A few weeks ago I mentioned that United was moving up the timetable for the retirement of the 747 fleet. They have now released a few more specifics, including what appears to be the final flight of their last 747.
The final flight is slated to be United UA892 that is scheduled to depart Seoul, South Korea at 10:25a on October 29. The ‘outbound’ leg to this turn will be October 27 and will be United UA893 that will depart San Francisco at 10:55a. A 777-200 is showing as operating the route beginning on October 30.
Keep in mind that events like this are subject to change and may not happen as they are currently planned. However, if you want to take the chance to take one of the last flights aboard a UA 747, round-trip Economy tickets are pricing in the high $600 / low $700 for these final flights. Business Class is in the $3800-$4200 area.
A few days ago, Lufthansa updated their timetable to reflect a switch in aircraft that will be used between Frankfurt and Detroit.
Beginning July 2, Lufthansa will begin flying the 747-400 on their daily flight to the Motor City, replacing the A340-300 that has been on the route until now. This will be the case at least for the Summer timetable which expires on September 29. LH will most likely downgage the route to a smaller aircraft for Winter 2017/18, but at least for the Summer and early Fall, passengers can enjoy the Queen of the Skies from DTW.
This covers flight LH442 that departs FRA at 10:00a and arrives in Detroit at 12:40p, and LH443 that departs Detroit at 3:50p, arriving in Frankfurt at 5:40a the following morning.
United has announced that it will phase out the Queen Of The Sky from their fleet by the end of 2017, versus original plans that had the 747 staying in the fleet until the end of 2018.
The remaining 747s are now all based in San Francisco where UA maintains most of the 747 maintenance facilities. The last United 747 left Chicago for good on January 3 as part of the fleet consolidation to SFO.
From last count, there are 20 of them left and they’ll be phased out during the course of this year as new planes are delivered to United.
Primary drivers for the decision include maintenance expense, fuel consumption, and new aircraft that are joining the fleet. There is also a new FAA maintenance directive that was announced the same day that United said the fleet would be retired a year earlier than expected. No doubt the expenses surrounding the directive played a role in the decision as well.
Regardless, United’s recent introduction of the 777-300 and the ongoing success of the 787 fleet, UA deemed it was time to move on to newer and better. Lets not forget the long list of A350s that UA has on order as well.
None of this comes as a surprise obviously as the newer aircraft with their improved efficiencies make the 747-400 all but a dinosaur in today’s airline world. Since being introduced to United in 1970, the 747 has been nothing but a wonderful and reliable workhorse.
Fortunately for us avgeek types, we still have the 747-8i to enjoy for the next couple of decades!
Boeing released their SEC 10-Q filing today and hidden among all the charts and commentary was a suggestion that our beloved 747 aircraft may be coming to the of her reign as Queen of the Skies.
In the excerpt below, Boeing talks about the lack of orders and a slow down in freight demand being the primary reasons that they are considering closing the 747 production line. Also reiterated was a previous announcement that 747 production would slow from 1 a month to .5 month in September, basically meaning that only 6 747s will leave Everett each year until production ceases. They also canceled plans to return to 1 747 produced per month starting in 2019.
From Boeing’s 10-Q Release on July 27, 2016:
747 Program Lower-than-expected demand for large commercial passenger and freighter aircraft and slower-than-expected growth of global freight traffic have continued to drive market uncertainties, pricing pressures and fewer orders than anticipated. As a result, during the second quarter of 2016, we canceled previous plans to return to a production rate of 1.0 aircraft per month beginning in 2019, resulting in a reduction in the program accounting quantity from 1,574 to 1,555 aircraft. This reduction in the program accounting quantity, together with lower anticipated revenues from future sales and higher costs associated with producing fewer airplanes, resulted in a reach-forward loss of $1,188 million in the quarter. The adjusted program accounting quantity includes 32 undelivered aircraft, currently scheduled to be produced through 2019. We previously recognized reach-forward losses of $885 million and $70 million during the second half of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016, respectively, related to our prior decision to reduce the production rate to 0.5 per month and anticipating lower estimated revenue from future sales due to ongoing pricing and market pressures. We are currently producing at a rate of 1.0 per month, and expect to reduce the rate to 0.5 per month in September 2016. We continue to have a number of completed aircraft in inventory as well as unsold production positions and we remain focused on obtaining additional orders and implementing cost-reduction efforts. If we are unable to obtain sufficient orders and/or market, production and other risks cannot be mitigated, we could record additional losses that may be material, and it is reasonably possible that we could decide to end production of the 747.
Keep in mind that these kind of disclosures are normal for companies as part of their Safe Harbor disclosures and basic ‘CYA’ strategies so that investors don’t retaliate will lawsuits suggesting they were mislead. But this is the first time that Boeing has had such ‘strong’ language in a 10-Q when it has come to the 747. Trust me, I read 10-Qs as part of what I do in real life, and the Boeing versions are among the ones that are at the top of my list when they are released.
With this kind of writing on the wall, I am of the opinion that the 747 has already been canceled in the minds of Boeing Executives. You don’t put this kind of language out to shareholders if you’re not serious. Today’s announcement is basically the warning shot so that we are not surprised when a future announcement makes it official.
This issue could potentially affect the Air Force order for the 2 or 3 747s that are slated to replace the current aircraft serving as the US President’s transport.
If I could write a fitting end to the 50 year legacy of the 747, I would close the program in dramatic fashion by having the last 747s to leave the production line to be the ones that would serve at the President’s pleasure.
For those of you who know me (there’s maybe 8 of you), you know that I’ve been a fan of Iron Maiden for the Majority of my 44 years on this rock, going all the way back to my days in Elementary School.
Over the past few years, its been no secret that Iron Maiden has used chartered aircraft to help them get from concert to concert when they are on world-wide tour. First, it was a 757 that helped them get around the world on 3 tours that began in 2008.
Now for their most recent tour celebrating their ‘Book Of Souls’ album, the band upped their game and got their hands on a 747-400 from Air Atlanta Icelandic to help them get around even more effectively than with the 757.
Photo courtesy of Iron Maiden
The absolute best part of this? Their lead singer, Bruce Dickinson, often serve as the Captain for the flights. Yes, the lead singer of one of the world’s greatest bands has a license to fly the heavies! In fact, Lufthansa featured him in an interview in their in-flight magazine back in September 2013.
Since February, the latest version of ‘Ed Force One’ has been seen around the world as the band travels on tour. There have been a lot of great photos taken of the exterior, but now, thanks to a Daily Mail feature, we have a chance to look inside, behind the scenes, one of the coolest airplanes currently in the air.