Is this the final year for the Boeing 747?
In a memo to workers this week, United president Scott Kirby announced the firm will retire its Boeing 747 jumbo jets by the end of 2017. Although the airline had already announced it would cease the use of the ‘Queen of the Skies’, many were expecting the jet wouldn’t take its final flight until 2018.
This announcement not only marks the end of the Boeing 747 for United but could also mean that, by the end of this year, all US airlines will have ceased use of the iconic aircraft.
Delta Airlines – the only other US airline to use the Boeing 747 – has booked all its 747 flights until November, but has scheduled no more beyond then. This could mean that, by this time next year, the Boeing 747 won’t feature in the fleets of any US airline.
Similar decisions have been made further afield too, with Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, ANA, and Air France having already retired their Boeing 747s.
United acquired its first 747 in 1970, a jumbo jet that flew passengers between Hawaii and California. However, its last 747 will take off in the final quarter of this year. Some suggested that the decision to retire the aircraft early might have something to do with the FAA’s latest directive calling for expensive repairs to older models of the jet. This has not, however, been confirmed.
Despite once dominating the skies, orders for 747s have decreased over the past decade. Boeing has taken just ten orders for the model since the beginning of 2015 and has just 21 on its backlog.
Kirby described the decision to retire the Boeing 747 as “bittersweet”, as although it marks the end of United’s 47-year relationship with the aircraft, it also marks a new era for the company. United will now use the ever-more popular widebody jets, such as the Boeing 777-3ER. Next year, the airline is also set to acquire new Airbus A350s.
So, with a strong likelihood that this year will be the last for the Boeing 747, here are some facts about the Queen of the Skies!
- The Boeing 747 first flew in February 1969
- Nearly 1,500 747s have been built since then
- When it was released, the Boeing 747 was an unbelievable two-and-a-half-times the size of the most popular model at the time – the 707
- A new plant had to be built in Everett, WA, just to handle the build of the 747, as no other plants were big enough!
- As the aircraft’s designers thought supersonic transport was the future for passengers, the 747 was designed with the intention it would become a cargo aircraft in time. That’s why the upper deck was added!
- There are no fewer than 350 switches, lights, and dials in the cockpit of a 747
The news from United this week makes it unlikely that most of our current students will ever have the chance to fly a Boeing 747 – but they’ll no doubt be ready for its successors! If you want to join them, why not find out more about getting your Commercial Pilot License today?