Earlier today, Boeing released its forecast for the commercial aviation market for the next 20 years. This typically discusses what Boeing sees coming for the industry including demand for certain type of aircraft and the demographics of future customers.
What was noticeably absent from the 2017 version of this forecast was any talk of the 747. They have acknowledged that the 747 platform is being wound down, without any serious orders forthcoming.
For the first time in decades, Boeing is now looking to a future driven only by 2-engine aircraft, primarily the 737, 787 and upcoming 777x platforms. The forecast suggest that the aircraft market over the next 20 years will require over $6 trillion in new aircraft deliveries.
D-ABYT prepares for her first ever flight, a B1 test flight at Paine Field.
Of course this makes all the sense in the world since technology has allowed 2 engines to do the work of 4, and deliver passengers to their destinations in more comfort and safety than ever before. But for the aviation romanticists in the world that have always seen the 747 as the most beautiful aircraft in the sky, such a sobering moment doesn’t pass easily.
In their comments, Boeing stated that they were simply being realists in their projections and see that the era of 4 engine aircraft is drawing to an end. I guess all that’s left is to enjoy the Queen of the Skies for as long we can….
Related: Lufthansa 747-400 Gallery
Lufthansa 747-8i Gallery
In case you missed it, last week was a week to forget for Lufthansa’s D-ABYA, their first 747-8i that entered service back on June 1, 2012.
On 2 separate occasions, ‘Brandi’ had to make unscheduled landings due to smoke/fire alarms in the nose gear bay being triggered. When fire alarms go off, the plane has to land ASAP. No questions, no debate and if not possible, no fuel dump.
The first incident took place only a few minutes into her flight on Tuesday August 4 from Frankfurt to Rio de Janeiro. She returned safely shortly after take off and passengers were booked on later flights to Rio.
Then on August 7, while enroute from Frankfurt to New York (JFK), she was forced to land in Manchester, England for the same reason. ‘YA’ spent the night in MAN and flew back with her passengers to FRA the next day. Passengers were accommodated at local hotels in MAN and then rebooked on flights to get them to NYC after returning to FRA.
Thanks to a few well placed sources (FlyerTalk’s Oliver2002 for example), the reason behind these false alarms has been discovered. Apparently Frankfurt’s ground crews had jammed a tow bar in the nose gear of D-ABYA and in the process of freeing it damaged the smoke and fire sensors.
The problem has been identified and resolved. Fortunately it had nothing to do with the aircraft itself or its reliability but rather with a ground handler that should have paid better attention to what they were doing around a 350 million dollar aircraft!
Later this week, on April 30, Lufthansa will take delivery of their last-ever 747 aircraft. When D-ABYU takes off for her home in Frankfurt on April 30th, it will mark the 80th 747 that will have served for Lufthansa over the past 45 years. ‘Yankee Uniform’ will also be the 19th 747-8i that has joined the fleet since June 2012.
The first ever 747 joined the Lufthansa fleet on March 9, 1970. (Courtesy: Lufthansa)
I was there when the first 747-8i was unveiled in Frankfurt on June 1, 2012 and I’ve been on a delivery flight of an -8i when D-ABYT (The Retro Livery) was delivered this March. I’ve even been on a flight between Frankfurt and Washington DC where I was the only passenger in First Class. I’ve also managed to personally capture every one of Lufthansa’s 747-8i aircraft on ‘film’. Suffice to say I think I may have a 747-8i ‘problem’.
Aside from these experiences, I’ve flown aboard the 747-8i many times over the past 3 years and it has become my favorite aircraft by a wide margin. I’m not even sure if I have a second favorite aircraft.
It’s safe to say that I’ve grown attached to this model and I’m genuinely saddened by the fact that ‘YU’ marks the end of a tradition of new 4-engined Jumbo Jets in the LH fleet.
D-ABYU shows her Vortices when arriving in Paine Field after a test flight.
Over the numbers…..
Yes, we can look forward to the 777s and A350s joining the fleet in a few years but it simply won’t be the same as watching the ‘Queen of the Skies’ over the last several years. Fortunately, the 747-8i aircraft are scheduled to be in the fleet for at least the next 15-20 years so us ‘avgeeks’ can still enjoy these birds for another couple of decades.
D-ABYU departing on her B1 test flight
On March 25 I was invited to take part in the delivery ceremony and flight for Lufthansa’s penultimate 747-8i, D-ABYT. What makes this 747-8i a bit more special than her peers is the fact that the aircraft was painted in a livery that was used on Lufthansa aircraft in the 1970s and 80s. In some circles, it is referred to a ‘Retro-Jet’ or ‘Retro-Livery’.
The timing of this delivery was designed to compliment Lufthansa’s 60th Anniversary Celebration event that was to take place on April 15 in Frankfurt, but due to Germanwings tragedy the event was cancelled out of respect for the loss of life in the crash. It is also because of the crash that I delayed publishing any content related to the delivery flight out of respect to the situation.
Lufthansa’s D-ABYT at Boeing’s Everett Delivery Center
Boeing’s crew puts the finishing pre-flight touches on ‘YT’
The delivery event at Boeing’s Everett Delivery Center had a muted and somber feel to due to the crash. Initially, plans had called for a ‘Ribbon Cutting’ ceremony on the ramp next to the aircraft to celebrate the occasion along with a bit of ‘pomp’. However, Boeing and Lufthansa decided to hold a much simpler ceremony indoors where the Captain of the delivery flight, Uwe Strohdeicher and Boeing’s head of their 747 program, Bruce Dickenson each signed a ceremonial Purchase Certificate during a Luncheon hosted by Boeing at the Delivery Center.
Capt. Strohdeicher speaks to the strength of the relationship that exists between Boeing and Lufthansa.
Capt. Strohdeicher and Bruce Dickenson ahead of the signing ceremony.
It’s ‘ceremoniously official’…..Lufthansa owns ‘YT’
The crew for the delivery flight:
The pilots for the flight.
The entire flight crew shortly before boarding.
As I mentioned earlier, this delivery event was more special than what is typically involved for a delivery flight. Usually only a handful of people (5-7 including pilots) are on a delivery flight and they are usually airline or Boeing employees that are onboard to monitor the aircraft. For this event however we nearly filled the Business Class cabin on the lower level. Lufthansa invited several members of the German press to cover the event and Boeing used this delivery flight to reward some of their colleagues who had worked specifically on this aircraft with a 4 day trip to Frankfurt to visit Lufthansa and to take in the city.
You’re asking who sat in the 8 First Class seats? Boeing and Lufthansa awarded those seats to Boeing employees through a lottery selection. If someone pulled a piece of paper from a hat with a star on it, they sat in front. A nice gesture to recognize employees who worked from start to finish on ‘YT’.
Soon after lunch, we prepared to board the aircraft for the flight to Frankfurt which was handled like any other international flight leaving the USA. The Everett Delivery Center has 2 Gates that handle Boeing delivery flights and is technically regarded as an airport. Both gates are equipped with a security check point complete with TSA staff who X-ray luggage and screen passengers through metal detectors (and no, there is no Pre-Check lane 😉 ). After clearing security, your credentials and passport are checked to make sure you are authorized to be on the flight.
Once through the process, I was allowed to board the aircraft and was able to choose any available Business Class seat available on the lower deck. I was among the first 10-15 passengers to board, so it was easy to find a seat. I wound up sitting in 4A but I use the term ‘sitting’ loosely since I spent only an hour or so actually in the seat. For most of the flight I was simply ‘taking in’ the aircraft, inhaling that ‘new airplane’ smell, and enjoying the fact that we had open access to most of it.
I’ll end Part I at this point since I want to dedicate an entire post to the flight itself. In Part II, I’ll go into far more detail about the onboard experience including delivery flight dining, an economy cabin with no seats, the fantastic Boeing Swag Bag, and other bits and pieces from an amazing experience.
If you’re an avgeek, you won’t want to miss it.
Back in February of this year, I had the opportunity to be at Paine Field in Washington to witness the first flight of Lufthansa’s D-ABYT (click here for gallery). This 747-8i is particularly special because it sports a ‘Retro’ livery similar to the livery that Lufthansa’s 747s carried in the 70s and 80s.
D-ABYT is the penultimate 747 that will join the Lufthansa fleet and for Airliner Enthusiasts its marks the beginning of the end of the 747 at large. Orders and deliveries are winding down as carriers prepare for Boeing 777x in the coming years.
To mark this special moment in Lufthansa’s fleet history, I decided to take my best photos of ‘YT’, who will be nicknamed ‘Cologne’, and put together a calendar highlighting her first flight. A big thanks goes to KKFlyer who took care of the layout and publishing of the calendar.
We ran a small batch of these calendars that will share with some of my friends within Lufthansa but I did pull one aside to give away.
So, if you would like a chance to win this calendar, simply leave a comment to this post which will act as your entry (only one entry per person please). I’ll keep the entry period open until midnight (EDT) on Sunday, April 3. Open to anyone, anywhere!
My next project will be a calendar dedicated to the entire Lufthansa 747-8i fleet, so look for that one in the coming weeks. If interest is strong, we may order enough so that we can sell a few as well.
Here is a peek at the calendar. We set it up so it starts with April 2015 and goes through March 2016.
The photos below do not do it justice since it was they were taken with a smart phone!
Thanks and good luck!