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Boeing’s 747-8 Reaches 100 Deliveries as Sales Wind Down

Boeing’s 747-8 Reaches 100 Deliveries as Sales Wind Down – The Street


The Boeing (BAGet Report) 747-8 has followed an unusual development path. The aircraft’s cargo version came ahead of the passenger version, the first delivery in 2011 was to Luxembourg’s CargoLux, and even today cargo accounts for the majority of the limited sales the aircraft has seen.

Boeing’s 747-8 - ACA World“Normally, you build a lot of passenger planes and then you can also support a freighter program with one or two sales a month,” said Bob Dahl, managing director of Seattle air freight consulting firm Air Cargo Management Group.

“If you have to live totally on the freighter sales, that can be a challenge,” Dahl said. “When you come down to having a program with one sale a month, that’s not a very profitable undertaking.”

Much of the world views the 747-8 as representing the tail end of the 747 program. It’s one of the most successful programs ever but one that is now long in the tooth given not only more than 1,500 deliveries but also the development of the Airbus A340, which can fly longer trips; the Boeing 777, which is more fuel-efficient; and the A380, which can carry more passengers.

Recall that the first 747 was delivered in 1970 to then-greatest airline, Pan Am, and christened by then-First Lady Pat Nixon, as just a few signs that the world has changed somewhat dramatically.

Richard Aboulafia, aviation analyst at the Teal Group, said the 747 is in its “death throes” because “nobody wants a quadjet {four-engine airplane} anymore.”

Development of the Boeing 777-9 combined with weak cargo growth, the availability of both twin-engine alternatives and used four-engine aircraft all hurt demand for the 747-8. “It can’t survive as a niche cargo aircraft much beyond 2020,” Aboulafia said.

Boeing has said it will slow 747 production from 1.3 jets per month today to just one jet per month in March. That comes at a time, Aboulafia said, “when widebodies have never been more popular.”

Last week, Boeing delivered two 747-8 freighters to the Russian carrier AirBridge Cargo Airlines. Buried in the sales announcement was the statistic that one of the two new freighters delivered to Air Bridge was the 100th 747-8 delivered by Boeing.

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