April 23, 2024


It's the Technology

The last 747 rolls off Boeing's production line • The Register

The last 747 rolls off Boeing’s production line • The Register

An aviation era has come to an end as Boeing’s last 747 has taxied out of the Everett, Washington factory, punctuating the jumbo jet’s 54-year production run.

The final craft, a 747-8 freighter, will be delivered to airplane-cargo biz Atlas Air after final tests in early 2023, Boeing revealed. While the 1,574th 747 will be the last one assembled, the familiar bulbous silhouette is hardly going to disappear from the skies overnight, according to Boeing VP and GM for the 747 and 767 programs, Kim Smith. “We are proud that this plane will continue to fly across the globe for years to come,” she said. 

While there are not many still in service as passenger planes, 747s will likely be flown for at least another decade or two.  

The jumbo is a four-engine behemoth that began production in 1967 and, at 250 feet (76.2m) from tail to tip, is the longest commercial airframe in service. Boeing’s Everett Production Facility, which the flying machine maker claims is the largest manufacturing building in the world, was specifically built to manufacture the 747. It will now be used to assemble Boeing 767, 777, and 787 aircraft. 

Folks just don’t want big jets nowadays

The 747 is most famous for its famous hump-back design which accommodates a partial second deck. With four engines and a huge cargo capacity, the 747 was great for its era – but now it’s simply an anachronism. These days airlines are trying to find ways to fly green.

Big gas-guzzling jets like the 747 aren’t appealing to commercial airlines, which have largely shifted to twin-engine aircraft. Case in point: the Airbus A380, the last of which was built late last year after less than 20 years in service because it was too large and too expensive to operate. 

Even bigger than the 747, the A380 had a second deck that ran the full length of the plane, giving it a larger passenger capacity, but made it far heavier than its Boeing competitor. Only 254 A380s were built – Airbus cited lack of demand when it announced the end of production in 2019.

Boeing’s past few years have been turbulent, with problems such as battery fires with the 787 and damning safety allegations after a pair of 737 crashes killed over five hundred people. 

The biz recently settled with the Securities and Exchange Commission for $200 million over allegations it misled investors about the safety of the 737 MAX, and was previously ordered to forfeit more than $2.5 billion to settle fraud charges surrounding the plane’s safety. 

More recently, Boeing has also had manufacturing problems with its 787 Dreamliner, deliveries of which have been delayed by “production problems.”

The jet builder is also behind schedule and over budget on servicing two 747s designed to serve as Air Force One, flying the POTUS about – a high-profile job that has generated months of bad press. Boeing’s next big passenger jet, the 777X, won’t be ready for service until 2025. ®