The End of an Era: the Last Passenger 747 Has Been Delivered

Alec Mollenhauer

Korean Air has received likely the last 747 passenger aircraft to ever be built in a program that dates back to 1969. (Photo: Chris Edwards / planespotters.net)

Since 1969, Paine Field in Everett, Washington has been the production site of the most iconic passenger aircraft in the world. Between the five different models, over 1,500 Boeing 747s have taken to the skies since 1969, most of them being of the passenger variant.

You can still have a look at the very first 747 ever built at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Wash. (Photo: seattletimes.com)

On July 31st, the final passenger variant of the 747 took off for its delivery flight to Seoul. HL7644, the 1,539th 747 ever built was delivered to Korean Air as the airline’s 10th and final 747-8i. Korean Air is one of three airlines to order the 747-8i along with Air China and Lufthansa. Air China took delivery of 7 747-8s, while Lufthansa took delivery of 19 with a total of 37 747-8s being operated by passenger airlines out of the 131 total orders.

Lufthansa operates a fleet of 19 Boeing 747-8 passenger aircraft, including D-ABYT, painted in the airline’s retro livery. (Photo: imcargade.com)

While there are still some orders for the 747-8 that still need to be fulfilled, they are all from cargo airlines or VIP customers such as the United States Air Force which will take two 747-8s to replace the current 747-200s as the presidential aircraft “Air Force One”.

UPS Airlines still has 14 747-8Fs to be delivered, and Air Bridge Cargo also has at least one more freighter variant to be delivered. The current production rate of the 747-8 is 6 per year. For comparison, the 747-400 was at one time produced at five per month. Ever since the beginning of the 747-8 production, the rate has been gradually cut down.

At the current rate, 747 production will likely come to an end in the first half of 2019 if no more orders come in. Boeing is forecasting a spike in 747-8F orders over the next couple of years as several Airlines with large 747-400F fleets will begin to look for a replacement.  Atlas Air, Kalitta Air, and China Airlines Cargo currently operate large fleets of 747-400Fs and will likely be deciding between the 777F and the 747-8F over the next couple of years.

Cargolux operates a large fleet of 747-8F aircraft, but still with many old 747-4F left to replace. (Photo: Max Trimm / Layoverhub)

CargoLux Airlines presents an interesting case, as they took delivery of 14 747-8s, including the first one, but still operates a fleet of 12 747-400Fs, the oldest of which is just over 22 years old.

Historically, the largest passenger operators of the 747 have been British Airways(94), Lufthansa(80), Japan Airlines(109) and United Airlines(64). Despite the fact that all of  these airlines have operated large fleets of 747s from the 747-100 to the 747-400, only Lufthansa ordered the 747-8i. The other three have opted to replace their large 747 fleets with the 777 and A350, a demonstration of the industry wide shift towards much more efficient twin jets.

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