Boeing Halts Production of Iconic 747 Jumbo Jet After 50 Years

The decline of the four-engine leviathan had been predicted for a number of years.
Chris Young

Boeing is stopping production of the 747 Jumbo Jet, which pioneered a more spacious two-aisle passenger experience, more than 50 years after it started.

Though the company hasn't made a formal announcement, people familiar with the Boeing production change say that subtle wording changes in financial statements show that the decision has been made.


The end of an era

The last 747-8 is set to be manufactured at a Seattle-area factory in about two years. The news was first reported by Bloomberg, who also wrote that COVID-19 means that the manufacturers might be left scrounging for buyers of the last of the double-decker, four-engine leviathans.

“As it turned out, the number of routes for which you need an ultra-large aircraft are incredibly few,” Sash Tusa, an analyst with Agency Partners, told Bloomberg.

The Boeing 747, which was given the moniker "Queen of the Skies," debuted in 1970. The huge plane's release was an ambitious gamble that almost bankrupted the company. With spiral staircases and luxurious upstairs lounges on passenger versions and a hinged nose that could store cars and other large objects, the 747 was ordered 1,571 times since its release — second only to Boeing's 777.

Cutting costs due to COVID-19

However, the coronavirus is speeding the decline of double-decker planes as passenger vehicles, as air travel isn't expected to fully recover until about 2025, meaning airlines are cutting high-cost jetliners such as the Boeing 747 and the Airbus A380.

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The 747-8's last order as a passenger jet was in 2017, for Air Force One. Meanwhile, of the Airbus A380, Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with Teal Group told Bloomberg, "It’s going to have the shortest lifespan of any type in history. I’d be shocked if there’s still an A380 in service in 2030."

Production of the Boeing 747-8 has slowed over the last few years and it is now built at a snail's pace of half an airplane a month. In the company's financial filings, there is no longer any indication that the company will continue to "evaluate the viability of the program" — a sign that the "Queen of the Skies" is reaching the end of its reign.

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