The Final Boeing 747 Rolls Out of the Assembly Line. Beginning the end of an era for the beloved aircraft that has served the aviation industry for more than half a century. The first jumbo jet helped offer cheap air travel to millions of people.
The aircraft will be transferred from Boeing’s Everett, Washington factory to its new owner, US air freight operator Atlas Air, in a ceremony that will be streamed live online at 4 p.m. Eastern Time.
The final 747 delivered won’t be transporting paying passengers. However, it still marks a significant moment for the iconic double-decker “Queen of the Skies,” which changed the face of global travel, had cameos in James Bond movies, and even rode shotgun with the Space Shuttle.
More than five years have passed since the last passenger 747 entered service, hastening the end of the 747’s long career as carriers shift their preferences to smaller, more cost-effective aircraft.
The aviation industry across the world has been eagerly awaiting Tuesday’s delivery. Since Boeing announced in July 2020 that it was ending manufacturing of its former flagship, aviation fans have eagerly tracked the progress of the final 747’s construction.
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The N863GT-registered plane first showed its face to the world in December when it rolled off the Boeing production line with a coat of anti-corrosion green paint. Images of the plane, painted in the distinctive Atlas Air scheme, began circulating online in early January.
An essential tribute to Joe Sutter, chief engineer of the Boeing 747 program who died in 2016 and is revered by many as the “father” of this legendary plane, is prominently shown on a decal just below the nose.
This is our swan song.
Despite being a jet that debuted before the Apollo Moon landings (it flew for the first time in February 1969), the Boeing 747 has outlasted the production line of its closest contemporary competitor, the Airbus A380, which will only be around until 2021.
Boeing announced in 2005 the last iteration of the 747 design, which was showing its age by that point due to the advent of the European double-decker airliner in the early 2000s.
As the final type of the legendary jumbo jet, the B747-8I (or B747-8 Intercontinental) was the farewell song for giant four-engined airliners.
Compared to smaller twin-engined jets’ operational flexibility and fuel economy, the A380 has a hard time competing. Despite the resurgence, airlines are hurrying to put stored airframes back into service in response to the post-Covid air traffic rebound.
According to Cirium, an aviation analytics business, as of December 2022, only 44 passenger versions of the 747 are left in service. This number is down from more than 130 passenger planes in operation at the end of 2019, right before the pandemic severely reduced demand for air travel, notably on international routes, which typically utilized the 747 and other widebody jets. These passenger jets were grounded in the early months of the pandemic and never flew again.
With 19 B747-8s in service and possible pledges to keep the jumbo flying for years, even decades, Lufthansa is the largest operator of the passenger variant of the B747-8.
The most prominent structure in the world
Cargo airlines tend to choose the 747. According to Cirium, there are still 314 747 freighters in operation, many of which were initially used as passenger planes before being converted.
Because of its elevated cockpit and unique nose-loading capability, the entire length of the lower fuselage can be used to transport bulky payloads.
Questions have been raised regarding the future of Boeing’s massive Everett factory, where the 747 has been manufactured since 1967, in light of the delivery on Tuesday.
Built specifically for the 747, this structure boasts the title of “world’s largest building” from Boeing. Since then, it has been Boeing’s primary factory for building the 767, 777, and 787 wide-body jetliners (the best-selling narrow-body 737, however, is produced at Renton, another location in the Seattle area).
Recent developments have been moving the company’s manufacturing focus elsewhere.
Everett no longer has a B747 assembly line, and Boeing recently consolidated 787 productions at its Charleston, South Carolina facility, further reducing the city’s manufacturing capacity.
Boeing’s Everett factory is still producing the B767, an aging model with few commercial prospects, and the B777, a newer variant with low production rates, as manufacturers wait for orders for the B777X. However, the latter has been plagued by setbacks and is currently undergoing a certification and development process that is taking considerably longer and is more complicated than initially anticipated.
US presidents flew planes.
Reports have surfaced in the lead-up to the final jumbo delivery that the facilities that housed the Boeing 747 last assembly line may be utilized to work on stored B787 Dreamliners; however, Boeing hasn’t said much publicly about its plans for those buildings.
Furthermore, these sources claim that Boeing may start making more B737s in Everett. Currently, this best-selling model is manufactured in a separate Renton plant located south of the Greater Seattle area.
Despite the excitement on January 31, there are still two more extraordinary Boeing 747 deliveries.
These are the two brand-new presidential planes in the United States, and their official designation is VC-25. However, they are more often known as “Air Force One” (a call sign only used when the US President is on board).
These two planes were already constructed, but their original owner, the bankrupt Russian airline Transaero, never took delivery. The two jets destined to become Air Force One undergo a rigorous refurbishment.