the early months of the pandemic and never returned to service.
Lufthansa continues to be the largest operator of passenger versions of the B747-8, with a current fleet of 19 aircraft, which could keep passengers on jumbo flights for decades to come.
The Best of Boeing 747 Jumbo Jets: In Pictures
The 747 has proven more popular among freight forwarders. According to Cirium, there are still 314,747 freighters in service today, many of which were jetliners before being converted to freighters.
Features such as its distinctive nose-loading ability and elevated cockpit position made it a cargo favourite, as the entire length of the lower fuselage was available for carrying large amounts of cargo.
Tuesday’s delivery also raises questions about what will happen to Boeing’s sprawling Everett factory, where 747s have been produced since 1967.
The facility was built exclusively for the Boeing 747 and is the world’s largest building by volume, according to the company. Since then, it has served as the primary production site for Boeing’s wide-body airliners, the 767, 777, and 787 (although the best-selling narrow-body 737 is built in another Seattle-area location, Renton). It has been).
Developments in recent years have shifted the company’s industrial center of gravity elsewhere.
In addition to losing the B747, Everett recently lost the 787 production line after Boeing decided to consolidate production at its plant in Charleston, South Carolina.
In anticipation of a newer version, the B777X, Boeing continues to build the B767, a relatively older model with limited commercial prospects at Everett, as well as the B777, which is currently experiencing low production rates. However, the latter has suffered some delays and is currently going through a certification and development process that has proven to be much longer and more complicated than expected.
Boeing hasn’t said much about what it plans to do with the facility that housed the final assembly line of the Boeing 747, but it’s expected that the final Jumbo will be delivered. a report came out Must be able to work on stored B787 Dreamliners.
Additionally, Boeing may also produce additional B737s at Everett, according to these same sources. Production of this best-selling model now takes place at another Renton facility further south in the Greater Seattle area.
Despite the Jan. 31 fanfare, there are still two Boeing 747s pending delivery.
These are the two new U.S. presidential planes, technically called VC-25s, but commonly known as “Air Force One” (the call sign used only when the U.S. president is on board). ).
These two aircraft were for the Russian airline Transaero, which went bankrupt in 2015, but are already in production. His Two Future Air His Force His One is currently undergoing a major conversion program in preparation for the presidency.
This photo from December 2022 shows the last Boeing 747 after leaving the factory (Courtesy of Boeing).