The airline said goodbyethe jumbo again. Thursday a week ago, in the sky over Sydney: Hardly the last one When the Australian Airline took off for the last mission, the pilot maneuvered the machine back and forth. And draws a giant kangaroo logo in the air. Then the 747 flies on to California, the desert, to its final resting place. At the Mojave Air & Space Port, the 180-ton plane is now cannibalized and scrapped. This is what many of his kind are doing.
The era of the jumbo jet ends. And with it the time of a whole genre of giant aircraft. Wednesdayannounces the production of its largest and most famous jet . The 747 has had its day. Because it is no longer profitable – neither for the manufacturer nor for the airlines.
For more than half a century, the superflyer has mastered the air like no other. Boeing has delivered more than 1500 copies of the 747 –. The iconic humped jets have carried hundreds of millions of people thousands of miles from one continent to another. They made long-haul flights affordable even for the middle class. The 747 is "the plane that shrank the world together," says Boeing historian Michael Lombardi pathetically. It is debatable whether this has done the world any good.
In any case, the history of the 747 begins with a meeting of two men: in the early 1960s, Boeing boss William Allen and Juan Trippe, boss of Pan American Airlines, pondered about a new giant aircraft that was to revolutionize civil aviation. "If you build it, I'll buy it," said Trippe. Everyone replied, "If you buy it, I'll build it."
Andbought and Boeing built.
Trippe initially ordered 25 jets. Allen instructed his people to develop a new prototype under the aegis of engineer Joe Sutter. On September 30, 1968, the first 747 rolled out of the Everett factory near Seattle. The machine was the desired revolution. With a length of 70 meters and a span of 59 meters, it was almost the size of a football field, and its height of 19 meters corresponded to that of a six-story apartment building. The 747 had two passenger floors, four engines and could hold more than twice as many people as the other types on the market. The world had never seen such a jet. And: The prototype flew straight away.
The "747" was called "Queen of the Skies" in the 1970s. It was the perfect airplane for that time. Because it had so much more seats than its predecessors, the airlines were able to offer cheaper tickets. For more and more people, especially in North America and Europe, intercontinental flights became affordable for the first time – down in the wood class, of course. The upper class flew on the upper deck of the Boeing 747. This was usually first class.
Hardly any machine has fascinated people as much as this one. "It was a goose bump experience to walk under the plane in the hangar," says Hamburg-based aviation expert Heinrich Großbongardt. He used to work for Boeing for years, and the size of this device alone captivated him. "When we sold an empty 747 to thedelivered, "enthuses Großbongardt," there was so much space inside that we played football on the flight from Seattle to Frankfurt. "
US presidents also traditionally fly a 747
Ambitious airlines from all over the world now bought jumbos. Whether British Airlines, Qantas, Japan Airlines or Lufthansa – which has bought more than 80 copies over the years. The US space agency Nasa converted two jets: to transporters,. And of course the "Air Force One" of the US President has been a 747 for decades. Until the maiden flight of the first Airbus A380 in 2006, the jumbo was the largest aircraft in the world.
But there were always disasters., when two 747 machines collided on the runway and 583 people died. Or in 1985, when a Japan Airlines jumbo crash killed 520 people. In 1983 Soviet interceptors shot down a 747 from Korean Air, in 1988 terrorists smuggled a bomb on board a PanAm machine, . The prestige planes of the superpower USA have also been the scene of kidnappings several times.
This did not detract from commercial success for a long time. In 2006, shortly after the market launch of the, Boeing received 53 orders for the decades-old jumbo. But soon after that time began . The Boeing 777, the Boeing 787 or the Airbus A350 have similar ranges as the 747 or the A380. Although they can hold fewer passengers, they only have two instead of four engines. They burn correspondingly less kerosene.
"The four-engined aircraft are far from being as economical as the Boeing 777 or the Airbus A350," says Gerald Wissel, head of the consulting firm Airborne Consulting. He estimates the additional costs of a 747 per seat kilometer compared to modern two-seaters at 15 to 20 percent.
In addition, airlines often find it difficult to fill the giant four-jet birds at the major airports. Many passengers do not want to fly from one turnstile to the next turnstile – and then continue with connecting machines to their destination, as large airlines have planned in these hub models. In particular, wealthy business travelers want to avoid the annoying transfer and prefer to head directly to "their" somewhat smaller airport.
From Frankfurt to Seattle or from Singapore to Düsseldorf – machines like the A350 or the Boeing 777 are made for such routes. You also generate margin with fewer passengers. This is an invaluable competitive advantage: right now, in the greatest crisis in international civil aviation.
"The corona crisis accelerated retirement," says Großbongardt. KLM, Qantas and British Airways: they all have each other. And because there are now so many used jumbos on the market that can be converted to freighters, the production of the 747 cargo version is no longer worthwhile for Boeing. In the end, the company only produced such a machine every two months.
And so in future no four-jet giant jets will be manufactured anymore. Airbus will finally stop A380 production in 2021 and Boeing 747 production in 2022. Jumbos, especially those of the newer 747-800 series, will continue to be seen on the world's runways. It will probably be a few more years before the last airline retires its last "Queen of the Skies".