Last year we were saddened to learn that Boeing had decided to end the 747 program after 50 years. It seems that Boeing still has surprises up its sleeve as the manufacturer today announced an order for four more Boeing 747s from Atlas Air.
In the past fifty years, the Boeing 747 has become known as the Queen of the Skies, and for a good reason. The iconic aircraft with the hump has carried passengers all over the world. However, the current situation has seen many passenger airlines retiring the aircraft type sooner than planned.
The largest Boeing 747 fleet gets bigger
Boeing today confirmed that Atlas Air had agreed to purchase four 747-8 freighters. The aircraft will be delivered by 2022, as that is when Boeing is currently seeking to end production of the Queen of the Skies. The US manufacturer confirmed that these would be the last four 747-8s to roll off the production line.
Atlas Air operates both passenger and freighter versions of the Boeing 747. Just recently, it took delivery of three ex-Virgin Atlantic aircraft. In total, Atlas Air currently has 53 Boeing 747 aircraft. According to the manufacturer, this makes it the largest operator of the type. The airline itself began operations 28 years ago with a single 747.
Commenting on the purchase of the aircraft, John W. Dietrich, Atlas Air Worldwide President, and Chief Executive Officer said,
“The 747-8F is the best and most versatile widebody freighter in the market, and we are excited to bolster our fleet with the acquisition of these four aircraft… 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.”
The final Boeing 747s produced
While an order for four aircraft usually isn’t significant, this isn’t the case here. As mentioned above, the order is for the last four 747s that will ever be built by Boeing. As such, this order marks the end of an era, both for Boeing and aviation in general.
The first 747 was delivered way back in January 1970 to Pan Am. Since then, the manufacturer has built varying iterations of the jumbo jet, including six 747-400ERs just for Qantas. The most recent iteration of the 747 was the -8. However, it didn’t carry the same popularity in passenger circles as the -400s, with just three airlines placing orders. The aircraft has had more popularity in freight circles.