After a month of rumours, leading from a July 1 Bloomberg article, Boeing has confirmed that it’s pulling the plug on the 747 Jumbo Jet program, with the last jets to be delivered in 2022. On the smaller end of the commercial jet spectrum, the troubled Boeing 737 MAX will see production cuts too.
End To 747 Production
Airlines were already moving quickly toward smaller, more fuel efficient jets before covid-19 hit, but with the pandemic in full swing and passenger numbers down in single digits compared to last year, the trend has gone viral.
In recent months, some of the most prolific Boeing 747 operators, including British Airways and Lufthansa, announced the immediate or very near term retirement of all 747-400 jets, bringing a sad end to a storied era with the ‘Queen Of The Skies’. Only one jet will be produced every two months, until the end of production.
Boeing, in its official announcement stated that the final Boeing 747-8 intercontinental aircraft will be delivered in 2022, and among the final deliveries will be a fairly special, highly modified version of the historic aircraft – with the “new” Air Force One duo.
And yes, for the pedantic types, technically whichever aircraft the President Of The United States is on, is Air Force One, but two highly modified government version of the 747-8i frame will be among the final deliveries, and will serve in the Presidential Air Wing.
737 MAX Production Cuts
The 737 MAX was billed as the savior of the Boeing short haul fleet, with new fuel efficiencies and cabin benefits to continue keeping the world’s short haul workhorse relevant. But after grievous errors resulted in two fatal crashes, demand for the plane plummeted.
Covid-19 only accelerated the problems. Production of the 737 MAX has restarted, albeit at less robust rates as the aircraft awaits final certification. Boeing estimates 31 per month by 2022, rather than 2021, and that’s roughly half of previous production outlooks. Dwindling airline balance sheets and bad press for the aircraft make it a hard sell in the current market.
As IATA, the airline lobby body predicts diminished demand until 2024, it’s hard to know when buyers may come flocking again, and for Boeing that means accelerated job cuts and a very uncertain future for the Boeing 777X, and 737 MAX, with a limited future for the 747 Queen Of The Skies.