If it wasn’t already apparent that the era of ‘big’ flying is ending, it might be soon. Bloomberg sources say Boeing is ending production of its iconic 747 jumbo jet (specifically, the 747-8) in about two years. A spokesperson for the aircraft maker didn’t confirm or deny the shutdown, saying there were “more than two years” of production left to fulfill orders. However, Bloomberg pointed to signs of a firm stop in “subtle wording changes” for financial statements.
While there’s no claimed explanation for the move, it’s no secret that Boeing faced both a hostile market and its own troubles. Even before the pandemic, the air travel industry had shifted toward smaller, more fuel-efficient twin-engine jets like the 787 Dreamliner. The 15 remaining unfulfilled 747 orders are all destined for freighter use, with 12 of them headed to UPS. The 747-8 was also late and over budget, and is believed to have been a money-loser since 2016. The last passenger order was for Air Force One in 2017.
Even so, an end to 747 manufacturing would close a major chapter in aviation history. The 747 has been in service for over 50 years, entering service with PanAm in January 1970. It was one of the most popular wide-body jets with about 1,571 orders, and its distinct upper-deck hump made it instantly recognizable among travellers. The 747 will continue to fly for a while yet, but its time is clearly coming to an end.