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The Boeing 747 Is Heading For Retirement 345

schwit1 writes: After 45 years of service, Boeing's 747, the world's first jumbo jet, is finally facing retirement as airlines consider more modern planes for their fleets. The article gives a brief but detailed outline of the 747's history, and why passengers and pilots still love it. From the article: "The 747 was America at its proud and uncontaminated best. 'There's no substitute for cubic inches,' American race drivers used to say and the 747 expresses that truth in the air. There is still residual rivalry with the upstart European Airbus. Some Americans, referring to untested new technologies, call it Scarebus. There's an old saying: 'If it ain't Boeing, I ain't going.' A comparison to the European Concorde is illuminating. The supersonic Anglo-French plane was an elite project created for elite passengers to travel in near space with the curvature of the Earth on one hand and a glass of first growth claret on the other. The 747 was mass-market, proletarianising the jet set. It was Coke, not grand cru and it was designed by a man named Joe. Thus, the 747's active life was about twice that of Concorde."
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The Boeing 747 Is Heading For Retirement

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  • Summary sucks (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 21, 2015 @08:20AM (#50360787)

    Typical dicenuts

    • by sycodon ( 149926 )

      Sales in the last 10 years:
      747 - 123
      A380 - 195

      While not the leader I'm not sure you can call that "on the way out".

      • Re:Summary sucks (Score:5, Informative)

        by nedlohs ( 1335013 ) on Friday August 21, 2015 @11:28AM (#50362063)

        Total sales over the last ten years don't seem that relevant to the "heading for retirement" claim. Just like total profits over the last ten years don't mean anything when considering if a company is growing or shrinking.

        You need to see how the numbers are changing since "heading" is a claim about the direction of change not the quantities.

        So taking orders (rather than deliveries since we care about the future) from 2005 through 2014 (2015 isn't done yet) we get - there are negatives because you can cancel:

        747: 43, 72, 21, 3, 2, -1, -1, 1, 12, 0
        380: 20, 7, 23, 9, 4, 32, 19, 9, 42, 13

        To smooth things more for the 747 (380s are too new to bother) the 5 year order totals for 747s starting with 1966-70 and ending with 2010-15 are:

        198, 103, 253, 126, 377, 104, 168, 90, 97, 16

        Sure 2015 isn't over yet, maybe they'll get 80 orders in the next few months (making for their 2nd highest ever year) but that doesn't seem likely. However, orders have clearly plummeted in the last 5 years (lucky you picked 10 to use to hit the bumper year of 2006).

        And yes given those order numbers "on the way out" seems reasonable enough.

        • by sycodon ( 149926 )

          The measure of "reasonable enough" is whether the sales can support the fixed costs required to maintain the line and related infrastructure. That includes part sales, maintenance, refurbishment, etc. These things aren't like toasters.

          Only Boeing knows how long the 747 will continue to be manufactured. And they certainly know better than some hack from the UE who has a hard on for Airbus.

  • Come on editors. I know this site is US centric, but do we really need the flag waving? Aside from anything else it will polarise and divert the debate from the real topic, the 747.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by dywolf ( 2673597 )

      It's called 'context':
      -At the time of the 747's creation AIRBUS was an upstart in the industry.
      -Also at that time, there was debate within the industry as to which vehicle was the way forward: faster or larger. Though it's worth noting that Boeing hedged its bets, and worked on both kinds of design.

      • by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Friday August 21, 2015 @08:57AM (#50361003) Homepage

        One of the major reasons the Concord didn't do very well was that the USA banned it from their airports out of jealousy before it had even flown.

        • by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Friday August 21, 2015 @09:04AM (#50361051)

          the USA banned it from their airports out of jealousy before it had even flown

          .

          Then what was that Concorde-looking plane that landed at my (US) city's international airport back around 1975, belching soot and making a thunderous noise?

          No need for jealousy, when noise, soot, sonic booms and enormous fuel costs do a perfectly good job all by themselves of spiking the economic viability of the Concorde.

          • Concorde was actually banned from all US airports for a short time in the early 1970s, until legal challenges forced various airports to rescind their bans.

            The Boeing 707 was also louder and produced more exhaust smoke than Concorde ever did, and yet no one had issues with them operating at US airports ;)

            • by tekrat ( 242117 ) on Friday August 21, 2015 @10:08AM (#50361433) Homepage Journal

              The early 707s were SCREAMERS. They had a high-pitched whine that made you hold your ears when they flew over. And that was just landings, I can't even imagine take-offs. As a kid, I lived in a place called Rosedale, just a few miles from JFK airport in Queens NYC.

              The Concorde however, was a lower rumble. On landing, they weren't terribly noisy, although you heard them further out and the sound was so distinctive you knew it was coming at least 5 minutes ahead of it being visible. And what a sight! They came in at a high angle of attack, very nose-high, and with the beak of the plane drooped, and the landing gear extended, the plane looked like some kind of bird of prey about to swoop down and grab a mouse off a field.

              It does need to be noted that Concorde flew mostly while turbofans were the norm, so most planes were quieter than it. The 707 flew when most other planes were still prop-driven, and it was only in the first few years of Concorde operation that 707s still flew (they were being phased out); but even by that time, they had made some changes to the engines to make the 707s less screechy.

              That said, every plane had a distinctive engine sound, and if you lived in my area long enough, you could learn to identify which plane was flying over you simply from the sound. It got to the point where I never even had to look up, and I could name every aircraft coming over the house.

              • It does need to be noted that Concorde flew mostly while turbofans were the norm, so most planes were quieter than it. The 707 flew when most other planes were still prop-driven, and it was only in the first few years of Concorde operation that 707s still flew (they were being phased out); but even by that time, they had made some changes to the engines to make the 707s less screechy.

                I think the difference you are trying to highlight there is the turbo-fan vs turbo-jet era's. Both the 707 and Concorde were turbo-jet (Concorde was afterburning, some versions of the 707 had water injection), but the airline industry quickly migrated to more efficient, higher bypass turbo-fans.

                • First run 707-020 and 707-320 intercontinentals were turbojet powered. But the most numerous 707 models (707-320B and 707-320C) were JT3D turbofan powered aircraft. It should also be noted that 707s were still being built in the 90s.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                The Concorde however, was a lower rumble.

                That said, every plane had a distinctive engine sound,

                The distinctive sound of the Concorde was "so loud you can't think".

                I used to work near Hampton Court, which was under the flight path for the Concorde out of Heathrow. It's also quite close, so the plane was on full dry thrust and not very far overhead. Many people in the office stopped work for a few minutes every day to watch it because, frankly, there wasn't any hope of getting any work done.

          • by segedunum ( 883035 ) on Friday August 21, 2015 @09:47AM (#50361297)

            Then what was that Concorde-looking plane that landed at my (US) city's international airport back around 1975, belching soot and making a thunderous noise?

            Possibly a Boeing 707 if you weren't looking. The 747 wasn't exactly quiet with its four engines. They were horrifically loud belchers and their engines simple couldn't compare with Rolls Royce or any of the British based Bristol stuff from that era. Still can't quite frankly.

            The sonic boom and noise stuff was a convenient excuse. It was a source of great embarrassment at the time that US aviation didn't have the aerodynamic expertise to build a supersonic passenger plane. The Soviets undertook a pretty extensive espionage programme at the time which culminated in the Tu-144, but they could never get the delta wing right to the point where the plane just could not generate the required lift. This resulted in the awkward canards you eventually saw on it and the same thinking on the canned XB-70 bomber from that time. Huge numbers of compromises and they just couldn't make it aerodynamically stable. The SR-71 was a flying, leaking fuel tank that couldn't even take off on a full tank, requiring a mid-air refuel shortly after before getting very quickly to its operating altitude. Concorde really was a long, long, long, long, long, long way ahead in what was achieved.

            If Concorde could have got on a larger number of routes then it would have been easily economically viable. Even towards the end of its career it made money and for a lot of people in the world time really is money, and in some cases worth more than the cost. With that more investment would have come, planes would have got larger, cost would have come down and the world would be a very different place.

            • Even towards the end of its career it made money and for a lot of people in the world

              Only if you ignore the astronomical sunken costs that had already been shouldered by British and French taxpayers.

              The US experience with the XB-70 led us to realize that extreme supersonic speeds don't make economic sense even for waging thermonuclear war. So we wisely avoided this supersonic transport boondoggle.

              • by segedunum ( 883035 ) on Friday August 21, 2015 @10:09AM (#50361437)

                Only if you ignore the astronomical sunken costs that had already been shouldered by British and French taxpayers.

                How many trillions of US taxpayer dollars have been sunk into US aviation over the decades......and how far have we actually come? You don't honestly think Boeing isn't subsidised, do you?! I, but I forget, freedom and all that.

                The US experience with the XB-70 led us to realize that extreme supersonic speeds don't make economic sense even for waging thermonuclear war. So we wisely avoided this supersonic transport boondoggle.

                Flying higher and faster was always the right thing to be doing. They just realised they couldn't make it work in the way required.

            • by Nutria ( 679911 )

              It was a source of great embarrassment at the time that US aviation didn't have the aerodynamic expertise to build a supersonic passenger plane.

              To build an SST or build an economical SST?

              Even towards the end of its career it made money

              How much were the tickets, though? Less than a First Class seat on a 747? (Maybe, but I seriously doubt it.)

              And did it make money only because Britain/France had finally written of R&D costs?

              Concorde really was a long, long, long, long, long, long way ahead in what was achieved.

              Then why didn't they ever build a quieter, more fuel-efficient follow-on? If the sonic boom really wasn't all that big of a deal, then enough money could have gotten the regulations changed.

              If Concorde could have got on a larger number of routes then it would have been easily economically viable.

              No one has ever shown me anything to make me believe this assertion.

              in some cases worth more than the cost.

              There just ar

            • by jittles ( 1613415 ) on Friday August 21, 2015 @10:53AM (#50361789)

              The SR-71 was a flying, leaking fuel tank that couldn't even take off on a full tank, requiring a mid-air refuel shortly after before getting very quickly to its operating altitude. Concorde really was a long, long, long, long, long, long way ahead in what was achieved.

              First of all, you are wrong. The SR-71 would start on a low tank of fuel [wikipedia.org] because of weight considerations for the brakes and in the event of an emergency during or immediately after takeoff. Secondly it is not fair to compare the SR-71 and the Concorde at all. The SR-71 didn't leak because the designers were too stupid to build an airplane that didn't leak. If you flew the Concorde at the speeds that you flew an SR-71 it would melt into a pile of scrap or the fuel would explode. The SR-71 leaked fuel because the airframe got so hot at mach 3+ that the airframe expanded drastically. The SR-71 did not leak fuel once it warmed up. It also traveled at over 3 times the speed of the Concorde.

              • First of all, you are wrong. The SR-71 flew at 1.5 times the speed of Concorde, not 3.

              • First of all, you are wrong.

                Oh right.

                The SR-71 would start on a low tank of fuel [wikipedia.org] because of weight considerations...

                Yes, that's why you do it...

                ....for the brakes and in the event of an emergency during or immediately after takeoff.

                You don't compromise the entire operation of an aircraft for the sake of brake issues. That's a technology issue to be solved. Two things dictate take off weight - thrust and lift. Mostly lift. Can I get into the air with this airframe carrying this weight? In the case of Blackbird the answer is no. It would never generate the required amount of lift to get off the ground fully fuelled, and its airframe wouldn't let it either as it would leak so much as to be completely

          • by Plammox ( 717738 )
            There is no substitute for soot and thunderous noise [dailymotion.com]. I thought that would be just the thing for you USians?
        • What? I watched the once-a-week flight into New York from my home at the Jersey Shore. It didn't do well because it was expensive to operate, and it had to slow down over land.

          • by caseih ( 160668 )

            Though what you say is correct, the OP is also right. The US banned overland flights (sonic booms), and restricted the airports it could operate out of. Whether or not these restrictions had any impact on the ability of the Concorde to make or lose money, I cannot say. Certainly those restrictions didn't help.

            As to the demise of the 747, I am pretty sure in the Asian and Pacific markets, the 747 will continue to fly for some time, and freight haulers will continue using the 747 for years to come. The 74

          • What? I watched the once-a-week flight into New York from my home at the Jersey Shore. It didn't do well because it was expensive to operate, and it had to slow down over land.

            pssst - they like to revise history if it can make the US look bad.

        • Banned from flying inland due to the noise. And that is also why Europe never ran it over their own land: too noisy.
        • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Friday August 21, 2015 @10:14AM (#50361479) Homepage Journal

          No they banned it because nobody living under the flight path wanted it flying overhead. I used to live under Concorde's flight path in the UK. I lived in Reading. Thirty miles from Heathrow. I don't even know if it was actually supersonic when it got overhead, I just know it was impossible to hear the TV, the other person on the phone, or hold a conversation with anyone nearby then it did.

          I can tell you, right now, that if it had become the norm and most mid-to-long distance flights were on Concorde, it would have been hell for HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of people.

          It's a good thing it failed. Much as I liked the concept.

      • At the time of the 747s creation, Airbus didn't exist. The 747 project was launched in 1965, Airbus was formed in 1969.

        Boeing developed the 747 passenger variant solely because its main customer asked it to, otherwise it would never have launched it.

      • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Friday August 21, 2015 @09:10AM (#50361079)

        -At the time of the 747's creation AIRBUS was an upstart in the industry.

        That was almost half a century ago. Referring to Airbus as an upstart at this point in time is just dumb. Calling it a "residual rivalry" is equally dumb since the companies are the two biggest and most intense rivals in the industry. It's almost a zero sum game between the two when it comes to getting sales since there are no other meaningful players in the large jet market at this time.

        -Also at that time, there was debate within the industry as to which vehicle was the way forward: faster or larger.

        And larger was the safe bet. We had built jets roughly the size of the 747 15 years before it hit the market. (see the B52 which was built in the early 1950s). The 747 was basically an incremental improvement on already proven technology. The Concorde was a much more risky bet on technology that had never been used in civil aviation.

        The Concorde was an experiment really and it used technology that worked but probably wasn't sufficiently developed at the time. Had the engines been more efficient and able to supercruise [wikipedia.org] the Concorde may have made more economic sense and had follow on aircraft. It served for nearly 30 years anyway so if it failed it didn't fail badly.

    • by hackertourist ( 2202674 ) on Friday August 21, 2015 @08:56AM (#50360993)

      For once, the flag waving is a direct quote from TFA.

    • As someone who is English I understand that Slashdot is US centric at times....however this is an article in a UK publication by a UK author from a UK perceptive. I know no one RTFA to still.

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Because the editors think Americans are ignorant, knee-jerk bigots who'll automatically think anything that takes a gratuitous dig at the French is insightful.

      Oooh, those French think they're so elite, using French names for stuff.

    • by Jon_S ( 15368 )

      That was a quote from the article, not the editors. And the article was written by a Brit, not an American.

      That said, Airbus is no upstart. Not only has it been around a long time, it is a merger of other firms with even longer histories.

    • Come on editors. I know this site is US centric, but do we really need the flag waving? Aside from anything else it will polarise and divert the debate from the real topic, the 747.

      Um, they are waving the British flag, not the U.S. flag. This is an article from the U.K. loudly heralding the retirement of an airplane which Boeing has not announced, as far as i can tell.

  • And carried about a jillion times more people and cargo.

    (In fact, it was *designed* as a cargo plane.)

  • by _merlin ( 160982 ) on Friday August 21, 2015 @08:24AM (#50360805) Homepage Journal

    As a frequent flyer, I'd much rather fly on an Airbus or a 777 than a 747. The 747 is noisy, it vibrates, and it's just generally unrefined. Sure it was an impressive plane several decades ago, when the competition was trijets like the DC10, but the world has moved on. In a way I'll still be kinda sad to see an icon of 20th century aviation go. It's also a far more elegant-looking on the outside than the A380. The A380 is pretty ugly front-on, but the 747 has nice lines.

    • by RogueyWon ( 735973 ) on Friday August 21, 2015 @08:38AM (#50360883) Journal

      It depends which model of the 747 you're on. There's a big difference in terms of noise and vibration between a 747-400 and a 747-800. They may look very similar from outside, but there are massive differences in engines, as well as substantial refinements to the airframe on the later models.

    • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Friday August 21, 2015 @08:43AM (#50360911)

      In a way I'll still be kinda sad to see an icon of 20th century aviation go. It's also a far more elegant-looking on the outside than the A380. The A380 is pretty ugly front-on, but the 747 has nice lines.

      It'll still be around for a while yet, as quite a few are operated by cargo lines as cargo jets. Watching one of those take off is pretty cool though: they rotate about halfway down the runway then stays in that position almost to the end before it gets enough lift to start gaining altitude. Looks like it's doing a wheelie down the runway. And funny you should bring up the A-380. A coworker of mine has promotional material from Boeing back from the 70s/80s where they were trying to push a fully double-decked 747. That design really is hideous no matter who makes it.

  • Jesus H. Christ (Score:4, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday August 21, 2015 @08:24AM (#50360809) Homepage Journal

    'There's no substitute for cubic inches,' American race drivers used to say and the 747 expresses that truth in the air.

    Not only is there a comma missing from that sentence, but it's there's no replacement for displacement. You ignoranus.

    • Re:Jesus H. Christ (Score:5, Informative)

      by msauve ( 701917 ) on Friday August 21, 2015 @09:20AM (#50361149)

      it's there's no replacement for displacement. You ignoranus.

      "There's no substitute for cubic inches," goes at least back to the 1950's, as shown by this Car & Driver article from 1957 [caranddriver.com]. I suspect the one you use came later, and developed as a cute rephrasing. But you're free to try and find a reference dating to before 1957.

      • it's there's no replacement for displacement. You ignoranus.

        "There's no substitute for cubic inches," goes at least back to the 1950's, as shown by this Car & Driver article from 1957 [caranddriver.com]. I suspect the one you use came later, and developed as a cute rephrasing. But you're free to try and find a reference dating to before 1957.

        Bloody hell, shall we go pedantic? "No replacement for displacement, has a certain je ne sais quoi..... Like hell it does. It rhymes, flows in both mind and off the tongue. Whereas "No substitute for cubic inches" is inelegant, forgettable, and a much inferior way of saying almost the same thing.

        Gotta side with AniMoJo here. Its the difference between good writing and bad.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@nOspAm.world3.net> on Friday August 21, 2015 @09:29AM (#50361185) Homepage Journal

      I prefer "there's no substitute for 1.6387064 x 10^-5 cubic metres" anyway.

    • I don't think I got the point of that sentence either. Does the 747 have a lot of cubic inches, and is this what made it great? Or are good ol' American cubic inches better than those cubic centimeters that everyone else uses?

  • What was that? (Score:5, Informative)

    by in10se ( 472253 ) on Friday August 21, 2015 @08:25AM (#50360811) Homepage

    That "summary" is just a rambling pile of words.

    • by alexhs ( 877055 )

      That "summary" is just a rambling pile of words.

      Yep, it reeks American jingoism, yet it is excerpted FTFA, published on managementtoday.co.uk.
      I wonder if Stephen Bayley (article's author, himself a Welsh, "design critic, cultural critic, journalist and author", according to Wikipedia) is trolling his readership.

      • Gotta be. No American has ever said "There's no substitute for cubic inches."

      • by ratbag ( 65209 )

        I subscribe to a splendid magazine called 'Octane'. Every page is read assiduously except for the comment page by Mr Bayley, subtitled "The Aesthete". I found his writing to be pretentious and often factually-suspect so started skipping it each month. Stack him up against Jay Leno, Derek Bell and Robert Coucher and there's no comparison.

        What I'm saying is, your supposition that Mr Bayley is trying to push buttons could well be true.

  • by RogueyWon ( 735973 ) on Friday August 21, 2015 @08:26AM (#50360817) Journal

    The current trend in the airline sector seems to be away from the very large aircraft. The A380 is tanking in sales terms (only Emirates has really plunged into that market) and there's talk that Airbus might look to drop the line sooner rather than later. The 747-800 is also finding things slow going. The hot sellers right now in the wide-bodied aircraft stakes seem to be the 777, 787 and A350.

    The problem with those ultra-large aircraft is that they can be thirsty in terms of fuel, crew-intensive and, except on a small number of really "thick" routes, quite hard to fill. With the airline business mostly operating on quite thin margins, efficiency matters and the smaller, single-deck planes are looking better in that regard right now.

    Plus the A380 requires specialised ground infrastructure at airports for efficient operation, which translates into limited operational flexibility and/or higher landing charges. Also its Code-F designation means that in theory, it requires runway/taxiway widths and separations etc to be built to higher standards (though many airports are using derogations for this right now).

    The ultra-large aircraft may yet make a comeback, of course, but if they do, it's more likely to be a currently under-developed market where new very "thick" routes spring up (eg. domestic connections between Chinese cities).

    • This isn't particularly surprising. When the A380 went into service, it was assumed that hub-and-spoke traveling was the way to go: http://www.forbes.com/2006/05/... [forbes.com]

      Boeing on the other hand bet on convenience. How many flyers prefer direct flights over having to make a connection?
      • by RogueyWon ( 735973 ) on Friday August 21, 2015 @08:58AM (#50361009) Journal

        You're not wrong as such, but it's a little bit more complicated than that. The truth is that neither the hub-and-spoke model nor the point-to-point model has "won" right now and it's likely that both are going to continue side-by-side for many years to come.

        A bigger issue is that a lot of the airlines who are pursuing the hub-and-spoke model have nevertheless stayed away from the A380 and 747-800 (some have dabbled, but with small purchases). It's a rare route where, even operating out of a major hub, you can fill an aircraft that large multiple times per day. There are a few, sure (London - New York, for instance), but those are the exception rather than the norm.

        Emirates are clearly trying to make the A380 a cornerstone of their Dubai hub strategy and part of their brand. But Emirates has a distinctive financial situation, with very deep pockets behind it and a strategy that's currently about buying market share rather than making profits. I don't know where that will end up in the longer term (particularly if low oil prices are here to stay for a decade or so).

    • The current trend in the airline sector seems to be away from the very large aircraft. The A380 is tanking in sales terms (only Emirates has really plunged into that market) and there's talk that Airbus might look to drop the line sooner rather than later.

      The A380 isn't being dropped, there will be a new engine version of it launched later this year at the Dubai Air Show, with its production life extended well into the 2020s.

      The problem with those ultra-large aircraft is that they can be thirsty in terms of fuel, crew-intensive and, except on a small number of really "thick" routes, quite hard to fill. With the airline business mostly operating on quite thin margins, efficiency matters and the smaller, single-deck planes are looking better in that regard right now.

      Would it surprise you to know that the Boeing 777-9X is actually destined to be a larger aircraft than the Boeing 747-8I? Its longer, taller and has greater wingspan, with the lower MTOW only really coming from advances in materials allowing lower weight structures.

      • by fnj ( 64210 )

        Would it surprise you to know that the Boeing 777-9X is actually destined to be a larger aircraft than the Boeing 747-8I? Its longer, taller and has greater wingspan, with the lower MTOW only really coming from advances in materials allowing lower weight structures.

        Interesting indeed, but that is hardly the only reason the MTOW is lower.

        747-8I [wikipedia.org] - MTOW 987,000 lb - EW 470,000 lb = 517,000 lb
        passenger capacity 467 (3-class) - 605 (maximum)

        777-9X [wikipedia.org] - MTOW 775,000 lb - EW 362,000 lb = 413,000 lb
        passenger capacity

    • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Friday August 21, 2015 @10:58AM (#50361819)

      The problem with those ultra-large aircraft is that they can be thirsty in terms of fuel, crew-intensive and, except on a small number of really "thick" routes, quite hard to fill. With the airline business mostly operating on quite thin margins, efficiency matters and the smaller, single-deck planes are looking better in that regard right now.

      It isn't the large size which makes them thirsty for fuel. It's the fact that they have 4 engines. When it comes to propulsion, fewer is more efficient. The 777 and A340 are roughly the same size (300-400 passengers), and the 777 beat the A340 into a bloody pulp in the market (1881 orders vs 377) because it uses 2 engines vs the latter's 4 engines. It was so bad when Airbus proposed the A350 as a competitor to the 787, airlines seized the opportunity and got Airbus to redesign the A350 to be a little bigger so it would also compete with the 777.

      People are looking at the flagships and thinking the A380 had something to do with the 747's demise. It's actually the 777 which cannibalized the 747's market. The newest 777-9X is pretty much a drop-in replacement for the 747-400 (the most successful model). Because 2 engines is better than 4.

  • I'll never forget... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sgage ( 109086 )

    ... my first flight on a 747. It was 1973, on a nonstop flight from JFK to San Diego, as I jetted off to college. What a magnificent airplane! Definitely a room rather than a tube!

    • by devman ( 1163205 )
      How times change. I just flew IAD to SAN on a 737 (not sure which model but i'm assuming a newer one). I remember when standard equipment for cross country routes was larger planes as well. I miss it, being crammed in to a 737 for 5 hours is not very enjoyable.
  • Poor comparison (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sir-gold ( 949031 ) on Friday August 21, 2015 @08:46AM (#50360935)

    I have no idea why the comparison between the Concorde and the 747 was even made in the first place. The 2 jets were made for entirely different purposes.
    The Airbus A380 would be a better comparison, since it has the same intended purpose as the 747 (massive amount of seating and cargo space for cheap flights)

    Also, Boeing was working on it's own version of a luxury supersonic competitor to the Concord (the Boeing 2707 SST), but the project ended up being cancelled before it was ever mass produced (mostly due to to all the sonic-boom issues related to flying over land)

    Comparing the 747 to the Concorde is like comparing a double-decker bus to a stretch-ferrari limousine

    • Re:Poor comparison (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <{richardprice} {at} {gmail.com}> on Friday August 21, 2015 @09:04AM (#50361045)

      The Boeing 747 has its instantly recognised "hump" precisely because Boeing thought at the time of its design that it wouldn't have a long sales life as a passenger aircraft, as the future was "obviously" supersonic for passenger transport. Therefore, the design was optimised for roll-on roll-off cargo transport through the nose section, which made it a very good cargo aircraft and thus increased its forecasted sales life.

      Of course, Boeing also had a finger in the supersonic airliner pie - the Boeing 2707, launched internally in 1958, and publicly in 1964. Boeing had 122 orders for their SST by 1969, the year their 747 aircraft first flew.

      And then the SST market collapsed due to the oil crisis of the 1970s, and everyones projects went under - Concorde only "survived" to fly on in airline service (British Airways and Air France) because it was further along than the Boeing 2707 and had actually produced production standard aircraft by the time airlines started dropping their orders from all manufacturers.

      So Concorde was not an elite project for elite passengers, it was intended to be the norm for passenger transport - and Boeing agreed. Market conditions swung against them both however, and it was never to be.

      Boeing went on to continue to market their 747, and Airbus (formed from the same agreements that created the Concorde) went on to produce the first twin engine wide body long haul aircraft in the A300 in the 1970s, which sold (together with its A310 variant) sold over 800 copies.

      • by hey! ( 33014 )

        So Concorde was not an elite project for elite passengers, it was intended to be the norm for passenger transport - and Boeing agreed. Market conditions swung against them both however, and it was never to be.

        This is true, but it's worth noting that routine air travel was a much more elite activity back when these planes were designed. We used to call people who flew regularly as "the jet set" or "jet-setters", and it implied disposable wealth and high economic status jobs. So when the energy crisis hit you'd think that flying would become even more the province of the elite; but this also coincided with air travel de-regulation and the airlines figured out that even with high fuel costs they could pack peopl

  • That's a completely stupid comparison to the concorde.

    They were both bets on how the technology was going. At the time of intitial development, engines were not efficient. People didn't know how to make better compressors, and high bypass turbofans were unproven technology.

    Boeing went with a large plane and high bypass turbofans.

    Concorde went with ram compression, and more journeys per day. Bear in mind that by the standard of the day the Concorde was efficient.

    In terms of commercial potential, Boeing calle

  • Summary = Troll (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Friday August 21, 2015 @08:52AM (#50360967)

    Look, I'm an American but the summary is a ludicrous troll.

    Some Americans, referring to untested new technologies, call it Scarebus.

    Maybe some people working for Boeing. I've never once heard anyone use that term in my life.

    There is still residual rivalry with the upstart European Airbus.

    "Residual rivalry"? Uhh, no. Try huge and ongoing rivalry between the two biggest players in the industry. This is Coke v Pepsi. Ali v Fraser. Ford v GM. The notion that the rivalry isn't still alive and well is simply absurd.

    "Upstart"? A company with revenue of 60 Billion Euros is hardly an upstart. For comparison Boeing has revenues of about $90 Billion. It may have been an upstart many decades ago but upstart isn't a description that has fit for a very long time.

    A comparison to the European Concorde is illuminating.

    No it really isn't. It would be hard for it to be less illuminating. The Concorde was an experiment that didn't work out as well as hoped and likely was a bit ahead of its time. Had it worked out better we might very well have seen more supersonic aircraft. It was truly a first of its kind. The 747 was in many ways far more conservative and conventional - just a bigger and incrementally improved version of stuff we mostly already knew how to do. We'd already made aircraft that large (see the B52 which is about the same size and came 15 years earlier) and while the 747 was impressive it wasn't unprecedented. Ask anyone if they'd rather fly on the Concorde or a 747 and I'm pretty sure you wouldn't find many takers for the 747.

    • Ask anyone if they'd rather fly on the Concorde or a 747 and I'm pretty sure you wouldn't find many takers for the 747.

      Am I paying out of pocket?

    • Maybe some people working for Boeing. I've never once heard anyone use that term in my life.

      Agreed. Most people who like airplanes seem to try to experience everything - even the "scary" planes like the old Soviet stuff. I've never met anyone who wouldn't travel on an Airbus. Most people don't have any idea what they are traveling on - it's a tube with wings. My wife doesn't even notice when we get on something obviously weird, like a high-winged BAe jet. I think the only comment I've ever heard he make was when we went on a turbo-prop plane and she did notice that it wasn't a jet.

      I have to say th

  • The version of the story I was told was that at the time it was on the drawing table, supersonic transport was the future for passenger travel for everyone. But cargo was not expected to go that way and Boeing felt they needed to split their offering into an efficient giant cargo aircraft and a supersonic transport for people. They designed the cargo transport to have an elevated cockpit so it could have maximum internal space (which became the 747's top deck), and the supersonic transport was ultimately ca

  • However, Boeing went round the world complaining about the noise it made. Funny that
  • by 4im ( 181450 ) on Friday August 21, 2015 @08:56AM (#50360985)

    Some thoughts regarding the 747:

    * indeed, a biggie. It needed new infrastructure, as does the A380 now
    * contender against the C-5 Galaxy for a military transport, against which it lost
    * developed with money from the military, but nooo, never got subsidies (as is always held against Airbus)
    * ultimately sank its first customer, Pan Am, as they never really recovered from the costs of introducing that airplane

    I did fly it between Europe and the East Coast, early 90ies - not the kind of flight you want to have in Economy Class, when you're 1.90m tall.

    Now, I usually only see cargo versions, heavily used by the local cargo airline (happens to be launch customer for the last few -F versions). They do seem to be quite happy with it, as they have been using successive versions exclusively for quite a while. The only exception I'm aware of were a few tests with an AN-124, the logistics side not being up to their standards.

    Just yesterday, I showed videos of Nasa's Shuttle carrier, with Shuttle and F-18 escorts to my 5-year old son, who was quite impressed that this was for real.

  • by PAjamian ( 679137 ) on Friday August 21, 2015 @09:03AM (#50361039)

    Growing up I would go on an occasional flight with my parents, but because they were always short-haul local flights they were on a 737 or DC10 or similar. The 747 was always that huge plane I saw at the airport with that iconic top deck and I always wanted to fly in one.

    Later I did finally get the opportunity to fly in a 747, and you might say that cattle-class is cattle class no matter what airplane you're flying in, but I always enjoyed flying in a 747 more than other aircraft, probably just for the nostalgia factor.

    I do understand why the plane is going into retirement. Airlines don't want them anymore, they are too heavy and use more fuel than more modern planes and the large passenger capacity means that the airline has to fill more seats to make a profit on a flight, hence the reason that the slightly smaller 777 is more popular with airlines for long haul nowadays, and the big plane sales are going to the more modern airbus A380 and 787s now.

    That said, I will always have a bit of a place in my heart for the 747 and will miss having the opportunity to fly in them.

    • During my time in the US Army, circa 1972, I was stationed in Texas, and went home to San Diego on a short leave. Back then, airlines had very cheap fares for active duty military, however they were standby.. I drove to Dallas Love Field, bought a ticket on Delta to San Diego for a whole $97/round trip, and proceeded to *try* to catch a flight. I arrived in the afternoon, but since this was a holiday weekend, all of the available flights were packed. Finally, around 10pm, after missing the last non-stop to

      • Actually, airlines operate low passenger yield flights all the time, for a number of reasons - firstly, the aircraft may be needed on the next leg, so its going to fly full or empty as thats how airlines plan segments, and secondly the flight may be making money on belly cargo on that segment anyway, regardless of however many passengers are on it.

        Ive been on a 777 from Kenya to Amsterdam several times where there have been 30 or fewer passengers on board, with myself and my wife being the only passengers i

    • The article wasn't clear that the only 747 being retired is the -400, the oldest model still flying. Boeing is now producing the -800 with newer engines, and its NOT being retired...

    • Later I did finally get the opportunity to fly in a 747, and you might say that cattle-class is cattle class no matter what airplane you're flying in, but I always enjoyed flying in a 747 more than other aircraft, probably just for the nostalgia factor.

      Definitely nostalgia. I've flown in 747s and other than the fact that they are impressively large, they are no more pleasant to fly in that any other large plane I've been in, particularly if you are in the middle seat in the 5 seat row. I've flown one from Detroit to Tokyo a few times in a 747 and very much wish I'd sprung for the ticket upgrade. I say this as someone who genuinely loves airplanes too. I can sit at the end of a runway and I turn back into a 7 year old watching the planes take off and l

  • TFA seems to be talking about a possible end of production. After that, it'll take 25 years for first-rate airlines to write them off, and some operators may run them longer still.
    So I'd say we're decades away from retirement, but I guess that's par for the course for this article. What a load of drivel.

  • Yeah, ticket prices were way beyond what most people could afford. But the Concorde was viewed by a lot of people as being the first of many passenger jets that would be supersonic. In fact if you've ever seen a FedEx, UPS, or DHL 747 unloading, you can see that one of the design parameters for that jet was to carry freight - which some designers thought would be the main use of subsonic jets in the near future.
    • For starters, while they are (until recently) of the same type, freight-specific 747's are (usually) sold that way from the factory; many of those freighter features are not present on the passenger versions. In any case, Boeing didn't make the 747 freight-friendly because they thought they wouldn't sell many passenger versions; they made it freight-friendly because they correctly divined that such a big aircraft would be useful for both passenger and freight service, so it would be folly to not make it ea

  • The 747-400, that has been flying for world airlines since around 1989, is being retired.. The new 747-800, only on the market, in the last couple of years is not being retired... Wish these writers could get their information straight....

  • 'There's no substitute for cubic inches,' American race drivers used to say and the 747 expresses that truth in the air.

    What?

    I mean... what?

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