Boeing is reportedly set to end the production of the 747 in two years. By then, the manufacturer will have delivered sixteen jumbo freighters… and two Air Force One.
In jeopardy since 2016, the end of the Boeing 747 program was not confirmed by the manufacturer. “At a build rate of half an airplane per month, the 747-8 program has more than two years of production ahead of it in order to fulfill our current customer commitments,” Boeing said in a comment to Bloomberg that broke the news. “We will continue to make the right decisions to keep the production line healthy and meet customer needs.”
The latest version of the jumbo, the Boeing 747-8, was launched on November 14, 2005, with 18 firm orders for freighters (10 from Cargolux, 8 from Nippon Cargo) and 16 options. The passenger version had to wait another year before it caught the interest of Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) , which placed a firm order for 20 aircraft and 20 more as options. With 153 orders in total, the success of the last iteration was mixed. Airlines preferred more efficient alternatives to the four-engine Queen of the Skies, such as the Boeing 777 or the Airbus A350.
Similarly to the other giant of the skies, the Airbus A380, the crisis in air transport caused by the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the retirement of many jumbo fleets, including Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, and more recently Qantas’.
However, after celebrating fifty years of service in 2019, the Boeing 747 should have a beautiful swan song, with the delivery of the new Air Force One fleet set for 2024. The two VIP jumbos, initially delivered to the bankrupt Russian airline Transaero, are currently under conversion.