Boeing to conclude 747 production, reduce output of other types

Boeing 747-8i and 787-8 Dreamliner in formation flight. Photo: © Boeing

Boeing will conclude production of its iconic 747 ‘jumbo jet’ in 2022, CEO Dave Calhoun confirmed on Wednesday.

This confirmation was part of a letter to employees, which mentioned several updates on Boeing’s current and future aircraft production output amid the ongoing Coronavirus crisis that has hit the aviation industry especially hard. “The reality is the pandemic’s impact on the aviation sector continues to be severe“.

747 aside, the letter confirms bigger than previously announced cuts to production of essentially all of Boeing’s commercial passenger aircraft programs. In April, Boeing’s response to the pandemic included reducing production of the 777 and 787 to three and seven airplanes per month by 2021 and 2022 respectively. At the time it was already the second major cut announced by the manufacturer.

Now, Boeing CEO Calhoun says the company will lower 787 production to just six per month in 2021 and 777 production (including the new 777X) to two per month. Furthermore, the 777X first delivery and entry into service has been delayed again, this time to 2022. For single-aisle aircraft, Boeing will slow the ramp-up of its 737 MAX output once the troubled aircraft type is certified to fly again. 767 production, which exclusively consists of the cargo version, remains unchanged.

The move to discontinue the Boeing 747 in 2022 doesn’t come unexpected, as the type has very few outstanding orders, with all of them being dedicated freighters – except for two new ‘Air Force One’ for the United States Air Force. Meanwhile, more and more airlines are accelerating their phase-out of older variants of the 747. This month, Australian flag-carrier Qantas sent the aircraft off to storage or scrapping in the desert while British Airways (BA) proposed retiring its entire remaining fleet of 747-400 with immediate effect.

European competitor Airbus will end production of its A380, the largest passenger jet ever, very soon as well (a specific timeline is not entirely clear due to Coronavirus-related obstacles). However, this move was already announced in February 2019 – long before the current Covid-19 pandemic.

Read more: Opinion: BA’s 747 retirement hits harder than most