Boeing 747 Rollout Commemorative Brochure 1968-7 | © Boeing

MIAMI – It is the end of the line for one of the world’s most iconic airliners. Boeing Co. has reportedly stopped sales of its 747-8 aircraft, the last generation to be built.

The final 747 will roll out of Everett in approximately two years’ time, according to various changes in financial statements.

Aviation enthusiasts and frequent flyers have dreaded this news for some time, as both Airbus and Boeing halt production on their double-decker products.

Even though the A380 and 747 were immensely popular with travelers, the newest 747 version (the -8) and European rival A380, didn’t catch on as airlines moved towards more fuel-efficient twin-engine airplanes capable of longer flights.

Boeing 747-400 air-to-air. Photo: ©Boeing

Boeing 747 History

The Boeing 747 has been an icon since its debut in 1970. It is one of the most recognizable airplanes from its distinctive hump and four-engines. Over the years, Boeing released a number of variations of the product for airlines, cargo and even the military.

The 747 was a huge gamble for Boeing, almost sending it into bankruptcy, though it paid off. The 747 was hugely popular with travelers, enjoying luxury options on many carriers including spiral staircases and lounges.

Boeing received a total of 1,571 orders for the 747 through its half-century-long run, which places it second in popularity to the Boeing 777 among wide-body jets. In 2007, Airbus finally introduced its Boeing 747 rival but the A380 came too late and only received 251 firm orders in its lifetime.

The new Boeing 747-8 was introduced in 2008, but with poor management in the beginning, Boeing started losing big on every 747 produced. After 2016, Boeing reportedly was losing US$40m on each plane and slowed production to six per year. The last order was made in 2017 for the U.S. Presidential Aircraft, commonly referred to as Air Force One.

Rendering of U.S. Presidential Boeing 747-8. Photo: Airways Magazine File

The Future of Jumbo Jets

The Boeing 747 will likely still remain in the skies for decades, as it has become increasingly popular among cargo airlines, but the A380 does not look like it has the same potential.

Airlines, including Lufthansa (LH) and Qatar Airways (QR), are looking to permanently ground their A380, just as Air France (AF) did last week. Airbus has nine A380 deliveries remaining, of which eight are headed to Emirates (EK), an airline considering canceling most of its remaining orders for the type.

Boeing has been preparing to wind down the 747 Project for quite some time, building customer interest in the Boeing 777X and a potential freighter version. The company told Bloomberg, “At a build rate of half an airplane per month, the 747-8 program has more than two years of production ahead of it in order to fulfill our current customer commitments.”

The First 3 747-8s under construction in 2009. Photo: © Boeing

15 747s Left

Boeing has 15 unfilled orders to date, all freighters. United Parcel Service (UPS) has 12 of these, and the fate of the other three is unclear due to a dispute with Volga-Dnepr Group.

Ultimately, the age of double-decker airplanes was coming to an end, and both Airbus and Boeing were forced to end their projects in favor of perusing more efficient aircraft.