Boeing’s 747 assembly line is winding down. The aircraft manufacturer only has 12 orders left to fill. When the last jumbo rolls off the assembly line, it will mark the end of an era for an aircraft that’s spanned fifty-plus years. Production of the plane is expected to wrap up next year.
Boeing’s list of unfilled orders, current at March 31, confirms the 12 unfilled deliveries. According to Boeing, four Boeing 747-8Fs are going to Atlas Air, seven Boeing 747-8Fs are going to UPS, and a single 747-8 is going to an unidentified customer.
Last Boeing 747 order placed in January
So what do we know? Those four 747 freighters going to Atlas Air were only locked in three months ago. The New York-based global freight business already operates 53 Boeing 747s and will now take the final four Boeing builds. John Dietrich, President and CEO of Atlas Air, called the 747-8F the best and most versatile widebody freighter in the world. Mr Dietrich also thinks there will be demand for the big planes to fly freight for some time.
“Dedicated freighters, like those operated by our Atlas, Polar, and Southern subsidiaries, will continue to be in demand as the global airfreight market, particularly the e-commerce and express sectors, continues to grow.”
Atlas placed to last order for the 747, so will take the last four planes. The freight business expects delivery from May through October 2022.
In 2018, UPS exercised an option to take 14 Boeing 747-8Fs, building on an earlier 2016 order. UPS now flies 34 Boeing 747 freighters, with a steady stream of deliveries over the past few years. In 2020, UPS took five new 747 freighters. So far this year, a single brand new Boeing 747 has landed at UPS. Seven 747 freighters remain outstanding. Michael Goldstein in Forbes reports UPS Airlines president Brendan Canavan saying when greenlighting the options;
“The new freighters will allow us to continue upsizing aircraft on routes and will create a cascading effect that will boost capacity on regional routes around the world.”
The mysterious unidentified buyer of one Boeing 747
That leaves the one remaining 747 and the unidentified buyer. That aircraft is already built. It was due to go to Lufthansa, but the Frankfurt-based airline changed its mind. Instead, Boeing sent the sparkling new jumbo jet down to storage in the Mojave Desert. Earlier this year, Boeing managed to sell the plane. Word is the last ever Boeing 747-8 is going to a VIP. Speculation (and it’s just that – speculation) is that the jumbo jet will head to the Middle East. But so far, the plane remains on the ground in the United States.
What we do know is that the VIP isn’t the United States President. The United States Air Force is taking two Boeing 747-8 jumbos to update its executive airlift fleet. But the source of those planes is already accounted for. The two jumbo jets were slated to go to Russian airline Transaero. However, Transaero filed for bankruptcy in 2015. The USAF subsequently stepped in to fill the breach.
These two jumbos are not expected to start flying any Presidents until 2024. However, they also don’t form part of Boeing’s current unfilled 747 list.
What do you think? Who might the unidentified buyer be? Post a comment and let us know?