MIAMI — During Boeing’s Media Days, Airways had the opportunity to take a tour of the Boeing 747 Factory. The leader of the tour was Bruce Dickinson who is the Vice President and General Manager of the Boeing 747-8 program.
Inside the huge factory, there were three aircraft in production; all three were 747 freighters. Boeing points that the last 10 aircraft completed were the Intercontinental passenger version. At the last position awaiting delivery was the 101st Boeing 747-8 aircraft produced – experience that the company is leveraging to improve production flow and reduce unit cost.
There are six production bays where the Queen of the Skies is assembled, and it takes about 112 flow days for production currently; this is about two-thirds of the time it use to take. When assembly takes place, the fuselages are put together, the wing and body are joined, and the landing gear is installed, before it leaves the assembly line. The 747 remains exponentially Boeing’s most complex aircraft with 6 million parts – twice as many as the 777 runner-up.
Though very few 747-8 orders have come in the last few years, the program received a much needed shot in the arm at the Paris Air Show, when Russian cargo carrier Volga-Dnepr placed an order for 20 freighters. Beginning this September, the 747 Factory will only produce 16 aircraft per year or 1.3 per month. By March 2016, production will slow to one aircraft per month –compared to 8.3 aircraft per month currently for the 777.
Despite the 747-8I offering a reduced weight by 9,000 pounds via optimization design and having its fuel efficiency improved by 3.5% since it first went into operation in 2011, orders for the 747 have been quite slow as airlines have looked towards two engine aircraft to replace larger less-fuel efficient aircraft. As of the end of the end of May, there are fifty-one orders for the passenger carrying 747-8 Intercontinental with thirty-three delivered and eighteen in the backlog. The more popular freighter variant has had seventy-one orders with fifty-seven deliveries and fourteen unfulfilled.
While it does seem that the end of the 747 program may be near, workers are quite happy as Air Force One will likely be assembled here in the future. Plus, workers are excited to boast a 99% dispatch reliability rate.
Also, who would not love to eat in the cafeteria in the 747 Factory called Queen of the Skies Cafe?!