In a document submitted to the SEC, the agency regulating markets on Wall Street, the US aircraft manufacturer Boeing considers as “reasonably possible” a decision “to stop the production of the 747“.
This scenario is looming because of the disaffection of airlines for this four-engine aircraft. Boeing has a backlog of only 20 747-8 aircraft still to be delivered, from a total ordered of only 125, including 41 in the passenger version. And the future looks increasingly bleak with only 8 orders between 2014 and 2016. Finally, to make matters worse, the global freight market is slowing, dimming hopes for Boeing to sell cargo versions in the near future.
The manufacturer had already planned to reduce its production rate, from 1.5 unit per month today to 0.5 unit from September. In 2013, before declining orders for its four-engined double-decker, Boeing was still producing 2 Jumbo jets per month.
From the first commercial flight on January 22, 1970 between New York and London by defunct US airline Pan Am, the 747 production exceeded 1,500 aircraft, with emblematic owners such as Air Force One (the US presidential fleet – the US has also ordered two 747-8s for delivery in 2024) or rock band Iron Maiden whose 747 was piloted by lead singer Bruce Dickinson to the four corners of the world. Today, more than 500 747s are still in service, but many companies like Air France in January stopped deploying it or are planning to withdraw it gradually.
With the same loss of interest for four-engine aeroplanes, Airbus has already announced it was lowering the production rate for its A380, which will decrease to 12 units a year from 2018. The aim is of course to extend industrial life of these super jumbos waiting for better days.