The era of the jumbo jet 747 is closing. Boeing has announced that it has taken the final the company will ever receive order for the construction 747 cargo planes. Production of 747 passenger jets came to an end some time ago.
Atlas air has ordered four 747-8 freighters at $149 million a piece. When their production is completed some time next year no more 747 or 747 variants will be made again after, 53 years after the first one rolled out of Boeing’s plant.
The 747 made history during the 1970s due to its mammoth size. It made direct and inexpensive flight from New York to Israel possible. Generations of north Americans got to know the plane only from that once in a lifetime trip which they made to the Holy Land on El Al.
But for decades now most travelers have been choosing to fly through another country and take two planes to get to Israel from the U.S. or Canada. And these are the smaller types of planes. In the 1990s then Continental Air, now United, began a new direct route to Israel out of Newark Airport with the smaller Boeing 777.
And it is not just travel to and from Israel which has changed, of course. Airlines worldwide have switched over to smaller craft for even long haul flights. The 747 was once economical and successful because of all the people that could be crammed inside it while still having a luxurious first class section. It has two levels and first class travelers benefited from an upstairs lounge.
But the economics of the airline industry has changed considerably. As with cars, the big planes waste way too much fuel per flight and passenger traveled and they also come with huge maintenance costs. And the airlines learned that they could raise there profits by having more flights with fewer passengers per plane. This is, in part, because passengers did not like being stuffed into huge planes and would be more likely to fly long distances on smaller ones.
And environmental issues also take precedence. Even with more flights per week and day, the new smaller airplanes leave behind a smaller carbon foot print than the 747 did.
El Al today, for example, uses the Boeing 777 and the newer 787 for its transatlantic flights.
While airlines have phased out their old 747s for passengers, many have been repurposed for freight. But it would seem that even the world of cargo does not need the planes anymore either, or at least they have less expensive alternatives.
“The 747 will forever hold a special place in aviation history and we are honored by Atlas Air’s longstanding commitment to the airplane. Atlas Air began operations 28 years ago with a single 747 and it is fitting that they should receive the last 747 production airplanes, ensuring that the ‘Queen of the Skies’ plays a significant role in the global air cargo market for decades to come,” said Stan Deal, president and chief executive officer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “With the global air cargo fleet expected to grow by more than 60% over the next 20 years, we look forward to delivering these airplanes and supporting Atlas Air’s Boeing fleet well into the future.”