Technology changes overtake the iconic Boeing 747

Boeing 747” by allenthepostman is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

United will make a big deal of its final flight of a 747 on November 7 with retro uniforms for flight attendants, a stylized ‘70s menu, and entertainment fitting the era.  Forbes reports on  9/19/17:  The Boeing 747 Came In With a Bang And Now It Will Go Out With One.

Delta’s final international flight of a 747 was on September 7. Their final two domestic flights of the 747 were for evacuation of people in advance of Hurricane Irma.

Article describes the launch of the 747:

  • April 1966 – Boeing announced the 747
  • January 1970 – Pan American World Airways flew the first commercial flight
  • June 1970 – Continental’s first flight of the 747
  • July 1970 – United’s first flight
747 by Emslichter is in the public domain (CC0 1.0)

The days of the 747s dominance in the air were doomed as it was surpassed in capability. According to the article:

  • In 1993 the Airbus A340 could fly further.
  • In 1995 the 777 was more fuel efficient.
  • In 2007 the A380 could carry more passengers.
  • In 2011 the 787 was even more fuel efficient.
  • In 2015 the A350 was also more fuel efficient.

Other planes have more range, carry more passengers, while using less fuel. Yeah, the era of the 747 is over.

747” by golo is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Production line possibly closing

I previously mentioned here the backlog of orders for 747s is shrinking.  Boeing said in the summer of 2016 it was thinking about closing down the production line.

Without more orders, there will only be a backlog of 3 planes going into the fiscal year starting September 2018. At a capacity of 12 per year, the production line likely won’t be open much longer.

Boeing has produced over 1,500 of the iconic planes.

Boeing 747-8F into postion at KBFI” by longbacknguyen is licensed under CC BY 2.0

My not-so-wild guess is a huge number of those 1,500 747s will be around for decades as cargo carriers and will be carrying passengers in developing counties for another decade or two.

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