Boeing 747 set for retirement: Goodbye to the original jumbo jet?
Boeing is to quietly end production of the double-decker 747, according to Bloomberg, more than 50 years after it came into service. More than 1,500 of the planes have been built; at least 450 are still in service.
Long-haul icon to be retired
Over the past five decades, Boeing's double-decker 747 jetliner has helped revolutionize global air travel. The invention of the huge jumbo jet allowed the expansion of giant hub airports, where passengers could easily make long-haul journeys and then connect to regional airports on smaller planes.
Growth impaired by oil crisis
The long-range, wide-body jetliner entered service on January 21, 1970. US airline Pan Am bought 25 planes and got to make the first commercial voyage from New York to London. However, shortly after launch, a severe recession and the 1973 oil crisis put a lid on orders for the jet and several airlines grounded their 747s as they were too costly to fly.
Traveling in style
The 747 was not only praised for its technical innovations, it also stood for glamor. With a lounge serving cocktails, it promised a sleek and relaxed travel experience. At more than 70 meters (230 feet) long and with a wingspan of almost 60 meters, it offered space for between 366 and 550 passengers, depending on how the seats were arranged.
Crashes and hijackings hurt reputation
The jumbo did have its fair share of disasters, including a bomb explosion on Pan Am flight 103 in December 1988 which killed 270 people over the small town of Lockerbie in Scotland. In 1986, a Pan Am jet was hijacked by four Palestinian men and flown to Frankfurt. Pictured above is the wreckage of two 747s, which collided in March 1977 at an airport in Tenerife, killing 583 passengers and crew.
Stretched and reengineered
The latest passenger edition, the 747-8 series, was launched in 2012. The first 8 Intercontinental was delivered to German flag carrier Lufthansa. It can carry 467 passengers in a typical three-class configuration and has a range of 7,730 nautical miles (14,310 kilometers). The series is also available in variants for government and military use, including Air Force One for the US president.
Now a flying dinosaur
Like the even bigger Airbus A380 (in the foreground), the 747 no longer meets the economic requirements of airlines that prefer long-haul, dual-engine aircraft such as the A350 or the Boeing 777 and 787. In the past year, there were only 20 or so outstanding orders for the 747, all of them for freight carriers.