End Of An Era As Boeing Delivers Final 747 To Atlas Air
SEATTLE—Boeing marked the completion of the 56-year long 747 program with the formal handover of the final 747-8F to Atlas Air on Jan. 31 at an event in Everett, Washington, home to the production line since the 1960s.
Although formal contracts for the final aircraft were exchanged earlier in January, the aircraft is due to leave Everett to join the Atlas fleet on Feb 1. The last aircraft, line number 1,574, is part of an order for four 747-8Fs placed by Atlas Air in January 2021 and will be operated under contract with Apex Logistics. The three other Atlas 747 freighters were received in May, October and November 2022, and the latest delivery takes the Atlas 747 fleet to 56.
Since entering service with Pan American in January 1970, the 747 fleet has logged more than 118 million flight hours and nearly 23 million flight cycles. Of the total aircraft produced the 747-400 was the most popular version with 694 produced from 1989 to 2009, while the final variant—the re-winged, re-engined and stretched 747-8—extended the program life by 11 years with deliveries of 48 -8I passenger models and 108 freighters.
Production space in Everett previously occupied by the 747 line will meanwhile be used for on-going 787 retrofit, join verification and inspection work. The 40-26 bay, which is currently used for the 787 work, will be converted into a new production line for the 737 MAX under plans revealed by Boeing on Jan 30.
The new line, which is expected to be in place by 2024, represents the first use of the Everett site for single-aisle aircraft production and forms part of Boeing’s push to drive 737 assembly rates back up to around 50 per month by the middle of the decade. The company says it has meanwhile stabilized 737 production at its Renton site at 31 per month and is planning to reactivate the third assembly line at the Seattle facility.
Commenting at the handover event, Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and CEO Stan Deal says the 747 is the airplane that “shrank the world,” and revolutionized travel and air cargo as the first widebody. “It is fitting to deliver this final 747-8 Freighter to the largest operator of the 747, Atlas Air, where the ‘Queen’ will continue to inspire and empower innovation in air cargo,” Deal says.
Atlas Air Worldwide president and CEO John Dietrich says the carrier could potentially continue using the 747-8 into the 2050s and 2060s. “Providing we look after them and maintain them and get good support from Boeing I don’t see why they shouldn’t keep flying for another 30 to 40 years,” Dietrich tells Aviation Daily. Speaking earlier to attendees at the delivery event, Dietrich said “today we celebrate not necessarily an ending, but a beginning as well. The beginning of another exciting chapter driven by the mighty Queen of the Skies, and I will say she is the biggest badass commercial aircraft that’s flying out there.”