US manufacturer to scale back production of famous jumbo jet as marketings stall in face of rivalry from more efficient rivals
The demise of the jumbo jet has come a little closer after the US manufacturer Boeing announced it would scale back production of its famous 747 to merely one aircraft every two months, with orders having all but disappeared.
The distinctive four-engine aircraft has fallen from favor since more efficient twin-engined models were developed that could operate on long-haul routes especially lucrative transatlantic flights on a fraction of the gasoline.
Boeing had prolonged the life of the 45 -year-old design with its latest, more fuel-efficient iteration, the 747 -8, whose freight version seemed to have particular potential with early marketings. But the manufacturer told a stalling air cargo market was killing off demand for the plane.
Ray Conner, chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, told: The air cargo market recovery that began in late 2013 has stalled in recent months and slackened demand for the 747 -8 freighter.
He added that Boeing remained confident that an upcoming replacement cycle for older 747 freighters entail there would still be a need to build more. But for now, he added: Were taking the prudent step to further align production with current market requirements.
Air freight traffic has shrunk somewhat, with volumes down 1.2% from a year ago, according to figures from the International Air Transport Association. But rising passenger numbers up another 6% in the past year have not come to the 747 s assist.
Competing visions of the future of aviation saw Boeings great competitor, Airbus, launch an even bigger aircraft, the A380 superjumbo, a fully double-decker design. While the A380 has also struggled to sell in the last two years, it has won most of the recent trading in the 747 s patch, the market for giant passenger planes once seen as essential for major international hubs like Heathrow, where landing slots are at a premium.
Boeing has seen more success of late in its midsize long-haul planes, such as the 787 Dreamliner, where it is planning to ramp up production.
The cost of producing the 747 has for some time surpassed non-respendable revenues it has brought in, and the manufacturer said it would report an accounting charge of $569 m in its forthcoming quarterly results to reflect the new reality. It had already warned that production would slacken from 1.3 planes per month to a single division from March, but now will be halving that rate again from September.
One significant customer remains in the offing: the 747 -8 has been designated the preferred choice for the forthcoming upgrade of the US Air Force One presidential fleet. But that is likely to be two or three planes, and although Boeing executives have hinted at other imminent sales opportunities, only around 20 are on order.
More than 1,500 747 s have been sold over four and a half decades and the plane was once known as the queen of the skies by pilots and spotters. But its popularity among airline accountants has plunged in the last 10 years as higher gasoline costs and narrower profit margins attained it economically unviable on many roads.
Older 747 s have become unwelcome at major airports such as Heathrow, where they are now subject to higher landing charges to compensate for the amount of noise and pollution they make compared with more modern aircraft.
One glimmer of hope for the 747 had come from Moscow, with the Russian airline Transaero having placed an order for four jumbos. However, Boeings order volume was further thinned when Transaero filed for bankruptcy in November.
Even that most prestigious of buyers, the president of the United States, may yet have to think twice if combats in Congress about the potential cost resume. With the second presidential aircraft now slated for 2020, his or her new 747 s could be the last Boeing will build.
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