Quantcast

Boeing officially ending 747 production

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

Trogdor

Conductor
Joined
Aug 3, 2004
Messages
5,495
Location
Here
In an announcement that comes as no surprise to anyone who’s been following the trend of commercial aviation sales over the past few years, Boeing has announced they are officially ending 747 production in 2022.


While COVID-19 has decimated the commercial aviation industry, the 747 was struggling even before this. They hadn’t sold a passenger version of the plane in several years, and their orders for the cargo variant were dwindling. In fact, the contractor who made major portions of the 747 fuselage, Triumph Group, started auctioning off significant parts of its production line several months ago, including machinery critical to building the plane. This was seen by many as an indicator that the plane was basically done for as restarting the line elsewhere would be costly, and sales prospects low (current production rates are around 0.5 planes per month, basically too low to be profitable even with everything intact).

So we come to the end of an era. Most major passenger carriers had already retired the type anyway, and of the few that hadn’t, most of them basically pulled the plug over the last few months with the pandemic. It’s unknown at this point how many passenger versions will re-enter service, and for how long. That all, of course, depends on the recovery of long-haul international travel, which is truly anyone’s guess at this point. It’s entirely possible that few, if any, will return to carrying passengers as they are large and expensive to operate, and by the time the market does recover, too much time will have passed and much newer, more efficient planes will have piled up waiting for a customer to take delivery.
 

Ziv

OBS Chief
Joined
Oct 25, 2011
Messages
641
My Aunt worked in the HR department of Boeing back in the 1960's. She said it was heart breaking to give nearly every employee severance notice in 1968 as Boeing sufferered through the lean years after they bet the farm on the 747 and before the first orders started to deliver. There was a famous billboard that stated, "Would the last person to leave Seattle please turn out the lights" that summed up what people thought.
But Boeing was right and the jumbo jets ruled the roost for years. But now both the 747 and the A-380 are on their way out the door.
 

Devil's Advocate

Conductor
Joined
May 24, 2010
Messages
11,544
Location
Texas
The 747 was a sidelined freighter with no obvious passenger role when first introduced. Imagine if Honda went from selling early motorcycle designs to betting the farm on the world's first eighteen wheel semi and having failed to secure a trucking company contract decided to sell their massive tractor-trailer as a passenger bus with lounges and bars. That's the level of hope (and desperation) the 747 represented when introduced. Pan Am saved Boeing by ordering a fleet of 747's despite having never sold anywhere near that many seats per flight in the past. Rather than being laughed off and ignored dozens of other operators followed suit and ordered their own fleets to compete with Pan Am. For decades the 747 held the fastest (conventional) cruising speed and lowest seat-mile costs in the industry. Against the odds the 747 managed to create a low cost long haul jet travel market two or three decades ahead of schedule.
 
Last edited:

Trogdor

Conductor
Joined
Aug 3, 2004
Messages
5,495
Location
Here
The 747 was a sidelined freighter with no obvious passenger role when first introduced. Imagine if Honda went from selling early motorcycle designs to betting the farm on the world's first eighteen wheel semi and having failed to secure a trucking company contract decided to sell their massive tractor-trailer as a passenger bus with lounges and bars. Against all odds an operator named Pan Am agrees to buy a fleet of these converted trucks and increase available seat miles by an order of magnitude. Rather than being laughed off and ignored dozens of other bus companies follow suit and buy their own fleets to compete with Pan Am. That's the level of hope (and desperation) the 747 represented when introduced.
The 747 was built around a Pan Am request (technically, Pan Am wanted a double-decker, but Boeing engineers saw too many problems with going tall so they went wide instead), so I don’t know how it’s “against all odds” that Pan Am bought them.
 

Devil's Advocate

Conductor
Joined
May 24, 2010
Messages
11,544
Location
Texas
The 747 was built around a Pan Am request (technically, Pan Am wanted a double-decker, but Boeing engineers saw too many problems with going tall so they went wide instead), so I don’t know how it’s “against all odds” that Pan Am bought them.
Pan Am was a large operator for the time but buying a fleet of 747's in the 707 era was a huge risk. The 747 program was intended to be supported by a government freighter contract and having failed to secure one was most likely doomed to irrelevance if Pan Am was the only customer. Although considered a smashing success today the original 747 succeeded in part because dozens of foreign flag carriers were willing to risk unrecoverable debt to follow Pan Am's vision of a vast and sudden increase in jet travel. In the end everything worked out for everyone involved but it's sobering to consider how close Boeing came to permanent financial ruin back then. Emirates was a Pan Am style booster for the A380 and yet that program likely failed to break-even for Airbus.
 
Last edited:

Trogdor

Conductor
Joined
Aug 3, 2004
Messages
5,495
Location
Here
Pan Am was a large operator for the time but buying a fleet of 747's in the 707 era was a huge risk. The 747 program was intended to be supported by a government freighter contract and having failed to secure one was most likely doomed to irrelevance if Pan Am was the only customer. Although considered a smashing success today the original 747 succeeded in part because dozens of foreign flag carriers were willing to risk unrecoverable debt to follow Pan Am's vision of a vast and sudden increase in jet travel. In the end everything worked out for everyone involved but it's sobering to consider how close Boeing came to permanent financial ruin back then. Emirates was a Pan Am style booster for the A380 and yet that program likely failed to break-even for Airbus.
The 747 was not born from the freighter contract (I assume you’re referring to the C-5 which went to Lockheed). It was designed from the start as a passenger plane, with consideration for cargo capabilities as well.

The only thing the 747 had in common with Boeing’s proposed C-5 design was the use of high-bypass turbofan engines. The rest of the plane was entirely different.
 
Joined
Jan 24, 2017
Messages
8
Imagine landing one of these beasts at a provincial airport with poor weather and even poorer communications, and then imagine being decimated by another one of these brutes flown by an irritated pilot who has run out of patience. And there you have it... the world's worst aviation disaster.
 

ehbowen

Conductor
Joined
Mar 22, 2011
Messages
2,355
Location
Houston, Texas
Imagine landing one of these beasts at a provincial airport with poor weather and even poorer communications, and then imagine being decimated by another one of these brutes flown by an irritated pilot who has run out of patience. And there you have it... the world's worst aviation disaster.
It certainly didn't help that the KLM crew didn't use standard phrases for communications. If they had clearly announced, "KLM rolling" on the radio, the controller would probably have screamed for them to stop right away.
 

Ziv

OBS Chief
Joined
Oct 25, 2011
Messages
641
Sometimes the 747 was both cargo and passenger. I used to ride Eva Air out of Bangkok and Tokyo and the 747 we rode on was only passenger from seat 22 (?) forward. Everything behind seat 22 was walled off and was cargo pallets, or so it appeared from the tractors that were loading the aircraft when we boarded. On my favorite flight, I sat forward in the nose, main level, where the curvature of the nose had me pointing about 10 or 12 degrees toward the interior of the aircraft. When I put my cheek on the window I could see partway down the runway.
Very cool aircraft, always excellent service.
The 747 was not born from the freighter contract (I assume you’re referring to the C-5 which went to Lockheed). It was designed from the start as a passenger plane, with consideration for cargo capabilities as well.
 

jiml

Conductor
Joined
Feb 27, 2019
Messages
1,605
Location
Toronto area
Sometimes the 747 was both cargo and passenger. I used to ride Eva Air out of Bangkok and Tokyo and the 747 we rode on was only passenger from seat 22 (?) forward. Everything behind seat 22 was walled off and was cargo pallets, or so it appeared from the tractors that were loading the aircraft when we boarded. On my favorite flight, I sat forward in the nose, main level, where the curvature of the nose had me pointing about 10 or 12 degrees toward the interior of the aircraft. When I put my cheek on the window I could see partway down the runway.
Very cool aircraft, always excellent service.
The 747 Combi. Both KLM and Air Canada had several as well.
 

Trogdor

Conductor
Joined
Aug 3, 2004
Messages
5,495
Location
Here
On my favorite flight, I sat forward in the nose, main level, where the curvature of the nose had me pointing about 10 or 12 degrees toward the interior of the aircraft. When I put my cheek on the window I could see partway down the runway.
I got the chance to sit in the nose section a couple of times as well.

The first time was about 5 years ago on a UA flight from NRT to SFO. I booked economy, and used miles to upgrade to business because I wanted to sit in the upper deck. Due to some irregular operations involving another delayed flight, my ticket had to be reissued. Somehow, in the process, it caused my upgrade to drop out. I pointed this out to the agent that did the rebooking, so she went back in and did whatever she did, and, instead of winding up in J upstairs, I was given a boarding pass for 3A instead.

Worthwhile trade.

A couple of years later, I did finally get my upper deck experience (on both UA and Thai on the same trip; followed later on by an upper deck 747-8 flight on Lufthansa two years ago).
 
Joined
Jul 25, 2020
Messages
4
The 747 Combi. Both KLM and Air Canada had several as well.
Flew one of the KLM ones back in 2000. The forward cabin was divided down the middle, with our coach section on the left side (3-2). Don't know if it was 1st class on the right side, or what. From my pictures I'd say that it was PH-BUK , which was the last one in service for KLM and is now in a Dutch aviation museum/theme park.

Last October I spent a day in Anchorage. It was worth being there just to see all of the cargo 747s flying in and out.
 

railiner

Conductor
Joined
Mar 20, 2009
Messages
8,159
Location
South Florida
I sat forward in the nose, main level, where the curvature of the nose had me pointing about 10 or 12 degrees toward the interior of the aircraft. When I put my cheek on the window I could see partway down the runway.
My first 747 flight, taken just for that purpose, was on Canadian Pacific, from Montreal to Toronto, the shortest 747 flight I could find. And because I wanted to try what you did, I booked seat 1A. I pressed my face hard against the first window, but I could not get much of a forward view, mainly account of the space between the innermost and outermost pane.
Later on, I flew one on ANA, and they had a forward facing camera showing the takeoff and landing on the screens.
 

PVD

Conductor
Joined
Jul 8, 2015
Messages
4,819
Location
NYC/Queens
TWA JFK to LAX, different era. The 47 was the new flagship everyone wanted to fly it. United, TWA, and American all had JFK to LAX at noon. My parents were on United, but the travel agent put me on TWA because there was a single cheap seat. I always had a chance once to fly on a JFK to SFO 747-SP. Markedly shorter, but a taller tail. Apparently, it went on from SFO to Hong Kong, and it was pretty cheap NY to SFO ($99). Before the later generations of very long range aircraft, that was the only wide-body that could fly certain legs like NY to Tehran, or NY to Tokyo...
 

PVD

Conductor
Joined
Jul 8, 2015
Messages
4,819
Location
NYC/Queens
Coach lounges on planes! First class lounge up the spiral staircase. American had a small piano. Long gone way of flying....
 

Maglev

OBS Chief
Joined
Sep 4, 2016
Messages
942
Location
Orcas Island, Washington
Growing up in Hawaii, I flew United 747's many times. The first time was in 1973, from Honolulu to Boston with a stop in San Francisco. The coach lounge was great--I spent most of my time there. They were only nine seats across at first in coach, in a 3-4-2 arrangement. On that flight, we tried to land three times in the fog in Boston then were re-routed to New York.
 

anumberone

Conductor
AU Supporter
Joined
Aug 8, 2015
Messages
1,750
Location
Los Angeles
My wife flying in the 1st Class nose section thought that a door in the very front must be the cockpit, during the flight it was opened, she was flabbergasted when she realized it was a storage closet.
 

basketmaker

Service Attendant
Joined
Apr 19, 2018
Messages
109
Location
Brighton, CO (DEN but FMG-Preferred)
My Aunt worked in the HR department of Boeing back in the 1960's. She said it was heart breaking to give nearly every employee severance notice in 1968 as Boeing sufferered through the lean years after they bet the farm on the 747 and before the first orders started to deliver. There was a famous billboard that stated, "Would the last person to leave Seattle please turn out the lights" that summed up what people thought.
But Boeing was right and the jumbo jets ruled the roost for years. But now both the 747 and the A-380 are on their way out the door.
I remember the billboard photo in all the newspapers back then. Such a shame the "Queen Of The Sky" is relinquishing her throne.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Ziv

Palmland

OBS Chief
Joined
May 25, 2006
Messages
852
Location
Carolinas
My one and only 747 trip was courtesy of British Air. i read a BA newspaper (remember them) ad for a contest on a business trip on US Air. Enter and you could win! Sure enough a few weeks later I got a call that I won a trip to London and 5 days lodging. That was first place. The grand prize winner was on our flight and won a trip to Africa and a safari. There was a big celebration at the Orlando airport and we were given choice BC seats (this was in early 90’s before lie flat seats). What great service and a memorable flight. We extended our stay another week armed with Brit Rail passes. Many flights since never came close to the service on that remarkable airplane.
 
Last edited:

Devil's Advocate

Conductor
Joined
May 24, 2010
Messages
11,544
Location
Texas
Sometimes the 747 was both cargo and passenger.
The 747 Combi.
The 747 Combi was a versatile but flawed design.


I pressed my face hard against the first window, but I could not get much of a forward view, mainly account of the space between the innermost and outermost pane.
Your experience mirrors my own. I flew the 742, 743, & 744 variants and so far as I could tell any claims of actual forward viewing were little more than myths and misunderstandings. Maybe the 741 was different or the view was specific to aircraft with missing or misaligned components.

The 747 was not born from the freighter contract (I assume you’re referring to the C-5 which went to Lockheed). It was designed from the start as a passenger plane, with consideration for cargo capabilities as well. The only thing the 747 had in common with Boeing’s proposed C-5 design was the use of high-bypass turbofan engines. The rest of the plane was entirely different.
So Boeing was convinced that it made good economic sense to leapfrog from a 707/737 sized passenger airliner straight to a design several times that size with no infrastructure, no proven market, and no government contract in the era of mandated routes and regulated fares based on the hopeful whims of a single passenger airline? If that's true then it paints Boeing's management in an even worse light. What I was told is that the original program was indeed chasing the same contract that became Lockheed's C-5 Galaxy. In that role even a massive aircraft program could be fully funded with or without any passenger airlines willing to buy an enormous airplane that would be difficult to fill reliably and that many commercial airports would struggle to service. In this version most of Boeing's design money was already spent and banking the company's future on Juan Trippe’s fever dream was a solution of last resort that went on to pay massive dividends few would have predicted prior to deregulation. It's still not ideal but at least this version provides a rational cover story for how they ended up with such a disjointed product line before it was eventually fleshed out with the 757 and 767.
 
Last edited:

Palmetto

Conductor
AU Supporter
Joined
May 12, 2014
Messages
2,037
Location
Miami
Had a ride in one DFW-LHR last December. Rode backwards in Business Class, a first. Had a nice view of the wing and two engines.
 

Brian Battuello

Train Attendant
Joined
Jul 23, 2014
Messages
88
My memory is a bit fuzzy, but when I was about 25 my company sent me from SFO to LAX once a month to check some computer reports before they were sent to the branches. I got back to LAX and my flight was cancelled. Corporate travel talked to the airline and they put me in a Pan Am first class (upstairs) seat on a 747 that had just come from Hawaii and was finishing the day in SFO. There wasn't anyone I recognized, but plenty of nice suits and outfits. I sat quietly and tried to see how many drinks I could fit into 45 minutes.
 
Top