back to article Boeing just about gives up on the 747

Boeing will reduce the number of 747s it makes to just one every two months, citing a collapse in demand for the iconic aircraft. The company previously announced plans to slow production from 1.3 jets a month to just one a month, with the new and lower production rate expected to kick in from March. Now the company says it …

  1. chivo243 Silver badge
    Unhappy

    So long old friend

    I'll be sorry to see them go, my first flight was on a 747 in 1970. O'Hare to LAX. That was in the days where the child flyer was spoiled. I got gold pilots wings, playing cards the whole shebang. I miss those days of flying

    1. Chris Miller

      Re: So long old friend

      They'll be around for decades - I still see 30 year old 747 Classics overflying the UK on cargo flights between US and Europe (Kalitta Air).

      1. The First Dave

        Re: So long old friend

        But part of the reason that old 747's are still flying is because they are still building new ones, and hence spare parts tend to be easy to find and cheap to buy...

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: So long old friend

          Spares are easy to find because there are so many old ones in the boneyards.

          It's worth going to Tucson simply to see the military and civilian stuff laid out over the desert there.

      2. Stuart 22

        Re: So long old friend

        Taking bets on which will be last really iconic plane to end commercial passenger service:

        Boeing 747 (entered service 1970, production ended ?)

        Douglas DC-3 (entered service 1936, production ended 1945)

        Re: Airforce 1 - under heavy gunfire I'd rather be in a DC-3. They have a track record. I rather like the story of the Chinese DC-3 who had a wing blown off by a bomb. They stitched on an old DC-2 wing and returned it to service as a DC-2 and a half (with a bit of inbuilt yaw reportedly).

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: So long old friend

          Taking bets on which will be last really iconic plane to end commercial passenger service

          Speaking of iconic planes, I see from the 'pedia that the last DC-10 passenger service ended in 2014. It was as old as the 747, and recognizable for that tail-mounted engine, made famous by the UA232 crash.

        2. Vic

          Re: So long old friend

          Douglas DC-3 (entered service 1936, production ended 1945)

          It's actually rather difficult to get a flight in a DC-3 in the UK at present...

          They were prohibited from passenger flights because of the way the emergency exit works. So whilst we have at least one flying, I can't buy a seat on it...

          AFAICT, the cheapest way to get a flight in one is to go to the Netherlands, If anyone can prove me wrong, I'd be very grateful :-)

          Vic.

      3. LesC
        Black Helicopters

        Re: So long old friend

        The very same Kalitta legacy B747 fleet do a good job of blowing stuff away- taxis, light aircraft, school buses, personal tornado shelters..... they've cropped up on Mythbusters.

        There's one does DHL that goes from Liege to Cincinatti most nights that goes over me here in NE England. BTW any pilots in here can apply to jumpseat travel on these old birds.

        Helicopter as there's no 747 icon.

      4. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: So long old friend

        What's grounding the older birds is noise regulations for the most part. There aren't many places left a Classic can fly in or out of anymore - even the cargo hubs are getting pinched on noise grounds.

    2. uncle sjohie

      Re: So long old friend

      I remember those times too. I flew, as 6 year old boy from Amsterdam to Miami with a KLM 747 in 1980, I also got pilot wings, crayons, a lot of attention from the flight attendants, and a nice tour of the cockpit. Nowadays, airplanes ar just flying busses/touringcars, all the romance is gone.

      1. Yag

        Re: "airplanes ar just flying busses/touringcars"

        In the best cases... At worse, it's a flying cattle-car.

        (Well, to be fair, you get what you pay for)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So long old friend

      >That was in the days where the child flyer was spoiled.

      Yep those were the days, I've fond memories of sitting in the captains seat on a BAC1-11 as a 10 year old on my first foreign holiday; fortunately he wasn't called Captain Oveur :)

      A memory that's given me a love of aircraft ever since which sadly kids of today will can't experience.

      My mum was once allowed to sit in the cockpit jump seat on landing in a Balkan Bulgarian Airlines TU-154.

      Thanks a lot Bin laden (sarcasm), well haha you're dead now.

      1. Vinyl-Junkie

        "That was in the days where the child flyer was spoiled"

        It wasn't just children. I didn't fly in anything until I was in my 20s, despite being aviation-mad (and then I started with a DC-3 that even then was more than twice as old as I was). My first jet trip was on a Continental DC-10 in 1985 from Gatwick to Koln. I was travelling with an equally plane mad friend and we asked the cabin crew if there was any chance of being allowed up front. They asked the captain and the reply came back "Sure". We were both allowed up at the same time; and were able to spend about half an hour up there.

        However, the absolute best result was in 1996. I was flying back from Venice with my parents and had donned an aviation themed t-shirt for the flight (not consciously as I recall). We were flying back on an Alitalia MD82 and again I asked if it was possible to visit the cockpit in flight. I was told that once we had reached cruising altitude and the seatbelt signs were turned off I was to summon the stewardess and I would be escorted to the cockpit. I did this and on arrival in the cockpit (not even a door to go through, just a curtain - those were the days!) I was warmly greeted by the two crew . We had a bit of a chat and, having spotted the t-shirt, they quizzed me about my interest in aviation and, having decided that I was neither completely ignorant nor completely obsessive they told me I was welcome to stay unless anyone else asked to come forward. For the rest of the flight I was allowed to sit in the jump seat, with a fantastic view as we crossed the Alps, headed across France and Belgium before turning to cross the English coast, all on a gloriously sunny January day. I was only asked to go back to my seat as we were on finals at Gatwick, some three hours later.

        The only flight I remember with more fondness than that one is my first solo in a C152, some three years later!

        1. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: "That was in the days where the child flyer was spoiled"

          " I was only asked to go back to my seat as we were on finals at Gatwick, some three hours later."

          When I was a lad I visited the cockpit (with my brother) on a short hop from Nice to LHR.

          Whilst we were in there the pilots had a call over the radio - and said "You - pull that seat out, you, sit there. Both of you strap in".

          They put the seatbelt lights on and called for a stewardess (as they were) and sent a message back to our parents that they had been given an short landing window and we'd be stuck there until we'd landed.

          That was fun!

        2. RegGuy1

          Re: "That was in the days where the child flyer was spoiled"

          Ah a 152. Slightly bigger than a 150, but still a tight fit with you and the instructor.

          The performance was much better when he got out and you had the aircraft to yourself! :-)

      2. Quortney Fortensplibe
        Facepalm

        Re: So long old friend

        "...Thanks a lot Bin laden (sarcasm)..."

        Thanks a lot USA and your "hornets nest and poking stick" approach to the Middle East, for giving such mediaeval voodoo peddlers the incentive to fuck things up for the rest of us, in the first place.

        1. Mpeler
          Holmes

          Re: So long old friend

          Nice try. Does the name BALFOUR mean anything to you?

          You lot have been carving up the middle east for far longer than we've even cared. With the same dismal results. Perhaps it's not the "carvers" but rather the "carvees" that are at fault, eh?

          Than again, ravaging hordes have been marching through europe for millenia. Too bad they didn't install fiber-to-the-door on the way.....

          1. KeithR

            Re: So long old friend

            "You lot have been carving up the middle east for far longer than we've even cared. "

            And nobody cared because it didn't result in the apocalyptic worldwide shitstorm that US foreign policy has since caused.

            Not.

            The.

            Same.

            At.

            All...

            1. Mpeler
              FAIL

              Re: So long old friend

              Reminds me of a headline I once saw in a British rag newspaper:

              "Dense fog in Channel, rest of world cut off"...

              Folks like you love to blame, yet do the same.

              1. Chris Parsons

                Re: So long old friend

                I very much doubt you did, unless you're very old indeed. It was originally quoted by Claud Cockburn in his book 'I Claud', published in 1967, but referring to an incident in the 30s.

          2. CliveS
            Unhappy

            Re: So long old friend

            Personally I think you need to point the finger at Colonel Sir Tatton Benvenuto Mark Sykes, 6th Baronet and François Marie Denis Georges-Picot for the fruits of their authorship. And while you're at it you could give Edward Grey, 1st Viscount Grey of Fallodon and Pierre Paul Cambon a slap for putting their signatures to a dodgy agreement which has left lasting consequences for the region.

    4. Known Hero

      Re: So long old friend

      Not a 747 but on a national flight up to Liverpool when I was a small lad, I was allowed to actually turn the plane whilst sitting with the captain!!! It was amazing :D

      I feel rather sad, my boys will never be able to experience that for themselves :(

      1. jeffdyer

        Re: So long old friend

        Why not? Flight "experiences" trips are not expensive. I went up on a Cesna or something for my 40th and flew it around for a while. Nothing to be "sad" about.

        1. Nameless Faceless Computer User

          Re: So long old friend

          Because you can't fly 13 hours non-stop to Asia in a Cessna [Skyhawk]

      2. IsJustabloke Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: So long old friend

        @Known Hero

        My first flight was on a Dan Air, I think it may have been a trident.. Like you I went to the cockpit and was shown how , then allowed to bank the aircraft using the auto pilot controls, I over did it a bit nad teh aircraft banked quite hard.... I got a few "paddington hard stares" on the way back to my seat :D

        even today, some 40 odd years later I still want to go in the cockpit of every aircraft I get on :(

      3. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: So long old friend

        KH related "...when I was a small lad, I was allowed to actually turn the plane..."

        Do that on an Airbus and you might kill everybody on board.

        No arguments, no debates, it's a fact. Ref. Aeroflot Flight 593

        1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

          Aeroflot Flight 593

          Thanks I was trying to find that to cite as a reply to all those blaming Bin Laden for not been allowed in the cockpit anyone. Short summary for those who don't know the story: Captain allows son and daughter to sit in the pilots' seats. Son somehow manages to disable the autopilot. Everybody* dies. One of the more truly horrific aviation stories.

          *73 people according to the supposedly unreliable Wikipedia.

          1. LesC
            Unhappy

            Re: Aeroflot Flight 593

            A few years ago when doing some server work for Canuck outfit IT Telecom out of Halifax. I'd upgraded my Zoom Air flight GLA --> YHZ from cattle class to premium cattle class and ended up right by the cockpit - there were a few pilots from TACA and Buffalo jumpseating up the front, once we were out over the Atlantic the pilot stuck his head out of the cockpit door and invited them in - this was a 757 but it still goes on post 11/9. Im no aeroplane nerd but got a very good look in it's like the Enterprise in there -

            On our 5th anniversary in 1997 we got into the cockpit of some United Embraer from LAX to San Diego as the pilots heard our accents and invited us in. Once SWMBO had finished the lecture trail we ended up in Minneapolis and after a crapload of voluntary work in flood defence we eventually wound up at Brize Norton having bummed a ride on a US National Guard Herc. Made CBS too as we'd both collected suntans in California and we were sandbagging in St. Paul Minneapolis :)

            Changed days now :(

            LC

          2. Alan Johnson

            Re: Aeroflot Flight 593

            Why did anyone down vote this?

            The pilot let his son and daughter have a go at the controls. The son managed to disengage the autopilot and put the plane in what became a steep turn which the pilots could not recover quickly enough and the crash that followed killed everyone. Ironically the investigation decided if the pilots had simply let go of the controls the plane would have successfully recovered itself!

            I like the idea of letting childen and others in the cockpit but everything has a risk. Children or anyone else who is not qualified handling the controls is perhaps not justifiable in terms of the small probability but huge severity of possible consequences.

            1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: Aeroflot Flight 593

              "Why did anyone down vote this?"

              Because there are some employees and/or fanbois of Airbus on these forums.

              Airbus designers made some clearly-dangerous decisions in the conceptual design phase of their cockpit and user interfaces. There have been endless examples.

              Far too many Airbus aircraft were in absolutely perfect condition in the last millisecond before impact. That's clearly indicative and is simply undeniable.

              Other brands of aircraft crash too, but they're typically broken before hitting the ground. There's certainly a clear and indicative distinction.

          3. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: Aeroflot Flight 593

            Yep. And it was (not surprisingly) an Airbus. A310-300 to be specific (according to the 'net).

            Because having one of several autopilot channels silently turn off is the poster child of good UI design; not. Ideally Airbus will start designing Self-Driving Cars, because then people would stop arguing about this point.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Aeroflot Flight 593

              "Because having one of several autopilot channels silently turn off is the poster child of good UI design; not."

              Airbus don't have the monopoly on this. There have been a number of crashes caused over the years by pilots not hearing the "disengage" bong as they accidentally knocked the controls (on all makes)

    5. Michael Habel Silver badge

      Re: So long old friend

      Yeah it was always fun getting a close up look at the Cockpit. I guess they don't do that anymore though. But, yes those were the days!

      1. Valerion

        Re: So long old friend

        Yeah it was always fun getting a close up look at the Cockpit. I guess they don't do that anymore though. But, yes those were the days!

        Capt. Oveur: Have you ever been in a plane cockpit before?

        Joey: No, sir.

        Capt. Oveur: Ever seen a grown man naked?

        1. el_oscuro

          Re: So long old friend

          But that was in a 707 with turboprops!

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. paulf Silver badge

        Re: So long old friend

        It is still possible, but not when in flight due to the whole locked cockpit door 9/11 stuff. I got a close up look at the cockpit of a 747 (Virgin Atlantic) before a LHR to SFO flight in 2012. A polite request to the cabin crew led to permission from the captain. Me and TOH had a good look around and a chat with the crew on the flight deck but that was while we were still at the terminal gate. Once they started getting ready to depart we had to clear off. The main thing I remember of that flight was sitting at the bar, at the foot of the stairs, drinking my way through the bottle of port they had. Every time one of the cabin crew went past they topped up my glass - hic!

    6. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: So long old friend

      I think my first 747 flight was in 1986, on a British Caledonian Boston-to-London trip. On the return flight a few weeks later, we got bumped from Business to First Class seats on the upper deck. I was a callow youth, and climbing that spiral staircase was an experience I'll never forget. There was a real sense of the glory days of commercial passenger flight to it.

      I've made more than a few trips to the UK since, on United in 777s, and to be honest it's not terrible, even in coach, as long as you're not too large for the admittedly cramped seating. (On my most recent trip I actually had both the window and aisle seat. Can't remember the last time before that when I hadn't been on a full aircraft for a long-haul flight.) But it's a far cry from how things used to be.

    7. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: So long old friend

      The 747 was a great plane for its era and a brilliant design for its day. But like all great planes newer technology has made it obsolescent. I fondly remember many a transoceanic flight in that bird.

      You will be missed with the other great planes of long ago.

  2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Interesting

    747s writing on the wall was posted when FAA started approving 3+ hour ratings for 2 engine planes. I am surprised it is still around and has not been replaced by 777 on all routes.

    In fact, I suspect Boeing did some pricing shenanigans here, because A340 was displaced by A330 the moment FAA started approving 3+ h ratings for 2 engine aircraft.

    1. KeithR

      Re: Interesting

      "747s writing on the wall was posted when FAA started approving 3+ hour ratings for 2 engine planes"

      Naaah. The fact is that the A380 is just a much better plane, and it's selling like hot cakes at the expense of the Jumbo.

      1. Morten Bjoernsvik

        Re: Interesting

        "Naaah. The fact is that the A380 is just a much better plane, and it's selling like hot cakes at the expense of the Jumbo."

        Ehh. Not exactly. A380 is a larger but much more expensive plane. Only 2 where ordered in 2015. Airbus will never reach profitability on that model. The future belongs to the two engines models.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Interesting

      > 747s writing on the wall was posted when FAA started approving 3+ hour ratings for 2 engine planes.

      Could you please explain what on Earth are "3+ hour ratings for 2 engine planes"? I am a pilot and I have no idea what you're talking about.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Interesting

        "I am a pilot and I have no idea what you're talking about."

        Go read about ETOPS and come back if you still have questions?

        ETOPS certification is about certifying planes for use on routes where they might be a long way from the nearest diversion airport.

        Here's a starter for readers who don't want the full thing:

        "In 1988, the FAA amended the ETOPS regulation to allow the extension to a 180-minute diversion period subject to stringent technical and operational qualifications. This made 95% of the Earth's surface available to ETOPS flights[citation needed]. The first such flight was conducted in 1989. This set of regulations was subsequently adopted by the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA), ICAO and other regulatory bodies.

        In this manner the Boeing 737, 757 and 767 series and the Airbus A300-600, A310, A320 and A330 series were approved for ETOPS operations. The success of ETOPS aircraft like 767 and 777 made the intercontinental trijets obsolete for passenger use, and ultimately the four-engined Airbus A340. This led Boeing to end the MD-11 program a few years after Boeing's merger with McDonnell Douglas, as well as to scale down the production of its own Boeing 747.

        The cornerstone of the ETOPS approach is the statistics showing that the turbine assembly of a modern jet engine is an inherently reliable component. Engine ancillaries, by contrast, have a lower reliability rating. Therefore an ETOPS-certified engine may be built with duplicate sets of certain ancillaries in order to receive the required reliability rating.

        The North Atlantic airways are the most heavily used oceanic routes in the world. Most North Atlantic airways are covered by ETOPS 120-minute rules, removing the necessity of using 180-minute rules. However, some of the North Atlantic diversion airports are subject to adverse weather conditions making them unavailable for use. As the 180-minute rule is the upper limit, the JAA and FAA have given 15% extension to the 120-minute rules to deal with such contingencies, giving the ETOPS-138 (i.e. 138 minutes), thereby allowing ETOPS flights with such airports closed."

        From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ETOPS

        Hth.

        1. el_oscuro
          Pint

          Re: Interesting

          As a passenger, I really like the idea of more than 2 engines over the ocean. You see, if an engine shits the bed over the pond and your aircraft is only 2 engines, then you are in a precarious situation. It at least 2 hours to get to Iceland, and by running on one engine you have to compensate for thrust reducing efficiency even more. And of course you are running without backups. Should the 2nd engine fail, game over man,

          And it is not like engine failures are rare. Several years ago, an engine failed on a flight my dad was on out of Paris. It wasn't a big deal because it failed while still close to Paris, and it was a 747. The same thing happens in one of these fancy new jets with only 2 engines halfway over the pond and everyone on board would be shitting some bricks.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Interesting

            > You see, if an engine shits the bed over the pond and your aircraft is only 2 engines, then you are in a precarious situation

            It is a calculated risk¹. To put it simply, the probability of a modern engine on a modern airliner shitting itself is much lower than it was the case a few decades ago. On top of that, one is not allowed to stray more than a certain distance² from a suitable landing airfield at any point during the flight, unless strict conditions are met related to aircraft capabilities, maintenance procedures, and demonstrated reliability (by keeping track of failures on individual aircraft and your fleet as a whole). Those conditions are assessed prior to each flight on which this exemption may be granted. If the conditions are not met either a different (longer) route that keeps you closer to suitable airfields is taken, or the flight is cancelled³. This is the ETOPS (extended operations) thing being talked about above.

            Besides, at the end of the day it is the wings that make an aircraft fly. While not exactly a minor problem, losing all engines in flight is an entirely survivable proposition: Gimli glider, the splash-down in New York, and a dual engine failure (due to bird ingestion) by a Ryanair on final at Fiumiccino come to mind. On the other hand, ceasing to fly even with all engines turning is how days are ruined, e.g., AF447.

            ¹ One of a very large number thereof in engineering.

            ² Which distance (60 mins flight time with one engine inop) was decided upon in the days of piston engines, which are notoriously unreliable in comparison with turbofans. That's why back in the day we had magnificent machines with literally ten or more engines... only a few of which lasted an entire flight.

            ³ Although rare, it is also possible for an aircraft to lose extended operations capability while in flight. If this occurs before the extended operations part of the flight then a diversion must be made (in theory I suppose the flight could be replanned on a different route that avoids the ETOPS part, but it is unlikely that enough fuel will be carried to allow this option).

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Interesting

          > Go read about ETOPS and come back if you still have questions?

          I am familiar enough with ETOPS (never operated under, though) to not need to refer to Wackypedia. A "3+ hour rating" is a rather unconventional way to refer to them, to say the least.

      2. UncleZoot

        Re: Interesting

        ETOPS, Extended twin engine operation over water. They now are operating for 240 minutes from land.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Interesting

      Big twins have taken over the pax market, but quads have both higher tonnage ratings and can go much further at MTOW than the twins (taking a 777 up to MTOW with cargo cuts the range by ~25% over a pax-only load)

      The primary reason the 747 isn't selling as freighters because nothing is selling new as freighters - even the A380F hasn't sold any units - You can buy an old 747-400 and convert it to freighter for less than half the price of a new 747-8F, so it's not hard to see why Evergreen is doing a roaring trade in doing just that.

      This might change in future but in the current climate of cheap oil and a world economy which has been fragile for the last 16-17 years, noone in their right mind is going to take a new plane when it has to fly for over a decade to make up the cost difference over a conversion.

  3. Joe Werner
    Pint

    Jumbo Jet

    I too am sad to see that happen, I have travelled a lot to the US in recent years and the last year or three carriers have all changed over to the Airbus 380, or so it seems...

    I raise my glass to one of the most iconic planes of our time!

  4. toughluck

    I flew on the 747-8i with Lufthansa in November on the way to US and on a 747-400 on the way back. I'm sure the 748 is a great plane. But to be honest, 744 is just about the same in terms of comfort. I'm sure the economy with the new engines is better, but I suppose it's not enough to offset the cost of the plane. I didn't notice any advantage in terms of cabin noise on 748, which was touted as one of the key advantages. Next time, I hope I can pick an A340-600 to fly on the way there and a 787 on the way back, but air travel on widebodies is just as underwhelming as it was on relatively short trips I made before (other than the ability to actualy stand up).

    1. phy445

      Boeing don't seem to get cabin noise. Their machines are so much noisier than the Airbus equivalents. For me the noise is one of the worst aspects of long haul flying.

      1. Vinyl-Junkie

        "Boeing don't seem to get cabin noise. Their machines are so much noisier than the Airbus equivalents"

        In fact even when operated by the same airline the A340 is streets ahead of the 747 in terms of passenger comfort. I flew to the States on Virgin some years ago, just as they had started to operate the A340. Had a 747 on the way out, noisy, cramped (I'm not a small bloke), and by the time it got to LAX I couldn't get off it fast enough.

        Return trip was on an A340 and I had not trouble sleeping for most of the flight (which I found impossible on the 747). Comparatively spacious and far quieter. On my next trip I had A340s both ways, as a result of which most of the trip was spent having a nice snooze, by far the best way of occupying oneself on a transatlantic flight!

        1. Halfmad

          Seat configuration is more or less down to the airline when ordering, not Boeing from what I understand.

        2. UncleZoot

          Neither Airbus or Boeing sets the cabin configuration on what you're flying.

          Airlines decide what pitch the decide for seating.

          Having worked in this industry for 30 years, each generation of aircraft is more fuel efficient than the last and quieter.

          ETOPS requirements are constantly changing. The 180 ETOPS was fought for to get twins allowed to fly more direct routes. Now there are 210 and 240 minute allowances.

          On to the Airbus A380. The vast majority of A380 flights run through hubs in the middle east where fuel costs weren't a big deal, as the operators are state sponsored. Time to board and disembark are greater. Since they're "new" the features are going to appear nicer than than a 15 year old plane.

      2. bazza Silver badge

        Boeing don't seem to get cabin noise.

        Well, they sort of do. The 787 can be quiet if the airline buys the optional and heavy sound proofing. A lot of them don't fit it in economy so the 787 ends up being so-so. It doesn't help them when they squeeze 9 seats into each row...

        AFAIK Airbus don't give the airlines the option, sound proofing is standard, or is easier for the airlines to accept. They've also been better at optimising fuselage dimensions vs seats per row (A350 is 8 inches wide than the 787). You get the bit more space and a quieter ride.

        With A380 (and A350) operators setting benchmarks for "comfort" a significant number of passengers are making purchasing choices accordingly.

        For those airlines, eventual replacement of the A380 might be difficult. The new 777x isn't looking so spacious, and the walls are thinner (= noisier?). Both A350 and 777x can't carry anywhere near as many passengers. Boeing aren't doing another VLA. If no one orders A380s it will go out of production.

        They won't want to get a noisier or more cramped replacement... Buying more A380s whilst they can might be a major factor in how orders are placed in the near future.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          It's looking like A380 production might end before 747s

          The only customers are the few Gulf hub airlines and they have bought their fleet.

          The US operators are flying smaller twin engines on more diverse routes so the need for an A380 because all the slots were full didn't happen

          The idea that china would use the A380 for domestic hops - as a 737 for a billion passengers - turns out that most of china's billions aren't making even Ryanair customer salaries.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "It's looking like A380 production might end before 747s

            The only customers [for the A380] are the few Gulf hub airlines and they have bought their fleet."

            Whilst it's true that the number of customers, orders and deliveries of A380s will never approach the numbers that the 747 achieved, you're somewhat wide of reality:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Airbus_A380_orders_and_deliveries

      3. GitMeMyShootinIrons
        Pint

        "Boeing don't seem to get cabin noise. Their machines are so much noisier than the Airbus equivalents." On Long haul, I'd agree. On the shorthaul though, I tend to find the 737 tends to be better than the A320 family. They do make some rather loud groans when they move flaps and landing gear. I'm reliably informed that heavy consumption of beer suppresses the noise experience...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          > They do make some rather loud groans when they move flaps and landing gear

          That would be the power transfer unit, the job of which is to bring one hydraulic system (back) to working pressure by scavenging power from another. It's nothing to do with moving flaps or gear. On the A320 it is most commonly heard during one-engine taxiing.

      4. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Noise

        Ditto - the A340 is much quieter than any model 747 and the A380 is the only aircraft I've been able to have a conversation onboard without having to raise my voice (in fact, the only aircraft I'd ever consider earplugs to be almost superfluous in)

        They're also the quietest aircraft flying over my house (not far from heathrow) on the way in or out.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I just flew on a new Lufthansa 747-8 from NYC to FRA.

      What I noticed was that the seating in cattle class (where I was for the low, low price of $1000 RT) was now ten across compared to the old 9 across.

      And that when the person in front of me reclined their seat I couldn't even read a book because I could not get the page far enough away to focus on it. I also couldn't eat my meal because I couldn't work out how to manouevre a fork to my mouth in that tiny space.

      So the airlines not the plane manufacturers are the ones who have made flying shit by just cramming more and more seats into the planes while their passengers have got bigger. And isn't it funny that when oil was $100 a barrel they doubled their prices, but now oil is back to <$30 the prices have stayed the same?

      Doubles all around in the airline boardroom!

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        I just flew on a new Lufthansa 747-8 from NYC to FRA.

        What I noticed was that the seating in cattle class (where I was for the low, low price of $1000 RT) was now ten across compared to the old 9 across.

        All transatlantic 747s are 3-4-3, for as long as I can remember. It's 777s that were 2-5-2, much nicer unless you were stuck in the middle of the 5.

        As for the 380's, maybe nice planes in general, but BA have fitted really crap seats. On LHR-SFO my backside was numb after two hours, there's no padding in the seats, and the headrest doesn't have the folding 'wings' that 747's had. It will be very interesting to try the new LHR-SJC service that BA are starting in May, with 787's. Smaller planes, more comfort, shorter immigration queues.

  5. graeme leggett

    747 started out as cargo aeroplane, but then they thought how many passengers they could get onboard. Blame, or cheer, Juan Trippe.

    1. Alister Silver badge

      747 started out as cargo aeroplane, but then they thought how many passengers they could get onboard. Blame, or cheer, Juan Trippe.

      Sorry Graeme but this just isn't true.

      In the early 1960s Juan Trippe was pushing Boeing to provide him with a passenger aircraft with twice the capacity of the 707. Joe Sutter was transferred from work on the 737 to design a passenger aircraft that would fulfil Trippe's wishes.

      However, it is quite true that from the outset the aircraft was designed so that it would be convertible to a cargo aircraft with a nose-loading door, should it be required.

    2. ckm5

      747 was designed specifically for PanAm passenger needs

      Juan Trippe (CEO of PanAm at the time) persuaded Boeing to make the 747 specifically for PanAm's long-haul passenger flights. Boeing never intended to make such a large passenger aircraft and decided to make sure it would work for freight carriers as well, which is why the cockpit is so high up. But it was def. designed for passengers first & foremost.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_747#Airliner_proposal

      1. x 7

        Re: 747 was designed specifically for PanAm passenger needs

        actually.......

        the 747 is based on Boeing's failed contender for the competition which eventually ended up with the US Air Force buying the Lockheed C-5A Galaxy.

        PAN-AM may well have been looking for a new class of commercial aircraft, but without the military R&D for the aborted Boeing strategic freighter, the 747 would never have happened

        In retrospect, losing the contract was the best thing that happened to Boeing: it made them concentrate on the civilian market, with the result they blew the rest of the USA and (minor) UK competition out of the air.

        edit

        As for the nose-high cab, that was there to allow full drive through loading access in the military design, and while the nose loading ramp was removed, the cab wasn't changed

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nearly all jet passenger panes these days look so similar and boring, thank heavens for the A380.

    So goes another icon on a slow march to graveyard to meet with those other icons of the past such as the VC10, Concorde, 707, Tristar, DC10, Comet and all.

    Sigh, no more Vulcan.

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      Windows

      They are still flying B-52s though! I heard something about how those are planned to remain in service into the 2040s? (!!)

      Icon represents old geezer aircraft, still going at it.

      1. x 7

        "They are still flying B-52s though! I heard something about how those are planned to remain in service into the 2040s?"

        which will make them around 80--85 years old on retirement

        1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

          @ x 7 - The B52 enterred service in 1955 with the last ones built about 1962/3. When retired the design will be nearing 100 years old (its a development of the B-47) with the actual airframes being 80+ years. An impressive feat for a subsonic nuclear penetration bomber.

          1. x 7

            @a_yank_lurker

            Yes you're correct, I didn't express myself too clearly. What I meant was the B-52H airframes currently flying will be 80+ years old on retirement. As you correctly say, the actual design dates back another 15 years or so. However none of those earlier model aircraft are now airworthy. Most were scrapped as part of the various arms limitations treaties

    2. JC_

      Nearly all jet passenger panes these days look so similar and boring, thank heavens for the A380.

      The A380 has all the elegance of a beluga whale. It's certainly nice to fly on and is probably the most practical design possible, but no charm at all.

      1. x 7

        have you tried googling for "Airbus Beluga"?

        then you'll know what a flying whale really looks like.......much worse than any A3XX aircraft

        1. KeithR

          "much worse than any A3XX aircraft"

          It IS an A3xx aircraft - it's the A300-600ST.

          1. x 7

            "It IS an A3xx aircraft - it's the A300-600ST"

            yeah I know.......I should have said "normal" A3xx

            I was waiting to see who was going to bite

  7. Wam

    Twin engined planes too risky for the president, but ok for us expendable mortals.

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      I think that's something to do with a USAF requirement for Air Force 1 to be able to depart with one engine broken (possibly by gunfire) lose another during the take-off roll and still fly away. It's very hard to get a twin engined aircraft to do that.

      As an aside I don't think a twin airliner has ever been lost due to multiple engine failures from techinal causes. Running out of fuel or hitting geese yes but you wouldn't be any better off in a four engined plane for the former and the latter would probably be marginal just after take-off in a fully laden airliner.

      1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        "...Running out of fuel or hitting geese..."

        Plenty of Canadian content in that.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gimli_Glider = Canada

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_Transat_Flight_236 = Canada

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_Airways_Flight_1549 = Canadian Geese

        All ended rather well, considering.

    2. heenow

      Twins are the most powerful.

      Actually, twin engined aircraft are the most powerful of all. This is because the FAA requires a multi-engine aircraft taking off to become airborne and fly safely after the loss of one engine. Doing the simple math, with 100% used as the amount of thrust required to achieve liftoff and fly safely (use any percentage you want), it works out as follows:

      2-engines; each engine needs 100%.

      3-engines; each engine needs 50%.

      4-engines; each engine needs 33.3%.

      Thus a twin normally takes off with twice the thrust required, the rest far behind. For fuel savings, they rarely take off with both engines at max thrust, however. 747s normally take off at or near full thrust, hurting fuel economy. And the 380 is in the same boat...poor sales for the same reason.

      1. bazza Silver badge

        Re: Twins are the most powerful.

        Actually, twin engined aircraft are the most powerful of all. This is because the FAA requires a multi-engine aircraft taking off to become airborne and fly safely after the loss of one engine. Doing the simple math, with 100% used as the amount of thrust required to achieve liftoff and fly safely (use any percentage you want), it works out as follows:

        The consequences for a twin is that most of the time it is flying two massively overpowered engines at a fraction of their max output during the cruise. That's not necessarily as fuel efficient as 4 smaller engines working "harder" for more of the time.

        Leeham News did a good analysis of the very complicated trade offs you have to do to choose. One of the big factors traditionally was less maintenance man power hours for twins, but nowadays it's not so clear cut. Those enormous engines take a lot of looking after.

        1. heenow

          Re: Twins are the most powerful.

          These are good points you have raised.

          Massive engines used on twins are rarely if ever used at maximum thrust because they don't need to be. That reduces wear and tear significantly. However, I'm sure they are expensive to overhaul, but not necessarily more expensive than any other engine.

          Secondly, I don't know how all of this third-party analysis (i.e. Leeham News) gets around the fact that four-engine airplanes are not selling, regardless of manufacturer. The carriers do cost analysis to the penny, and they make the call.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Twins are the most powerful.

          The consequences for a twin is that most of the time it is flying two massively overpowered engines at a fraction of their max output

          It had an upside, though, takeoff's in 757s were impressive. It only needed 80% thrust normally, but if the pilot got permisison to use 100% for weather or similar reasons you really noticed that kick in the back :)

          1. bazza Silver badge

            Re: Twins are the most powerful.

            It had an upside, though, takeoff's in 757s were impressive. It only needed 80% thrust normally, but if the pilot got permisison to use 100% for weather or similar reasons you really noticed that kick in the back :)

            Ah, the majority of 757s ended up with Rolls Royce's engine. The thing is is that RR offered a derated RB211 - it was significantly over powered for the 757. Of course they didn't derate it down to the minimum power required for the aircraft, they made sure that it still had plenty of get-up-and-go.... Frank Borman, the famous astronaut and President of Eastern Airlines said that the 757's RB211s were the finest aero engines ever made.

            The 757 in general was responsible for the development of ETOPS, and laid the foundation for the modern airliner industry. A very significant piece of work indeed.

      2. h4rm0ny
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Twins are the most powerful.

        I'm going to ask a really stupid question here, but how can a two-engine plane fly with only one engine? Wouldn't it go around in circles? Or do they just raise the little wing-rudders on the opposite side to counter-act any spin? Would that even work?

        1. Vinyl-Junkie

          Re: Twins are the most powerful.

          The engines on a twin engine aircraft are relatively close to the fuselage and so if one engine is shut down the yaw factor is not huge and is easily compensated for by applying opposite rudder trim (on the main rudder, the winglets (which is what I presume you mean by "little wing-rudders") are there for vortex management and are not steerable).

          On a modern FBW aircraft this compensation can be automated and will vary automatically with the thrust applied, so is effectively invisible to the pilot.

        2. heenow

          Re: Twins are the most powerful.

          No questions are stupid, and you bring up good points.

          When an engine is lost on any modern airliner or cargo plane, you end up with asymmetric thrust (more on one side than the other), making the aircraft want, as you say, "to go in circles".

          The answer is the massive rudder in the tail; specifically the movable part at the very back of the vertical stabilizer.

          When you press on that rudder (with your feet) to counter the asymmetric thrust, it can make the airplane want to roll. The "little wing rudders" you mention are called ailerons, and they control roll using the yoke or stick.

          Great question!

          1. h4rm0ny
            Pint

            @Vinyl-Junkie & heenow

            Thanks both of you - both great answers. In retrospect, I'm mildly embarrassed I hadn't thought of all that, but then I wouldn't have learned the real details if I had.

            Pint to both of you (and raised for the 747 ;)

            Cheers.

            EDIT: Also Jos who ninja'd my reply. :)

          2. Bluto Nash
            Coffee/keyboard

            Re: Twins are the most powerful.

            OK, who replaced the normal Reg commentard with a reasonable person? This will never do!

          3. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: Twins are the most powerful.

            "...When you press on that rudder (with your feet)..."

            Gently, lest it fall off.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Airlines_Flight_587

            1. Vic

              Re: Twins are the most powerful.

              Gently, lest it fall off.

              It's not so much being gentle, as not sawing from side to side.

              This was taught explicitly when I learnt to fly a couple of years ago - presumably as a result of the incident you mention.

              Vic.

              1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
                Pint

                Re: Twins are the most powerful.

                "...not sawing from side to side."

                It's an Airbus. So they could presumably add a line of code or two to their Fail-By-Wire, sorry I mean Fly-By-Wire system.

                It's not clear how one can reconcile their entire design ethos (computers flying the plane, pilots asking the computers to manoeuvre) with their software then allowing the pilot to 'saw' off the entire tail. There's an obvious design discrepancy there that sticks out like a sore thumb.

                Yes, I'm a bit critical of Airbus. There's a clear pattern in their failures. Too many incidents where one could point at the fly-by-wire software.

                1. Vic

                  Re: Twins are the most powerful.

                  So they could presumably add a line of code or two to their Fail-By-Wire, sorry I mean Fly-By-Wire system.

                  No.

                  Aircraft are not intended to be entirely self-flying; the pilots are supposed to have a modicum of understanding. A pilot doing something stupid will therefore necessarily bring down the aircraft.

                  Airbus have already tried to dumb-down the pilot's role by reducing the roll authority with there is weight on the landing gear. This is a mistake, IMO - and I'm not the only one that thinks so. It has already led to a wing strike. Airbus refused to return authority to the pilot - they altered the manual to emphasise the feature instead.

                  It's not clear how one can reconcile their entire design ethos (computers flying the plane

                  That's not Airbus' design ethos; it is your misrepresentation of what they are doing. If you persist in believing it, you will not understand any of Airbus' decisions, much as if I persisted in believing in Intelligent Design, I would not understand anything about anything. Self-deception is not a great way to kick off the process of understanding.

                  Too many incidents where one could point at the fly-by-wire software.

                  This is simply not true.

                  Vic.

        3. Jos V

          Re: Twins are the most powerful.

          H4rm0ny. In case of engine failure (or asymmetrical thrust), the rudder (tail) is trimmed out so the nose turns into the direction of the engine with the most thrust.

          It's not the most efficient way of flying, but it keeps you aloft.

        4. Vic

          Re: Twins are the most powerful.

          how can a two-engine plane fly with only one engine? Wouldn't it go around in circles?

          Thrust is asymmetric, but dealing with that is the main bit of a multi-engine rating.

          Once you exceed Vyse ("blue line speed"), there is enough yaw capability from the aircraft aerodynamics that straight flight is possible. Below blue line, you don't want to be airborne...

          Vic.

    3. bazza Silver badge

      With Boeing not designing another 4 engined VLA, the eventual replacement for the upcoming 747-8's they're buying right now could be very expensive, or European (if hell freezes over).

      With so few commercial operators of 747-8's, keeping the president's new aircraft flying for 20+ years could be very expensive... in 10 years time they will possibly be the only examples still flying.

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        @bazza

        "With Boeing not designing another 4 engined VLA, the eventual replacement for the upcoming 747-8's they're buying right now could be very expensive, or European"

        No worries. By that time China will be offering not-too-expensive 4 engined widebodies. Which may or may not be looking somewhat similar.

        1. UncleZoot

          Re: @bazza

          The Chicoms have a piss poor track record for aircraft production. The first one that goes down to a design issue will put an end to COMAC.

          Been there and done that. Chinese design sucks.

      2. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Surely this time you just load up on spares at the time you take delivery to allow for cheaper replacement costs. (and don't call me Shirley) Build that or a guaranteed parts deal into the contract to minimise the cost risk. Oh and Airbus pulled themselves out of the running to replace the VC25A, must have decided it was more hassle than it was worth.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          "Oh and Airbus pulled themselves out of the running to replace the VC25A, must have decided it was more hassle than it was worth."

          Airbus specifically stated that it didn't make economic sense to build 3 custom aircraft in the USA (US-made being a key procurement requirement)

          That leaves the choice of supplier to be Boeing or Boeing. Whether that is a wise choice is something only time will tell.

          1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

            Hm. I've got a hunch they will choose Boeing though.

            Well, so much for the invisible hand...

  8. Shane McCarrick

    It may have life in it yet

    If Boeing can price it very competitively- and oil stays below $30 a barrel for a protracted period of time- there is no reason that modern variants of the 747 can't compete against new comers. The big downside to the 4 engined 747s is their insatiable fuel demands. However- if fuel costs peanuts- its not the issue that it would otherwise be- so the cost of ownership falls back to levels where it is a viable competitor again (providing the list price reflects the fact that the 747 owes nothing to Boeing any longer.......)

    1. BenR

      Re: It may have life in it yet

      Oil would have to stay very low for a very long time in order for the economics to be viable of the life of the airframe if fuel is - in fact - the reason orders have dried up.

      No point ordering a load of 747s now because the oil is cheap, only for the oil price to bounce before the first one is delivered and then o be stuck with them for 25+ years.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It may have life in it yet

      "If Boeing can price it very competitively" (and get some leasing/financing in place for buyers?) ...

      Well, if they have .3 of a plane, as long as they get that to about .75 and make sure it's airworthy to a minimum standard, has coin-in-the-slot toilets and lifejackets (etc), then they could easily ignore anything else at all that helps with passenger comfort and sell them to Michael O'Leary?

    3. Terry Barnes

      Re: It may have life in it yet

      "ere is no reason that modern variants of the 747 can't compete against new comers"

      Except the newer designs will still use less fuel, even if that fuel does cost less. That extra cost means your prices need to be higher than your competitors to cover your costs. That means using one puts you at a competitive disadvantage. Comparison websites and dynamic pricing and all that mean that you only have to be $1 more expensive to lose customers.

  9. TWB

    0.3 of a plane?

    "The company previously announced plans to slow production from 1.3 planes a month to just one a month, with the new and lower capability expected to kick in from March 2016."

    I think I can see where Boeing have been going wrong, making one whole plane and then 0.3 of a plane I suspect is very wasteful and I doubt they get many orders for the 0.3, but I've been wrong before....

    [sorry]

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Re: 0.3 of a plane?

      I think I can see where Boeing have been going wrong, making one whole plane and then 0.3 of a plane I suspect is very wasteful and I doubt they get many orders for the 0.3, but I've been wrong before....

      Ah, but if they make three x 0.3 of a plane but make each one a different third, then they could join them together after every three...

      1. Terry Barnes

        Re: 0.3 of a plane?

        .3 is not a third.

        1. Cuddles Silver badge

          Re: 0.3 of a plane?

          ".3 is not a third."

          The remainder is those bolts you always have left over after assembly, even though you're absolutely sure you followed the instructions perfectly.

        2. 's water music Silver badge

          Re: 0.3 of a plane?

          .3 is not a third.

          Well if you are welding three bits together it is probably close enough. Maybe lose one row of seats or something?

    2. CCCP

      Re: 0.3 of a plane?

      My OCD reacted too. Surely "completing an aircraft every three months" is the better way to phrase it.

      "0.3" pffft.

  10. djstardust Silver badge

    Airbus?

    Seems they have orders for the A380 so Boeing are just uncompetitive in that sector.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Airbus?

      They did start off in a race to beat Airbus to market with a new large design, but it was pulled before it was completed. They claimed that the hub-based model of flying was dead and there would be no demand for large aircraft like the A380...

      1. Yag

        "They claimed that (...) there would be no demand for large aircraft like the A380"

        And the fact that the orders for the A380 are drying up seems to confirm their choice.

        1. SkippyBing Silver badge

          Re: "They claimed that (...) there would be no demand for large aircraft like the A380"

          I read in Flight about a year ago that the A380 had hit break even at something like 180 orders, over a third of which had gone to Emirates, but that they weren't really getting a lot more coming in.

          Actually I've just looked, Emirates now have total orders for 140 out of a world total of 317 firm orders. They've had 69 of the 176 now delivered.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: "They claimed that (...) there would be no demand for large aircraft like the A380"

            "I read in Flight about a year ago that the A380 had hit break even at something like 180 orders"

            Breakeven is expressed in multiple ways, depending which accountant you listen to and how you want to present the numbers.(*)

            ~180 units is the breakeven point for tooling up. The required sales units are a lot higher for the $25B R&D costs (Airbus admits that it may never make that back as it requires over 700 units), but as some of that is applicable to future designs, they can be spread out over a longer period.

            (*) Management/accounting translation: "Profit" = profit. "Profit before taxes" = loss. "Loss" == staggering loss.

        2. KeithR

          Re: "They claimed that (...) there would be no demand for large aircraft like the A380"

          "And the fact that the orders for the A380 are drying up"

          Or not:

          http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-11-08/airbus-chasing-32-a380-orders-can-t-promise-any-at-dubai-show

      2. mathew42
        Pint

        Re: Airbus?

        A very large plane like the A380 has two niche markets:

        1. Long haul flights (e.g. Singapore Airlines & Emirates)

        2. Congested airports (e.g. Heathrow) where access to landing spots is tight and expensive.

        The A380 also has the space for airlines to offer rooms to those who want to splash some cash.

        1. Jason Hindle

          Re: Airbus?

          The A380 is also good for those routes where additional aircraft can't be added, due to regulation. You'll always find a few of them parked up at Johannesburg. It's also a good aircraft for very busy long haul routes (London to Los Angeles or Hong Kong) where the airlines can sell as many premium seats as they can provide.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Airbus?

          1: There are lots of long thin routes across the pacific.

          2: 15 of the world's 20 largest airports are saturated, with that expected to get worse in the next 20 years.

          the A380 is significantly cheaper (about 40%) per seat-mile than the 747s it replaces, but slightly more expensive than a B777 - the difference as above being that you can sell more spaces to those with more money than sense and/or fly heavier cargo below-decks over longer distances.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh well

    Just let the Creationists to it.

    They claim evolution is like the wind creating a 747 in a junk yard...

    Runs away...

  12. MJI Silver badge

    Aircraft manufacturing

    Also importantly, will it be a problem for Rolls Royce?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Aircraft manufacturing

      "Also importantly, will it be a problem for Rolls Royce?"

      RR HQ have bigger things on their mind at the moment, as indicated by five profit warnings in two years or so, and a share price currently half of what it was just over 6 months ago, amongst other things.

      The end of the 747 is barely on their radar.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In 1972 my first flight was in a 747. On that flight everyone had a window seat. Didn't see much of the plane exterior when boarding at Heathrow in the dark via a passenger tunnel. It was a shock when the disembarkation in Jo-burg was via steps to the apron - and the size of the plane, particularly the engine nacelles, was overwhelming.

    The return journey was after the 1973 oil crisis and the plane was packed to the gunwales.

    1. BenR

      the nacelles are surprisingly large! The engines when viewed as part of the larger plane look a bit weedy, but that's just the size of the airframe tricking the eye.

      1. Joe Werner

        Had an apron position upon arrival with a 380 on a trip from the US to Frankfurt (snowstorm, so a bunch of planes were stuck for that time, came in on one of the few slots, they had already announced in the plane we could be diverted to... dunno). Getting out of that bird and then standing close to it helps you appreciate just how big it is. Amazing. It does not look as big when just seeing it from inside the terminal, the general shape is close to that of the smaller Airbus planes...

        1. A. Coatsworth Silver badge
          Happy

          I've never traveled in one of them, but seeing them is awe inspiring! It makes one wonder if they work with Black Magic

          The international airport where I live has to basically paralyze all operations when an A340 lands, so anything bigger than that is out of the question.

          The first time I saw an A380 was when I visited London, last year. They fly ridiculously low over the City*! I think half the pictures I took there were of an A380 flying behind the Shard, or over the Tower Bridge, or seen from the Tower of London, or trying to get one in frame with the HMS Belfast...

          Absolutely beautiful beast!

          *Or are they so big they just *seem* to be flying low? I dunno

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My recollection as an airport worker, is of being parked at the gate as a Singapore airlines 747 came on stand the nose went over the top of the van. The size looking up took my breath away.

  15. Ol'Peculier

    Transatlantic

    Shame to see them phased out. To me, there's something wrong about looking out to the plane that's going to take you over the Atlantic and it only having two engines.

  16. Ol' Grumpy
    Coat

    "The US military still likes quad-engine airliners for reasons of reliability and redundancy and also appreciates the 747-8's hefty airframe as it allows for installation of whatever it is that's required to keep presidents alive in the event of airborne peril"

    I'm up for giving David Cameron a government hang glider ...

    1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    747 downstairs front seats?

    Once upon a time, 1985 probably, I flew to Boston from Dublin/Shannon on an Aer Lingus 747, before routine ETOPS set in and ruined things for the four-engine market.

    At that time the downstairs front seats were available to plebs like me, and due to the curvature at the front, you could actually get a forward view as well as a sideways view.

    Prior to that the only time I'd had a decent forward view was some tiny 6(?)passenger Cessna/Beechcraft/whatever from Birmingham to Leeds and back.

    Clouds look quite interesting as you fly towards them at some hundreds of miles an hour.

    Those were the days?

  18. Ol'Peculier
    Coat

    A bit OT

    Flew from Manchester to Boston, via Shannon - well sort of. We landed, and the tannoy reminded everybody that if they weren't flying to the States, it was best to get off now.

    I was the only one. Talk about a walk of shame as I went down the aisle!

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: A bit OT

      "Talk about a walk of shame as I went down the aisle!"

      You should have muttered something about getting off while you still had chance. Just loud enough to be heard in the aisle seats.

  19. Lord Schwindratzheim

    Air France 747s are no more.

    Last commercial passenger flight landed at CDG last week.

    747 was also my first flight - PAN AM, LHR to JFK in the early 70s. Bissfully unaware of the mechanics of plane design as I was, the sight of the wings flexing on take off certainly grabbbed my attention...

  20. StripeyMiata

    If you are ever in Paris and like aircraft, I can highly recommend visiting Musée de l'Air et de l'space. They have a 747 that is stripped inside so you can see all the working bits, plus a couple of Concordes.

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/stripeymiata/albums/72157655661241545/page6

    1. Peter Simpson 1
      Happy

      Other museums worth a visit if you're in the area:

      - Pima Air and Space, Tucson,Arizona (take the bus tour of The Boneyard if you can)

      - Smithsonian Udvar-Hazy Annex, Chantilly VA ($15 parking, free admission, SR-71 in the lobby)

      - USAF Museum, Dayton OH (free admission - three huge hangars full of good stuff)

      - The Museum of Flight, Boeing, Seattle WA (they have a Connie waiting for restoration)

      1. Vinyl-Junkie

        On that side of the pond I would add:

        - the other half of the Smithsonian Air & Space in central DC,

        - the Museum of Flying at Santa Monica Airport, Los Angeles

        - San Diego Air& Space Museum and its associated restoration hangers at Gillespie Field

        In the UK there are almost too many to mention, many of which have an aircraft in their collection which is the only survivor of the type in the UK, which alone makes them worth a visit. Personally I would list the following as "Must visit":

        - The Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton

        - The RAF Museums at Hendon and Cosford

        - The Imperial War Museum at Duxford

        - The Yorkshire Air Museum at Elvington

        - The Midlands Air Museum at Coventry Airport (especially on a weekend, when you can tour the cockpits of the larger aircraft - sitting in an the pilot's seat of an Argosy is quite an experience).

      2. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Museums

        Can thoroughly recommend RAF Cosford - the only place you can see all three V-bombers together in one place, and one of the very few surviving TSR-2s among a host of other stuff (James May's "Airfix" Spitfire!). Free entry, £2.50 car parking or so. That general area offers quite a lot of whole days out - not too far away you'll find the Severn Valley Railway and the Ironbridge Gorge museums for example.

        Duxford is a lot more expensive, but they have a few more civilian 'planes, some of which you can go inside. Of particular interest to my children was the pre-production Concorde and a Sunderland similar to the ones my father did his National Service on.

        We enjoyed the tiny air museum next to East Midlands airport, and the racing museum at Donnington, just around the corner, is great too.

        I could Bore for Britain on the museums we've visited, but I've never been to a museum with a 747 on show. We do see a lot of BA 747s at the maintenance facility at Cardiff airport though.

        1. Calum Morrison

          Re: Museums

          The air museum at Tillamook, Oregon is well worth a visit if you're in Portland. Housed in a massive ex-naval airship hangar, it's got a great collection of planes inside as well as a Super Guppy outside. And loads of room left over for locals to store RVs, boats etc within the hangar. Massive. Bonus points - you're just down from Astoria where the Goonies was filmed!

        2. Vic

          Re: Museums

          The Boscombe Down Aviation Collection is a rather wonderful place to play with old warbirds.

          Disclosure: I'm a volunteer there.

          Vic.

      3. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        Museums

        "SR-71 in the lobby"

        Well, that's me sold... ***drool***

        1. heenow

          Re: Museums

          That SR-71 at Udvar-Hazy is the one that set the world speed record from New York to London in 1974. It was then displayed at Farnbourough, which was the first time an SR-71 was put on display.

          That same aircraft then flew from London to LA, setting that speed record.

          Finally, that same SR-71 set the world speed record from LA to Washington, DC on its final flight.

          Thank goodness it's preserved for us mere mortals.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Museums

            Funny how it managed that when Concorde was never allowed to fly supersonic over the USA .

            1. bazza Silver badge

              Re: Museums

              Funny how it managed that when Concorde was never allowed to fly supersonic over the USA .

              The SR71 flew a lot higher, and that does a lot to help dissipate the boom before it can hit the ground. They were very careful with their overland routing too. But even then they still could caused problems, and the USAF had to occasionally apologise, promise not to do it again, etc.

              In contrast Concorde operating a daily service would have been a guaranteed problem every day - much worse than the occasional cock up by the military.

              One of the SR71 pilots tells a story about cruising alongside a Concorde, and being waved at by passengers and being toasted with raised champagne glasses, at Mach 2. Surely one of the coolest formation flights ever! Both were astonishing aircraft.

      4. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Pima

        If you visit Pima, make sure to visit the other museum location at the Titan missile silo.

        BOTH are well worth the time.

  21. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. bazza Silver badge

      Re: 747 favourite fact.

      When one of those crashed after take off from Stansted they never found the DU. Must have burnt off in the fire. Nasty stuff...

      1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Re: 747 favourite fact.

        "When one of those crashed after take off from Stansted they never found the DU."

        Never mind, there's lots more in Iraq.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: 747 favourite fact.

      I had a friend that would board the 747, look around and make the statement: "I know the guy who designed this plane and he never could draw worth a crap"... The catch is, he did know the lead designer. Later in the flight, he'd make statements about how his friend thought they could save fuel by making the wings flap much to the consternation of the flight crew and chuckles from some around him.

  22. Alistair Silver badge
    Windows

    747 memories

    I still recall my first flight - Viscount from T.O. to New York in 69. Again, kids were treated like kids.

    Coming back from Morocco, we spent a weekend in Lisbon and caught a flight from Lisbon to (gag) Mirabel. I recall that we were on standby, and ended up with seats on a 747, I believe the Portugese national airline at the time, at the trailing edge of the wing, and my mom stuck me in the window seat. Taking off I'm fairly sure that I terrified a few of the passengers around me by announcing "Look Mom! The wings are flapping". I got the tour of the cockpit and the toys -- Being the age I was at the time I asked endless questions of the flight staff. I also recall that the layover in Mirabel was cold, the interior lights at the time were mercury blue white and I couldn't sleep for the ballast "buzz". The flight was nice but I ended up with a hate on for that airport.

    1. Peter Simpson 1
      Happy

      Re: 747 memories

      Last minute business trip to Israel (board's not working, we need to complete testing -- send the engineer!).

      Boston to JFK at 4:30pm , on a shuttle, get off the shuttle, run to the gate and the gate agent says "you're the last one, and closes the door behind me. I hurry down the jetway, get on the 747, and am treated to the following:

      - an absolutely full plane. one seat open, the middle one, in the middle.

      - my seat is right next to a very attractive young lady... (WIN!)

      - ...who, I notice, is reading her Bible (not so much win)

      - FA is trying to get a woman to take her seat ("I'm not sitting there!")

      - Behind the FA is an older Orthodox gentleman, wide brim hat, earlocks and all, who's trying to pray in the aisle

      I swear, it was like a scene out of Airplane.

      Having worked the entire day, I believe I curled up in my seat, put in a pair of earplugs, and attempted to sleep. I don't remember much more. I spent about 40 hrs in Israel, the board passed the testing without my help, and I got upgraded to Business on the Lufthansa flight back to Boston (a bit surreal, boarding a Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt from Israel, though).

      The really weird part -- I had no trouble entering Israel, but spent 30 minutes being interviewed about why I had been there and what I was doing when trying to leave. Apparently, this step is dispensed with if one brings an "invitation letter", but my trip had been so sudden that this detail had been omitted.

      1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Re: 747 memories

        " but spent 30 minutes being interviewed about why I had been there and what I was doing when trying to leave."

        Unfortunately for a former colleague, he said at this point "I've been visiting the Minister of Defence".

        He spent several hours under armed guard because the Minister was at lunch, but eventually they got hold of him and he said "Why yes, I was talking to Dr. X this morning". He was put on the next plane. Nobody spoke to him or made eye contact and he was treated as if it was somehow his fault. Some Israelis wonder why they are so unpopular abroad, but teaching officials basic PR might be a starting point.

        1. ckm5

          Re: 747 memories

          Similar thing happened to my wife while on a business trip to Israel. Luckily she had been brought to the airport by her best friend, who is an Israeli TV journalist. Apparently they were suspicious of her because she didn't come back to her hotel one night - she stayed at her journalist friend's house...

          I don't know how her journalist friend figured out she was being held on departure, but her friend called her camera crew and stormed into the airport demanding to know why my wife was being held. She was released immediately and barely made her flight.

  23. Kumar2012
    Unhappy

    I was really hoping the 747-8 would take off (pun not intended) it is a beautiful plane, but could see it wasn't doing well from the start. The 400 series was one of my favorites, so have been watching the trickle of sales for the 8 in dismay. At least Lufthansa has bought a bunch and they currently fly the 400s here (Toronto), so hope to see the 8 intercontinental someday in person when they replace the 400s. Korean too has a few but they usually only fly 777s here, so doubt I will see one of theirs. Sadly the age of quad engines just seems to be coming to an end.

  24. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Military/Presidential Airplane

    Perhaps the next Air Force One (after they use up the two 747-8s that they are about to buy) will be a converted military transport aircraft. Just finish the interior to suit POTUS. You can even keep the ramp in the back and drive the limo right out of the garage when you arrive.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    With the global economy in free fall, I'm not surprised...

  26. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Excellent

    A top rate example of why I (still) come to El Reg. In the space of 15 mins I've learned a fair bit about the aircraft industry, historical and current, from a good article and well-written comments from individuals' own experiences.

    Didn't newspapers used to be like this?

  27. x 7

    best flight I ever had was in an early BA 747-100 (GE powered?) coming out of Boston in the teeth of a massive snowstorm. Left something like five hours late and arrived on time. We hit a massive jet stream and rode it all the way, irrespective of what can be best described as a "very challenging" ride.

    On landing the pilot announced "Congratulations - we've just achieved the second-fastest ever subsonic crossing of the Atlantic"

    I don't know if he was going for the record or if he was just in a hurry to get home. But I've never been on an aircraft with so many white-faced silent passengers........

    I knew something was afoot when waiting to load. I asked the gategirl "what happens if the flight is snowed off?" She grinned at me and said "No chance of that. Captain xxxxx ALWAYS flys....."

    1. IJD

      I can beat that -- an American pilot friend who used to fly over regularly and stop over with me arrived several hours early once with a big grin -- he'd had a 200 knot tailwind and had just set the fastest commercial crossing record. We had quite a few beers to celebrate...

      1. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Fastest trans Atlantic

        I thought that record was still held by a VC10 - might have been mentioned on that City in the Sky programme? The ever-reliable Wikipedia seems to confirm it... sort of.

        M.

  28. Old n Slow
    Meh

    Cost v extra safety

    Airline accountants love the 777 over the 744 burning 6 tonnes of fuel an hour compared to 10 tonnes for the 744 and has the same number of business class seats (where they make their money).

    I have a relative who is a commercial pilot and he recalled a comment from a colleague saying the 777 can do the same as the 744, but my relative replied except fly with 2 engines out, he continues to fly 744!

    1. x 7

      Re: Cost v extra safety

      whats the higher probability?

      one engine out of two failing on a modern design?

      or any three out of four failing on an older design?

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        Re: Cost v extra safety

        Well, apparently the Super Constellation had a bit of a reputation being 'the most reliable 3 engine plane in the world' and if modern (jet) engines weren't MUCH more reliable, transatlantic flights would still be a big no-no. However, maintainance is also a big factor.

        1. Citizen99

          Re: Cost v extra safety

          "Well, apparently the Super Constellation had a bit of a reputation being 'the most reliable 3 engine plane in the world' ...

          Those Curtiss-Wright Cyclones were the noisiest that I heard at the time ! A really percussive clatter - did they tend to shake themselves to bits, then ? ;-)

      2. Old n Slow

        Re: Cost v extra safety

        The BA 777 that didn't quite make the end of the Heathrow airport runway in 2008 comes to mind.

        1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Cost v extra safety

          "The BA 777 that didn't quite make the end of the Heathrow airport runway in 2008 comes to mind."

          That was caused by a design fault in the Fuel-Oil Heat Exchanger. A systematic design error in both engines.

          Even if it had a dozen engines, it might well have ended up in exactly the same place.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Airways_Flight_38

          That happened in 2008. In 2007, I and my entire family flew a polar route on a 777. Not sure it was equipped with the same RR engines, but it makes one think.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Cost v extra safety

            "That was caused by a design fault in the Fuel-Oil Heat Exchanger. A systematic design error in both engines."

            Sssshhh. That kind of thing doesn't happen, and if you tell people that it does, you're helping destroy the credibility of the whole regulatory approval process.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Cost v extra safety

              "...destroy the credibility of the whole regulatory approval process."

              One thing that bothers me is the insane assumption that the presently-approved design is magically perfect, and therefore one must spend months jumping through 'Airworthiness' hoops to get an obvious software bug fixed.

              The process delays fixes. Thereby increasing exposure time to known issues.

              There should be a quicker process (for when the risk equation is inverted), obviously. But they must first admit the truth, and they can't seem to do that.

              Human nature, CYA.

              1. Vic

                Re: Cost v extra safety

                One thing that bothers me is the insane assumption that the presently-approved design is magically perfect, and therefore one must spend months jumping through 'Airworthiness' hoops to get an obvious software bug fixed.

                I could not disagree more strongly.

                Aviation is *incredibly* safe - although we hear about every single incident, whether anyone was harmed or not, the number of problematic flights is dwarfed by the number that simply land where thaey are supopsed to, with no drama.

                In the Heathrow 777 incident, there was a fuel blockage. This was one of only two known incidences in over 175,000 flights. The AAIB report found a FOHE blockage in the right engine, but had insufficient data to prove that the same happened to the left engine - indeed, on p.156, the report states that "analysis of the data from the L12 engine testing indicating that a restriction 25 ft or more from the aircraft-to-engine strut interface more closely matched

                the accident flight data than a restriction at the FOHE or LP pump". So even though the FOHE was redesigned to reduce the risk of such a blockage, it is not absolutely certain that that would have prefented the left engine from running out of fuel.

                So the reason for " jumping through 'Airworthiness' hoops" is to attempt to fix the problem, rather than make knee-jerk reactions according to what you *think* might have happened, This was not a software bug - indeed, the only AAIB recommendation pertaining to software is that they want Boeing to buffer less data, so that more is availble to an investigating team.

                The process delays fixes. Thereby increasing exposure time to known issues.

                The process ensures that an accurate response is achieved, meaning that the real cause is addressed, rather than just what someone thought it could be. "Crash early, crash often" can work in software engineering, but you really don't want it in aircraft. If an issue is genuinely "known", all aircraft of the relevant type can be grounded until a solution is found - indeed, the aircraft will often be grounded before the cause is actually discovere, exactly to prevent passengers being exposed to risk.

                But they must first admit the truth, and they can't seem to do that.

                On the contrary, Annex 13 of the Chicago Convention obliges all signatories to conduct air investigations to find the cause of the incident, and not to apporton blame.

                Vic.

  29. naive

    Costs of airplane maintenance

    As a layman, I find it surprising why the costs of airplane maintenance are so high. One would think that with computer aided manufacturing, producing parts for jet engines would be cheaper over the years. The reverse seems true, the US Airforce is complaining that the costs for maintenance of the 707 based airframes are sky rocketing in the last 20 years, overhaul of a single TF33/JT3D seems to cost one million dollar.

    Maybe the market is not working well on the supply side.

    Where I live, a decent house including the land, can be bought for $ 200.000,-, the price for a twin engined 787 jet, is about 1000 of such houses. This does not make any sense to me.

    1. Vic

      Re: Costs of airplane maintenance

      the price for a twin engined 787 jet, is about 1000 of such houses. This does not make any sense to me.

      Go on, then - you try making a near-custom[1] vehicle of that sort of size to aviation requirements within that sort of budget. Remember - the provenance of every single component must be tracked from raw material to end-of-life.

      Youi'll have spent that money before you even think about finding out if it will fly.

      Vic.

      [1] Modern airliners are very low-number production anyway, but as the aircraft are built for a specific customer, they're pretty much custom machines, even if they start with a standard design.

  30. WereWoof

    VC10

    Vickers VC10, Now that was a beautiful aircraft to travel in back in the day (1970). B.O.A.C Junior jet Club member and I still have the FREE cabin bag you got given! Those were the days *sighs* 1st flight was in a 707, also flew in Chalks Seaplanes on Nassau - Miami-Nassau route. That, too, was a wonderful experience.

  31. David Paul Morgan
    Thumb Up

    nostalgia ahoy!

    This reminds me of my first 747 experience.

    I'd won a competition prize-draw for a trip to India.

    1993, I think.

    My mother and I were 'VIP' guests of the Gov. of India tourist board and our Air-India flight was on a very new 747-400.

    The interior surfaces were decorated with a traditional flower design and when the inflight monitor/displays were not in use, they used the same motifs as on-screen wallpaper, which I thought was a nice touch.

    I've been on a few El-Al 747's since and a Heathrow to San Francisco but it's the Air India flight that sticks in my mind.

    1. Vic

      Re: nostalgia ahoy!

      I've been on a few El-Al 747's since

      Please don't mention anything even vaguley Israeli here.

      We'll be buried in DaveDaveDave and genocide before you know it :-(

      Vic.

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