After a historic run, it’s game over for pioneering Boeing 747

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In this file photo a Qantas Boeing 747 airliner takes off from Sydney airport to the US on July 22, 2020. The Boeing 747 has become the plane of American presidents and mass tourism, but the Boeing 747 is about to bow out in the United States, almost 50 years after its first flight. (AFP)
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A Boeing 747-400 carrying Chinese President Xi Jinping and First Lady Peng Liyuan arrives at Paine Field in Everett, Washington, September 22, 2015. (Reuters)
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In this file photo in-production Boeing 747 aircraft for Cathay Pacific Cargo sit on the tarmac at the Boeing production facilities at Paine Field in Everett, Washington, on February 17, 2012. (AFP)
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Updated 29 July 2020

After a historic run, it’s game over for pioneering Boeing 747

  • Boeing said Wednesday it will phase out production of it and stop in 2022
  • First flown commercially in 1969, the 747 was an unprecedented success

WASHINGTON: The Boeing 747 is an iconic jumbo jet that revolutionized air travel and tourism, allowing affordable flights for millions of people eager to see the world.
But the fuel-guzzling, four-engine plane’s days are numbered now, as Boeing said Wednesday it will phase out production of it and stop in 2022. In the end, the 747 simply cannot compete with today’s more efficient, two-engine jetliners.
First flown commercially in 1969, in the same era as the supersonic Concorde, the 747 was an unprecedented success: a total of 1,571 were ordered and all but 15 were actually delivered.
More than anything, the plane democratized air travel by letting holidaymakers take cheaper flights, often in chartered 747s fitted with hundreds of economy-class seats — leg room be damned.
For 35 years the 747 ruled the skies — until Boeing’s big European rival Airbus came out with the Super Jumbo A380.
The 747 owes its existence to Juan Trippe, the visionary founder of the now defunct Pan American World Airways. As far back as the early 1960s, Trippe was convinced that air travel, in particular trans-oceanic flight, was due for a huge boom.
As the story goes, during a fishing trip in Alaska, Trippe persuaded his friend Bill Allen, who then ran Boeing, to build a plane twice as big as the Boeing 707.
Trippe allegedly said that, if Allen had the guts to build such an aircraft, Pan Am would buy it.
A few years later the first 747 took to the skies, with Pan Am as the launch customer.
Recognizable for its cockpit hump atop the front end of the fuselage, some configurations of the 747 could hold up to 600 passengers.
It is double decker — the upstairs being for first-class travelers — and had four engines, which was its fatal flaw in terms of fuel cost and the environment.
“Given the current market dynamics and outlook, we will stop production of the iconic 747 in 2022,” general manager David Calhoun said Wednesday in a message to employees.
“50 years and eight versions. That is a beautiful record,” said Michel Merluzeau, an aviation expert at Air Insight Research.
“But its days were numbered, even before the COVID-19 crisis,” he said, adding that the 747 became a niche plane both for passenger and cargo markets.
More recently it faced competition from the Airbus A350.
And even within Boeing, the 747 had to vie with the longer range 777-300ER and the 777X, both of which were much more fuel efficient than the aging jumbo.
In recent years the 747 became a plane “from another era, with production methods that would not work, looking to the future,” said Merluzeau.
In the US, no airline has used the Boeing 747 since late 2017.
Like its rival the A380 — production of which will halt in 2021 — it became a victim of global money woes stemming from the 2008 financial crisis, and then airlines started to prefer the Boeing 787 or AirBus A350.
These latter two-engine planes burn less fuel and can fly further thanks to a new generation of engines. This made obsolete the four-engine jumbo jet, which also requires twice as much maintenance work as a two-engine aircraft.
The decline of the 747 deepened with the coronavirus pandemic, which led to a stunning fall in air travel and prompted some airlines to announce they will retire the 747 from their fleets.
From now to 2022, Boeing will keep building 747s but just for cargo and military transport purposes.
The 747 can also count on support from the White House and the presidential plane called Air Force One.
The government is awaiting delivery of two 747-8s, which are bigger, more modern, faster and less fuel-consuming than the current 747-200s that carry the president and his entourage.


Emirates launches airbridge between Dubai, Lebanon emergency relief 

Updated 14 August 2020

Emirates launches airbridge between Dubai, Lebanon emergency relief 

  • Customers of Emirates will be able to donate cash or pledge their Skywards Miles to the airline for the aid
  • Emirates SkyCargo will also provide 20 percent reduction on air freight transportation charges for approved shipments

DUBAI: UAE national carrier Emirates SkyCargo plans to ramp up its freighter operations to Lebanon with 50 flights to deliver emergency relief in the wake of the Beirut port blast that killed nearly 200 people.
Customers of Emirates will be able to donate cash or pledge their Skywards Miles to the airline for the aid, state news agency WAM reported.
The Emirates Airline Foundation will coordinate shipments of urgent food, medical supplies with NGO partners to ensure donations directly help those affected on the ground.
Emirates SkyCargo will also provide 20 percent reduction on air freight transportation charges for approved shipments, underscoring its commitment to expedite emergency relief efforts to Beirut.
“Today, the world is banding together to stand in solidarity with Lebanon, providing urgent relief and immediate recovery support to those affected by this tragic disaster,” Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline & Group, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, said. 
“Emirates supports the UAE’s ongoing humanitarian efforts to support Lebanon and is committed to bolster its global emergency response to ensure that it can support organizations which provide urgent care, shelter, food and medical support to the Lebanese people,” he added. 
Emirates said that it had dispatched several charter flights carrying food, clothing and medical supplies donated by various grassroots organizations in the UAE to Lebanon.