Iconic 747 jumbo jet nears completion as Boeing places final parts orders

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Boeing and its suppliers defined the final number of parts it would need for the 747 jumbo jet program at least a year ago, signaling the end of an aircraft that democratized global air travel in the 1970s but took lagging behind modern twin-engine aircraft, Reuters industry sources said Friday.Boeing’s “Queen of Heaven”, the world’s most recognizable airliner with its hunchbacked fuselage and four engines, celebrated its 50th flight anniversary in February 2019, holding on to life thanks to a boom of the freight market fueled by online shopping.

But the end of the program has been suspended for years against a backdrop of falling orders and pressure on prices. The coronavirus pandemic has also crushed passenger travel and the demand for new jets.

The last order for a passenger version came in 2017, when the U.S. government asked Boeing to reuse two 747-8 airliners for use as Air Force One by the U.S. President.

Boeing declined to confirm that it was ending the 747 program, first reported by Bloomberg News on Thursday.

“With a construction rate of 0.5 aircraft per month, the 747-8 program has more than two years of production ahead of it to fulfill our current commitments to our customers,” said a Boeing spokesperson.

“We will continue to make the right decisions to keep the production chain healthy and meet customer needs,” he added.

The end of the 747 would follow the gradual abandonment of Airbus SE of its A380. In June, the last convoy of outsized parts for the world’s largest airliner crawled to an assembly plant in southwest France.

The death of the 747 program could also lead to charges and layoffs for shutting down production at the gigantic large body factory outside Seattle. It could also have financial implications for newer programs such as the 787 Dreamliner and the latest 777 model, which would have to bear a larger share of the factory’s huge overhead costs if the 747 line went dark.

A supplier source said it was unsure of the date when Boeing officially made the decision to end the program, but said that the final number of ship kits – like complete sets of parts are known – was agreed with the supply base at least a year ago.

Boeing also removed the wording from financial documents that it would continue to “assess the viability” of the 747 program, which, according to an industry source, was indicative of its plans.

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