back to article Boeing's 747 to fly off the production line for the foreseeable future

Boeing's iconic 747 looks safe for a few years yet, thanks in part to the internet. Last year Boeing warned that slow sales and unsold aircraft meant it was “reasonably possible that we could decide to end production of the 747”, a foreshadowing that saddened aviation enthusiasts who honour the aircraft's role as a harbinger …

"signed up for fourteen 747-8 freighters in late October 2017, with options for another fourteen in the future."

Sooooo, do you mean 2016 or they took the option for the future 14 Jumbos?

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(Written by Reg staff)

I mean I made a tyop. They order was announced in Oct 2016. I typed 2017. Because stooipd

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Is UPS really that clueless?

Obviously not. Personally I very much doubt that any freight companies (particularly large ones like UPS) rely on "the Internet" as their source of information on manufacturers' production plans.

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Re: Is UPS really that clueless?

No, they are saying (or trying to) that the need to shift freight around is being driven by internet shopping - hence the need for more jumbos.

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Coat

"CEO Dennis Muilenburg "

So rich he can buy his own county?

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Re: even if its role has changed to a cargo-hauler.

Errrrr it always was a cargo-hauler.

That's why it's got an upstairs, it allowed the cargo version to have an opening front end which is normally where those pesky pilots sit and mess up the easy loading and unloading. By moving the flight deck up above the loading doors they could solve that problem, which then gave the distinctive hump and room for a few (later more and more) seats up top.

Personally my favourite place to fly is on the upper deck, I've been lucky enough to be upgraded to first class a few time by BA but I still think the upstairs window club seats are better with that row of lockers all down the side which are a convenient place to stuff all your s*&t and spread out your junk during the flight.

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Re: even if its role has changed to a cargo-hauler.

I entirely agree. Some carriers (historically) put economy class seats upstairs in the days of 3 classes of travel - I think (from memory) Cathay when they introduced the 'Big Top' 747-300 - arguing that boarding and (crucially) disembarking was speedier from downstairs.

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JC_

Re: even if its role has changed to a cargo-hauler.

"Cathay [argued] that boarding and (crucially) disembarking was speedier from downstairs"

And it avoids the awkwardness of parading down the stairs past the queue of economy-class passengers being held back for your convenience.

(Excruciating when you're only up there because your wife works for an airline and the tickets are almost free.)

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Re: even if its role has changed to a cargo-hauler.

"(Excruciating when you're only up there because your wife works for an airline and the tickets are almost free.)"

I'd think that was extra reason to laugh at the proles...

Then again, I am known to be a bit of a bastard at times. And I've never flown anything other than "tuna in a can" class...

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Re: "tuna in a can"

Flaky chunks?

Shirley you mean sardines?

Did I read somewhere that Boeing was really developing a supersonic passenger aircraft (early concept had mad swing wings which make sense on a smaller plane), but abandoned it and transferred as much development as possible into the 747 development?

It's certainly been a successful design. What it needs is an upgrade to use a General Dynamics fusion engine.

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Trollface

Re: even if its role has changed to a cargo-hauler.

"(Excruciating when you're only up there because your wife works for an airline and the tickets are almost free.)"

Well if you don't like it maybe I could go in your place next time? Don't worry I'll take good care of your wife :)

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JC_

Re: even if its role has changed to a cargo-hauler.

Ha, you'll have to pay for her ticket as she recently changed industries - much better pay, but no staff tickets anymore, sadly :)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: even if its role has changed to a cargo-hauler.

"... and spread out your junk during the flight."

I think you'd get arrested for that even in 1st class.

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Pint

Re: even if its role has changed to a cargo-hauler.

@Dazed and Confused

A few years ago on the Australia run, I found that the upper deck business class had a bar. From that time on that's why I always tried to book upstairs. The newer marks just don't quite cut it, even though the beds may be better.

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Re: even if its role has changed to a cargo-hauler.

There is nothing wrong with hauling cargo.

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Re: even if its role has changed to a cargo-hauler.

I rode KLM to South Africa on a 747 in business class which was in the lower nose...they brought drinks to my chair i preffered that while watching movies on the like 19 inch screen. I wish I still worked for the company that flew us everywhere international on business class :(.

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Re: "tuna in a can"

Yes Boeing did develop an SST (Boeing 2707) however like all things American/Texan it had to be bigger and better than Concorde/Concordski.

With 277 passengers and a range of 4200 miles, it was also why the 747 was principally designed as a freighter and hence the location of the cockpit above the main deck as Boeing was concerned the 747 wouldn't sell. The 2707 died due to rising oil prices, noise etc.

With the 747 in its role of freighter the carry capacity vs. fuel burn becomes an equation the twins cant match for now. I miss them on the passenger service over the Pacific and the 787 sardine cans don't work, trading some extra comfort for 10 across seating..

Just as Concorde was one of a kind, as will be the 747 they both change flight.

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Re: even if its role has changed to a cargo-hauler.

they are all cargo-haulers, just some walks onboard by itself.

Economics beats sentimentality into a soggy crying lump, if 747's cant pay their way, then let them die in peace rather than unnaturally dragging out their lifespan.

I work Fly-IN/Fly-Out, and my particular site mostly uses Fokker F-100s, which, since Fokker shut its doors back in the 90s, means the planes are 20+ years old. they work, and somebody is still making money out of them. Futile to complain about it.

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Re: "tuna in a can"

I flew LH recently in one of their new 747-8s (no, not in a freight can). It was a nice aircraft.

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Re: even if its role has changed to a cargo-hauler.

convenient place to stuff all your s*&t and spread out your junk during the flight.

Don't be spreading out your junk on MY flight...

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I'm sure there's a reason, but why they don't tweak the 747 to be able to give it two engines?

Sell four engine version to freight companies, sell the two engine version to passenger airlines.

Obviously Boeing have thought of this, anybody care to speculate why?

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Changing from four engines to two has a pretty drastic effect on the aerodynamic loading on the wings and consequently the stress throughout the airframe. On top of that you would have to change pretty much all of the internal systems that have any contact with the engines (fuel, bleed air, electrics, etc). And it wouldn't be a simple change as previously you drew, for example, bleed air from all 4 engines, now you would have to take it only from two, which means pipe and pump design changes, as well as recalculating engine uses since you're now taking more bleed air which reduces the power from the engines, which means you probably need bigger enignes, which means you need stronger hardpoints, which means you need to redesign the wings, which means....

You get the Idea. It's just easier to start from scratch. It's also worth mentioning that the 747 was not fully designed in CAD. The 757 was the first Boeing to be fully designed in a CAD system, so a lot of the parts you'd want to redesign would not exist in 3D, so there's a lot of work there to input them in CAD from the old microfiche drawings. So in the end, it just works out cheaper to design from new. It's a pity because it is an iconic aircraft but sometimes it just doesnt make sense to redesign the past...

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JC_

There isn't that much difference in weight for passenger and cargo configurations. I've been off-loaded from a 747 in Hong Kong because the plane was at the weight limit. It left with 5 empty seats and a bunch of unhappy staff on the ground.

Also, the plane still needs to meet the various safety ratings. If an engine is lost during takeoff the plane still has to be capable of safely getting off the ground, which a 747 won't on one engine. It's also an old plane and when it was developed it didn't have the advantage of decades of proven performance that allow modern twin engine planes to be allowed to cross (say) the Pacific.

There were 3 engine concepts for the 747 where the third engine was at the tail, but that's basically a different plane. Five engine 747 configurations do occasionally happen, though.

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Anonymous Coward

Dual engine 747? Not really. But what's available pre-owned?

As others have said, the 747 comes from a different era. Turning it into a dual engine design would be almost starting from scratch, and wouldn't really make engineering or economic sense. It could even be worse than starting from scratch, because of the requirement for integrating with (and certifying with) systems whose characteristics and documentation are probably lost in the mists of time/

What's puzzling me is why it doesn't make sense for UPS to arrange with someone to refurbish and buy/lease (and maybe repurpose from passenger to freight??) some of the cheap very low mileage one careful lady owner 747s that are presumably already available (e.g. in the Mojave desert).

Suggestions?

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Go

Re: Dual engine 747? Not really. But what's available pre-owned?

I can answer that one AC. Whilst it might seem like the new 747's look the same as the old, they really arent, there have been continuing improvements over the years, everthing from winglets, improved avionics and flight control systems, to better engines. The Efficiency of the new747's would be probably more then double that of the old ones. So sure you could grab out one of the old ones, but the costs of getting it up to modern Standards and implementing all the process improvements would cost a packet. Plus there would be the decreased life compared to a new one - the fatigue life of an aircraft is the biggest driver in this, and even one sitting in the middle of a desert, fatigue life is going to suffer a decrease in this just from the wings moving in the wind. In the end, it just makes sense to buy new and avoid all the hassles and potential problems.

For an exmaple of this, you can look at the Royal Australian Navy Super Seasprites, for this they grabbed the airframes from mothballed Seasprites from Mojave and planned to upgrade them to make them into the new package. After blowing a $1 Billion, the Project was eventually cancelled as they had so many problems bringing the old frames up to modern standards it was a complete waste of time and money.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Pre-loved airframes

" 747's [...] continuing improvements over the years, everthing from winglets, improved avionics and flight control systems, to better engines."

All sound stuff - but surely there are a few relatively modern 747s out in the Mojave or similar? Maybe not...

"you can look at the Royal Australian Navy Super Seasprites, "

Not famiiliar with those, but after a bit of reading it sounds like a similar procurement/development mess to the UK's equivalent fiasco with Nimrod AEW replacement. Mind you more recently the F35 demonstrates that unproven new designs can come with snags too. These examples are all miltary craft; I'm struggling to think of similar examples in the civil market (doesn't mean there aren't any).

"In the end, it just makes sense to buy new and avoid all the hassles and potential problems."

That's part of it. I suspect there may also be some behind the scenes financing deals favouring the new aircraft too.

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Not to mention you'd have to recertify a 2 engine 747, probably as a completely new design which would involve upgrading those remaining parts that have legacy certification.

I do vaguely recall there was a version of the 747 that pretty much could climb away on one engine, think it was the 747-200SP that QANTAS had which was a bit shorter than standard. Anyone know for sure?

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Headmaster

"Five engine 747 configurations do occasionally happen, though."

I'm sure you're aware, that extra-engine isn't plumbed in and is the rare example of Quantus strapping a spare engine to take to another aircraft. It's basically external cargo. :-)

Strictly speaking though, all 747's are 5-engined. If you include the APU in the tail. :-D

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Interesting:

https://www.flightradar24.com/blog/how-qantas-ferried-an-engine-on-the-wing-of-a-747/

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Re: Dual engine 747? Not really. But what's available pre-owned?

Most freighters are converted former passenger aircraft. The extent of and cost of the conversion varies from not much through through to many millions, depending on use case and how much of the required work has alredy been done. (For example, the aircraft my or may not already have a reinforced floor or a large freight door.)

You can buy an old aircraft (for example, an early model 747) for next to nothing. Trouble is, it costs a fortune to run, both in maintanence and fuel.

New aircraft, on the other hand, need little mechanical work, carry bigger loads, and are much more fuel efficient. Over time, airframe manufacturers improve the aerodynamics and lower the structural weight (yes, the shiny new model really is better than the old one - something which isn't always the case in the motor car world!) and have newer desigh engines. Jet turbine engines have improved enormously.

So all up, a brand new 747 costs something like half as much to run per freight-kilometre as an old one. Big, cashed-up freight companies like UPS spend the dollars up front in the confdent expectation of saving more than that in the long run.

Note, however, that Boeing are selling a pitifully small handful of 747s now and the production rate has dropped way below what is usually considered economic. The old girl can't go on much longer, it seems.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of airlines are buying twins. A big twin carries almost as much as a 747 and costs much less to build and run. Or, if you are going to shell out serious dollars for a four-engine airliner, why not get a big one? The 747 is only medium-large these days.

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"It's also worth mentioning that the 747 was not fully designed in CAD. The 757 was the first Boeing to be fully designed in a CAD system..."

Interesting, I always assumed they started using CAD sooner. (IIRC, when Lockheed started on the SR-71 the fist thing they did was writing CAD software to do it.)

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A twin engine 747 would pretty much be the Boeing 777 (comparable amount of pax, slightly better range). The market also seems to be moving away from hub and spoke networks and more to point to point traffic, which is why the Airbus A380 sales are going poorly and the 787 is selling like hot cakes. There is little market left for a 4 engine aircraft like the 747 (or larger). Pretty much the only market is freight, which is why pretty much every plane coming off the line now will be a freighter. The jumbo is an iconic plane, but there is a good chance most of those posting in this thread will be alive to witness the last ever commercial flight of a 747.

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4 vs 2

Big twins can haul volume (pax and bags) long distances but not mass (freight).

The 777 has more cargo pod spaces available when fully loaded than the A380, but can only carry about 1/2 to 1/3 the mass in those pods than the A380 can - and that freight capacity is rumoured to be one of the reasons why most airlines don't put more seats on A380s than the 560-odd on most (it frees up more pods full of baggage, for freight instead, which is more profitable than people, and besides they can make a shitton of profit by selling that "wasted" space as ultra-first class accomodation.)

Basically for heavy hauling, big twins have to come down whilst 747s and A380s can go significantly further. Any saving on fuel is eaten by logistic costs on the intermediate points.

Think of it as a Tour Bus vs a truck and Trailer. They have their niches.

Airbus were planning a A380F, but it got postponed indefinitely due to the delays getting the passenger version flying - and the nose design means that a flip-tip isn't possible anyway. The wing is certainly big enough to handle a 100% freight load on 3 decks without impacting range much.

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Re: Dual engine 747? Not really. But what's available pre-owned?

"What's puzzling me is why it doesn't make sense for UPS to arrange with someone to refurbish and buy/lease (and maybe repurpose from passenger to freight??) some of the cheap very low mileage one careful lady owner 747s that are presumably already available (e.g. in the Mojave desert)."

Presumably you mean one of the 747BCF or 747BDSF conversions. Apart from the delivery delays, Passenger to Freight Conversions don't (and can't) have a flip-tip nose, just bigger side doors and a stronger floor on the main deck, which limits the physical size of what you can carry to what fits through those doors.

This picture should give you an idea of the difference: https://iccjet.com/images/stories/aircraft_for_sale/boeing/747-8F/images/BOEING-747-8F-FOR-SALE-PHOTO-5.jpg

I'd say UPS is trying to both minimise turnaround times and be able to take bulkier items that would otherwise require a AN124 (Ruslan) at far lower cost than one of those leviathans (plus there's a large waiting list building up for Ruslan jobs and a permanently long waiting list for use of Airbus Belugas which won't get any shorter when the new generation start flying. The market for bulky transfers is hotting up).

There are very few secondhand 747Fs on the secondhand market, and many of the conversions on offer are at end of airframe life as many airlines held onto their 747-400s for a long time past the usual sell-by date due to the global airline recessions of the last 15 years. Anything based on a 747-100/200/300 is just too expensive to operate, which is pretty much why Evergreen went under.

There's pretty much no such thing as a "one careful lady owner" 747, other than the very few in private ownership as personal yachts. If you have one, it _has_ to be in the air as much as possible as they cost millions per year to remain airworthy even when just sitting on the ground.

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"Changing from four engines to two has a pretty drastic effect on the aerodynamic loading on the wings and consequently the stress throughout the airframe"

Even worse than that , the 2 new engines would be much larger than the 4 current ones and there wouldn't be enough room under the wing to safely accomodate them without completely redesigning the undercarraige or raising the wing.

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Trump says mainly stupid things but questioning the price tag on a Government contract is something a lot more politicians should be doing.

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JC_

Trump wants to use his own planes so that he can make money off it.

Seriously, WTF does Trump know about what is required to build these one-off* planes? Bespoke-anything is expensive, let alone gigantic aircraft, and this is just another stupid populist stunt from the corrupter-in-chief.

(Yeah, okay, there are actually two of them.)

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Actually, it was McCain to successfully question Boeing... but he knows a thing or two about airplanes, unlike Trump.... yet, flying Trump on an old, outdated Air Force One could be a good thing....

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Must have been an interesting meeting.

Trump: The price is ridiculous and I'm shaming you on Twitter

Boeing: Then we will shut down 747 production, layoff the workers and blame you. Plus what are you going to buy to replace Air force one - a Tupolev?

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'Seriously, WTF does Trump know about what is required to build these one-off* planes? Bespoke-anything is expensive, let alone gigantic aircraft, and this is just another stupid populist stunt from the corrupter-in-chief.'

Boeing allegedly made a loss on the last two Air Force one airframes. There's a lot of special requirements including comms fit, power generation etc. that make it more like a silhouette race car than just a modified production aircraft. i.e. it looks like one on the outside but the inside is completely custom.

Westlands had similar problems when they were making the EH-101s for the Marines. Various agencies would turn up and say we want to put x in the aircraft, how heavy is it? they'd ask, classified, how big is it? classified, what power does it need? classified. And then they wonder how the price got out of control...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "on"

> yet, flying Trump on an old, outdated Air Force One could be a good thing....

Yes much better than allowing a politician "in" a plane. :-)

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"flying Trump on an old, outdated Air Force One could be a good thing...."

How short memories are.

The current 747s are still spring chickens. SAM 26000 was in service from 1962 to 1998 and SAM 27000 from 1972 to 1998.

ISTR a large amount of grumbling about the flyaway cost of SAM28000 and SAM29000 back in Reagan/Bush days too. It didn't stop them being built.

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Anonymous Coward

Whose engines?

Anybody know whose engines will be on the new order?

Longtime back, UPS used to be a loyal RR customer, but I lost track.

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Re: Whose engines?

Pretty sure GE won an exclusive for the 747-8 the GEnx-2B67 as if it wasn't exclusive, they would not make enough on the projected sales.

The current VC-25As are based on the 747-200B and probably the lightest used pair in the world,

would probably be ripe for cargo conversion.

4 to 2 and 2 to 4 conversions are possible, see Airbus A340/A330 (same airframe, 4 or 2 engines) the 330s suffer as the wing is reinforced for the 4 engines.

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Simple

Do what car makers do. Create a totally new plane and call it a 747, no one cares that much really.

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Re: Simple

If you think Automotive OEMs create "totally new cars" every time you are sadly mistaken.

90% of changes are cosmetic, 5% tuning, 5% SW.

I'm not saying they don't create new cars, but the volume of parts sharing for many OEMs is quite high.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYYXoy7xbik

ge90-115 engine on one wing.

iirc pylon loading stresses (with single engine powerful enough to replace 2 engines) were too high so its staying 4 engine.

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Anonymous Coward

ge90-115 engine on one wing.

I read a very interesting article - I think on FlightGlobal - written by a crew member on those flights. The available power on either side was so unbalanced that, in allowing for failure of one or more of any the 4 engines at any part of the takeoff roll, each engine's power lever had to be advanced individually on a complicated schedule to make sure the yaw produced by a failure remained controllable.

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Im surprised they tested one that big GE90s are huge, for example the C-5M runs on a detuned CF6 engine that's power is limited from 59K to 50K I believe, but its still 22% more than the original engine providing a 30% shorter takeoff, a 38% higher climb rate, better range, and carries more weight.

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It makes me wonder why they couldn't put a set of detuned GE90s on the wings. They'd solve the noise problem.

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