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  • 22

Does the Boeing 747 Have a Future?

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There are few who can make a case against the Boeing 747 as the most majestic and beautiful airliner in the sky. (www.airlinereporter.com) Ещё...

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twkeisling
Tucker Keisling 3
The 747-8F has a very good future ahead of it! However, the 747-8I is getting close to hitting the end of the road. The 777X will be the final nail in the coffin for the 747, in terms of passenger operations. I think the 747 will remain a key player for cargo operations for decades to come.
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 3
If it is true that the unit cost per seat for 747-8 and A380 are the same, then there is a place for the 747, as its' trip cost is lower. It is a more economical option for thick routes with less overhead and and more flexibility in scheduling.

Of course the 787, 777, and A350 will be even lower cost and more flexible, but usually carrying fewer passengers.
Cactus732
Cactus732 2
I know, the A340 was a flop for Airbus.
preacher1
preacher1 2
Actually it was a success for them and is a fine, good looking airplane(did I say that about an Airbus) but the 4 engines just sent the production line to an early grave.
wasclywabbit
John Berry 2
JetMech24
JetMech24 3
Why do people still insist on comparing the 747 to the 380? Thats like comparing a 737 to a 330. The 380 has NO competition, it is in its own class. Boeing decided long ago that they werent even going to bother to compete with it.

The -8F is doing fairly well, but the -8I is a big flop, it didnt hit the numbers advertised and its not worth the operating cost when the airlines can just get 777's instead. Boeing itself is putting an end to the 747 with the 777 and 787, just did it unknowingly.
Cactus732
Cactus732 1
They are still flying the 747s and A340-600s but you're right their days are numbered in favor of the A330 and 787-9
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 1
That was Virgin back when they flew 747s and maybe A340s. But now they have A330s, and have 787s on order.

Fuel is expensive for everyone. (Except for SW back when they hedged their fuel costs with futures contracts. The verdict is still out on Delta's refinery purchase.)

So Virgin is going with best to the lower the feel costs bandwagon.
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 1
In response to:
Anyone notice that the "4 engines 4 long haul"
Cactus732
Cactus732 1
Anyone notice that the "4 engines 4 long haul" is written on an A340-600 cowling.
wopri
Wolfgang Prigge 1
Even with the present 777 it is in competition with the 747 for the number of seats. Air France has a few of their 777-300 configured for holiday destinations with 10 abreast seating in economy and only very few business class and economy+ seats, with a total capacity of 468 passengers. In their 747-400 the total capacity is only 431 seats. I've been a passenger in both planes for overnight transatlantic flights and the difference in comfort is negligible for the economy class. Of course, if you can get a seat on the upper deck of the 747 it's whole different ballgame. For a long time there was no surcharge for the upper cabin.

http://www.seatguru.com/airlines/Air_France/Air_France_Boeing_777-300_E.php

http://www.seatguru.com/airlines/Air_France/Air_France_Boeing_747-400.php
Kawaiipoint2
Kawaiipoint2 1
Sadly it does not.. It is on a running clock. The 777 on the other hand has endless possibilities ahead of it. As well as the 787.
vanstaalduinenj
Jon Van Staalduinen 1
The big fact is that twins can operate safely with 1 engine. Engine failures are rare, especially at cruise, dual engine failure almost impossible. If a malfunction does occurr, such as the air France a330 over the south Atlantic, it is not the engines to blame, but other factors, in that case pilot error
vanstaalduinenj
Jon Van Staalduinen 1
My kids can readily identify a 747, they are aged 5-8. The 747 is an icon. Icons never really die, but do become obsolete.
Keep in mind, 4 engines not just more thirsty, initial cost (engines worth millions each) and the lifetime of maintenance and parts/spares to keep on hand. I reminder my first 747 trip-toronto to las Angeles. 1984. Majestic right down to a visit to the cock pit to see the United pilots.
Now that route is flown by a A320.....times have changed....
sparkie624
sparkie624 1
You get what you pay for... A Bus or a Plane.... I will take the plane... Yes the 747 does have a future, and a good one.
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 1
I wish you were right.

But it's a twin world going forward. There will be limited sales of planes with 4 engines. If 747 gets their cost per seat comparable to A380, they'll get more sales than the bigger plane, or vice versa, lose sales otherwise. But neither will sell a while heck of a lot of them gas guzzlers.

The twin widebodies: 777s, 787s, A350s, and whatever eventually replaces the A330 will all sell in much greater numbers than any 4 engine plane. That's where it makes sense to invest development dollars.

Updating the 747 and adding operational efficiencies, and doing so at a lower cost than creating a whole new 74 from scratch, keeps the icon around for a while longer. The airlines get lower operational costs. That way we can keep seeing them flying. Boeing gets a plane that can sell fir at least a while longer, so that they don't have to kill off their iconic model just yet.

But unless the economics change drastically, it's just postponing the inevitable. If the cost per seat comes down to close to A380, then it's a whole new ball game. But even so, they'll never again sell in the quantities that any of the twins easily get.
Cactus732
Cactus732 1
I just mentioned that because the article is supposed to be about the 747, yet they have posted a picture of an A340.
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 1
The 747s had it too.

Don't worry, the A340 has the same cost disadvantage of having 4 engine just like the 747, and to some extent the A380 does too. Unless something changes drastically with the cost structure, no one will be selling many 4-engined planes for commercial passenger service ever again.
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 1
That's why Boeing chose to spend less to upgrade the 747, rather than build a new one from scratch. Boeing wisely saw that for the foreseeable future the 4-engine market is very limited. The only way to make the 747 profitable, they has to keep development costs under control, while giving customers the best bang for buck in efficiency improvements.
JetMech24
JetMech24 1
You are giving Boeing WAY too much credit.
sparkie624
sparkie624 1
I don't think so... Boeing is the best, and is still today the largest exporter in the US.
JetMech24
JetMech24 1
I am not going to argue whether Boeing or Airbus is better than the other, as I feel neither one really is. But Boeing is not near as intelligent that people like to think they are or they would have saved money and resources from the -8 and put it to better use some where else.
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 1
I would like to say the same thing, as I am bullish on twin engined planes' future, so sympathetic to the sentiment.

But the 747 was their only hedge against only having a portfolio of 2-engine airplanes. Plus, the 747-4 was a bit older than other newer airplanes/versions. The 8i allowed Boeing to introduce efficiencies to 747 and extend its' useful product life.

With the paltry sales numbers, seems a slam dunk to make the case that $$ spent on 8i was a complete waste.

But if it turns out that the newest unit cost determinations show that the 747-8's costs have been brought down to around the A380's unit cost, you'll likely see a flip, with Boeing selling more 747s going forward than Aurbus sells A380s. That alone would be worth the trouble and effort of modernizing modern aviation's most iconic. The other is keeping it around longer than if they hadn't.

So jury' still out. But the 747-8i investment may still turn Ou to be a wise move.
JetMech24
JetMech24 1
The A380 does not matter, it is a seperate class of aircraft, and like I said in a earlier comment, Boeing stated a long time ago that they will not even try to compete with it, they chose to develope the -8's instead. The 747 has to be able to compete with only one aircraft really, and that's the 777, which it will lose everytime, even the -8F's aren't selling any where near what Boeing thought it would. The 747 is dying a slow death and the only thing that Boeing can do to save it, is to stop making 777's and 787's.
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 1
> "The 747 is dying a slow death and the only thing that Boeing can do to save it, is to stop making 777's and 787's."

Agreed. Both 747-8 and A380 are selling below expectations of each respective manufacturer, or they wouldn't invest do much to develop them. Neither will sell very much.

But if Boeing flips the current 747-A380 sales ratio, with only an upgrade instead of a whole new model, then they can feel proud of themselves.

As far as the planes being in different markets (as defined by capacity) goes without saying.

But if you can get A380 economics with the 747's smaller size, you get more flexibility in use of 747 vs A380, and still br able to move lots of passengers with the huge trip cost of the A380, nor any worries about having to fill the A380.

The existence of the 747-8 (at par unit cost) could take away just about every reason fir most airlines to consider owning an A380. Some airlines are already struggling to find routes on which to profitably deploy their A380, with their gargantuan capacity. Except for a small handful of very thick trunk routes (especially with a slot restricted airport at either end) the A380 is struggling to find a justifiable place in airline's schedules.

The 777, and soon also the 787 and A350, will continue to make all 4-engine planes an unnecessary and expensive luxury, including the 747, the A389, and the A340.
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 1
*
But if you can get A380 economics with the 747's smaller size, you get more flexibility in use of 747 vs A380, and still be able to move lots of passengers WITHOUT the huge trip cost of the A380, nor any worries about having to fill the A380.

It becomes a decent alternative to A380 to move large numbers of passengers, until the 777X models begin to be delivered.

777X and A350-1000 will continue to put pressure on both 747 and A380.
R123154
RICK HUGHES 1
A good article on the 747 and i enjoyed reading it.To me the 747 will be around when the 380 isn't.The 747 has proven over and over and over again that it is up to what ever may be facing it in the time period that it operates.New designs and forward thinking by Boeing engineers will keep her lumbering on and carrying people to estinations all over the world and safely at that.You have to remember this,the Airbus 380 is the new kid on the block and still has alot to prove.I like the 380 but I like the 747 more,reason being-track record.

[This poster has been suspended.]

btweston
btweston 1

[This poster has been suspended.]

Cactus732
Cactus732 3
Experts who sent a plane into service with a battery that had the potential to spontaneously combust, nicely done there. No doubt that the 747 is without a doubt one of, if not the greatest, aircraft of all time. However, it has come to the end of it's line, and it's not the A380 that's going to kill it, it's those "aviation experts" Boeing who have designed 3 airplanes (787-10, 777-300ER, and 747-8I) to compete in the same market sector. 747 just can't win that fight as the other 2 are significantly cheaper to operate.
preacher1
preacher1 1
I personally think it will be around for years but more into cargo than pax; and that being said, the biggest drain on pax will be from within, ala the 777 and 787, NOT the 380. Airbus has the same size problems with the 380 that Boeing has had with the 747. To boot, the 380 is not near as flexible, airport wise, as the 747 is. That will keep the 747 going for awhile.
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 1
I read somewhere that the unit cost of operating the 747 was turning out the same as the A380. If true, that should give the 747 a bit of a lift of sales, as it will have a lower trip cost, and is easier to fill, so more flexible to schedule profitably.

But neither will sell in the numbers that the 777 is selling and will sell. The 777 is closest in searing capacity and capabilities, and is most responsible fir the eventual demise of the 747. But if you're going to count the smaller 787, then the A350 is also in the same market.

All three (777, 787, A350) will sell many more planes than either the 747 or A380.

The recent sales numbers for 747 and A380 may invert, but only if the per seat unit cost is the same for both as postulated above. As a smaller and less expensive plane, the 747 would provide carriers more options. (Thst may lead to a super stretch A380. Scary thought. Good money after bad.)
btweston
btweston 1
...You just compared the 747 to the 380. But you can't, so...
Cactus732
Cactus732 2
Actually a 747/A380 comparison is a very good one. Not comparing them in the current market, but the A380 faces the same problems now that the 747-100 faced when it was first introduced. The fact of the matter is, if AIrlines continue to buy the A380, the infrastructure will come, in the same way that it did for the 747. Whether you like it or not the A380 is here to stay, but it will not be the killer of the 747. The 747 will die because of programs like the 787-10X, 777X and A350-1000.
RRKen
Kenneth Schmidt 1
Raymond Loewy or Otto Kuhler they are not.
JENNYJET
JENNIFER JORDAN 0
I found my first experience of jet aircraft with the great B707 and when Airbus created the A340 I thought it a tribute to jet transport as it is a good looking machine. It served well at the time and still does for many airlines that cannot move on to or trust the big twin engined aircraft either due to purchase costs or passenger perception of 4 engines over 2 engines over large oceanic routes.

I personally will never board a B777/A350/B787/B767/B757/A330 if a 4 Engined option is available when booking an Oceanic trip. Ships float whilst airplanes drop if they lose engines in flight and frankly, 4 is always better than 2 in such circumstances. I may be talking rubbish to some of you but this how I feel and my flying days may be coming to and end soon as a result ... ho hum!!
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 2
You'll have some A380, and 747 and A340. Your itinerary choices will just be limited. They'll keep using them during their useful economic life. Then convert them for cargo.

You might have to take a liking to Emirates to fly you between continents. Hope you like stopping in Dubai. You might get to know the place.

Not sure how long that A380 phenomenon will last elsewhere. Some airlines are already struggling to find routes to sustain the A380's capacity, with barely 100 having been delivered.
JENNYJET
JENNIFER JORDAN 1
As much as I like the A380, I fear that Emirates will find themselves with half the world fleet with nothing to replace them with as they begin to age and with no after market for the aircraft and nothing to replace them with. At least with the B747s one can upgrade to the -800s or potentially a -900 ( full upper deck design maybe?) and a healthy second user market for the older versions that airlines can afford to aquire even on a short lease basis etc.

I believe that the A380 was designed in part with airline's desire to operate a 'ocean liner' of the sky rather than a 1000 seat cattle truck for hub - to - hub purposes.
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 1
I like your optimism (747-9). The 747 has been a beautiful iconic bird.

But I am bearish on all 4-engined planes.

They've got to sell some 8's before they ever get planning 9's. (or Airbus has to sell a boat load of A380s). I don't see either happening in large numbers.

We may get a larger new twin 777, with 787 technology, next decade (as engine technology progresses to provide the needed thrust and reliability at that size) to reach further up the capacity ladder. That'll really make 4-engines unattractive economically to the carriers.

Maybe, in a decade or two, we may become capacity constrained at mist major sitports and your 747-9 and a stretched A380 may become not only economically combative, but necessary. But that's not the world we live in today.

Though I can't make any promises to how many engines the future 747-9s and future stretch composite A380s might have. But there will be pressure to go twin if technologically feasible.
preacher1
preacher1 1
After 13 years of a 707, from FE to Captain, it was daylight/dark going to a 757. We didn't get ours until about 86, after the RR engines got ETOPS certified, and I can tell you that regardless of planning and diversion(no biggie over land) that first trip over the pond was a worrisome ride. That is all that me and everybody on board talked about that whole trip but the bird performed flawlessly. Coming back still carried a little anticipation but not near as much as the one going over. 23 years with it until I retired the first time and never swam or diverted due to engine failure.
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 1
Thanks.

That's my point. We've had so many years of reliable twin service, that at some point, ocean crossings won't be an issue anymore. In fact, they aren't. Like you said, we've had decades of twin reliable service.

If we lose one plane someday with decades in between of reliable service, then you can call it luck (or lack thereof). Just hope it's not my flight. But passengers are just not prepared to pay a 20-25% premium on every ticket sold on the off-chance that a plane might be lost during ETOPS, some number of decades later.

The industry can withstand a loss. Just not to the 787. Not now anyways. That could be a fatal blow to the 787, to Boeing, and to innovation in aviation for a good long while.

But, twins are the future. No doubt about it.
JENNYJET
JENNIFER JORDAN 1
Okay Gentlemen we have covered the reliability and economics of the big twins and I agree with the logic of the argument. The paying public will always accept what they are told if the ticket price is low enough but when that rare day comes, and it certainly shall if one accepts the laws of statistics and fate, one of these aircraft fails to arrive because of lack of spare engine capacity what becomes of the economic model of operating high capacity long range aircraft on only two engines? Why indeed did Boeing and Airbus continue with the 4 engine design for the B747-800/Airbus A380 and not for the A350/B787?

Airbus deliberately created the A330/340 series because it served multiple options with the same airframe knowing that the A340 had to do something that the A330 could not at that time of development. So may I ask why, in your opinions, did Airbus create the A380 with 4 relatively small and not two of the giant engines that are now carrying the B787 ( time development excepted ) since the possibilities existed at that time to employ such engines!

May I make it clear that I am not questioning the ultimate reliability of the engines themselves given that they are rather simple machines with few moving mechanical parts to go wrong but can one legislate against failure due to foreign object damage, volcanic clouds, software corruption ( assuming each engine is self supporting ) or even if one simply fell off the wing because the bolts were not secured during ground servicing etc.? Would you suddenly find yourself an a B777 wishing for a B747 again? I certainly would because I shall always trust 4 over 2 or go by boat!
preacher1
preacher1 1
No amount of reliability will ever change your mind but I think the reason for 4 instead of 2 on the 747 or 380 is probably just sheer size of the engine. The twins are here to stay. Like any transport mode and situation in life, there will always be unplanned happenings, be it an airline crash, a train derailment and burning, or an 18 wheeler crashing on a highway somewhere, but just because one does. They generally don't stop making or operating that equipment. They try and establish a cause and try not to repeat it again. Significant crashes lately have been attributed to human error, not a mechanical problem on the equipment. You must make your own choice.
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 1
Why do 4's even exist?

Partly as a hedge against problems with the operation of twins, as you have described. But the reliability is there.

2. I accept that there is a distinct possibility of an event that may require a diversion or may result on a crash. But twins have been operating reliably for decades without a catastrophic incident due to ETOPS.

3. As long as there are decades between events, the public will accept the continued use of twins on oceanic an polar routes.

Why does the A380 have 4 engines?

1. The joke is that Aurbus wanted to guarantee that it would be a financial failure for the manufacturer.

2. But partly, they figured they could get the unit costs down to reasonable comparable figure to smaller efficient twins, by making the thing so large that there'd be room for double the seats on 2 decks.

3. Partly, to allow for even larger versions of a stretch A380. It'd be easier to make 4 smaller engines larger as necessaey, than to make 2 gargantuan record-sized engines even larger. These would be by far the largest engines in commercial aviation.

4. Pushing the envelope of engine design may make the project more expensive, cause delays and have th schedule of plane dictated by the schedule of these new engines.

But if you can get the same economics with half the plane and half the passengers. That means that you've got 2 planes that you can fly more flexibly - to 2 places or at different times, etc.

With the A380, you stuck bringing the second half of the plane with you each time, even if the plane is only half sold or less (instead of serving another location or adding frequency instead).

But the twins are more efficient than A380, even if the A380 could be reliably filled (which is often not the case).

Most people fly on twins and don't have any kind of reaction over the numbers of engines. The reliability stats suggest that we shouldn't worry about getting in either a twin or quad airliner.

We should worry much more about getting into a car on the road. Worrying about the safety characteristics of the road vehicles, one travels in, will have a much greater impact on one's safety, rather than worrying about the statistical possibility of an ETOPS-related crash someday maybe, possibly some number of decades from now.

The rare ETOPS-related incident (even if it were to happen) won't change the economics of the twin, because it won't substantially change the reliability. Twins would still be one of the most reliable forms of transportation in existence, having flown for decades on ETOPS routes without reliability issues.
mickndot53
Mickey McCarthy 0
Well, somehow I think that Boeing didn't spend who knows how many millions just a couple of years ago without due consideration of expecting a nice fat return on those dollars. I expect we'll see some around for 2 more decades.
RRKen
Kenneth Schmidt -4
How is an aircraft beautiful?
preacher1
preacher1 4
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, regardless of what form it is.
sparkie624
sparkie624 1
Amen... And I have seen beholding sites I could not stand to look at...

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