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posted by cmn32480 on Saturday July 30 2016, @05:04AM   Printer-friendly
from the old-tech-phased-out dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Six months after slicing production of the iconic Boeing 747 to just one plane a month, the aerospace company has decided to halve the rate of production and flagged it is close to killing off the plane.

A new Form 10-Q filed with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission spells out the ugly situation as “Lower-than-expected demand for large commercial passenger and freighter aircraft and slower-than-expected growth of global freight traffic have continued to drive market uncertainties, pricing pressures and fewer orders than anticipated.”

Boeing has therefore “canceled previous plans to return to a production rate of 1.0 aircraft per month beginning in 2019.”

The company still has “32 undelivered aircraft” on its books, some yet to be built. But it also has “a number of completed aircraft in inventory” for which buyers cannot be found.

Production of the 747 will therefore been reduced just six planes a year as of September 2016 and the filing makes it plain that Boeing knows it may soon have a difficult decision to make.

“If we are unable to obtain sufficient orders and/or market, production and other risks cannot be mitigated,” the filing says, “we could record additional losses that may be material, and it is reasonably possible that we could decide to end production of the 747.”

The 747 remains a fine aircraft, but twin-engine planes can now match it for capacity and, crucially, for long flights over areas where airports are scarce.


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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 30 2016, @05:21AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 30 2016, @05:21AM (#381886)

    Thanks to a nice sponsor, I was able to fly Business class trans-Pacific (SFO to Taiwan) on a 747. I suppose First Class was even nicer, but the service and seating, and a minimum of people walking down the aisle (upper deck) in Business made that long flight relatively pleasant.

    Are any of the newer trans-Pacific jets as civilized as the 747?

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 30 2016, @05:49AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 30 2016, @05:49AM (#381889)

    Newer twin jets (777, A380) have similar or larger capacities, comparable ranges, and are more fuel efficient. Wonder what the niche is where 747 quad jet is preferred.

    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 30 2016, @06:27AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 30 2016, @06:27AM (#381896)

      Well, it does give you a better feeling upon discovering you have lost an engine - if you know there are still three of 'em still running.

      • (Score: 2, Funny) by fustakrakich on Saturday July 30 2016, @03:15PM

        by fustakrakich (6150) on Saturday July 30 2016, @03:15PM (#381965) Journal

        Yeah, when an engine quits you just arrive a little later. If they all quit, you'll be stuck up there all day.

        --
        Ok, we paid the ransom. Do I get my dog back? REDЯUM
      • (Score: 1) by nethead on Saturday July 30 2016, @06:49PM

        by nethead (4970) <joe@nethead.com> on Saturday July 30 2016, @06:49PM (#382016) Homepage
        --
        How did my SN UID end up over 3 times my /. UID?
      • (Score: 2) by el_oscuro on Sunday July 31 2016, @02:07AM

        by el_oscuro (1711) on Sunday July 31 2016, @02:07AM (#382136)

        My dad was on a 747 out of Paris over the pond. A short time later, they lost an engine and returned to Paris. Now change the scenario slightly:

        The engine goes out in the middle of the flight over the Pacific. The closest landfall is Hawaii, 2,000 miles away.

        747/A380: Still 3 good engines. We'll keep a good eye on them and adjust our course to be reasonably close to Hawaii while continuing to our destination.
        A350/777: Shit! we lost an engine. We are still good, but have no backups. If the 2nd one goes out before our rated 370 minutes is complete, we are screwed.

        --
        SoylentNews is Bacon! [nueskes.com]
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 30 2016, @08:11AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 30 2016, @08:11AM (#381910)

      um... A380 is a 4 engine aircraft competing in the market of the B747. I think you meant the A350

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 30 2016, @12:34PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 30 2016, @12:34PM (#381935)

        You are right. Seems what remains of diminishing 747 market is being eaten up by A380.

        • (Score: 2) by Kell on Saturday July 30 2016, @04:46PM

          by Kell (292) on Saturday July 30 2016, @04:46PM (#381986)

          As it is, the A380 is likewise struggling to find buyers - Airbus recently reported that they are likely to make a loss on the type long-term. It appears the age of the superjumbo is at an end, and middling widebody is the new ascendent class.

          --
          Scientists ask questions. Engineers solve problems.
    • (Score: 3, Funny) by digitalaudiorock on Saturday July 30 2016, @01:22PM

      by digitalaudiorock (688) on Saturday July 30 2016, @01:22PM (#381947)

      Wonder what the niche is where 747 quad jet is preferred.

      For me it'd probably be when two engines go out.

    • (Score: 1) by toddestan on Saturday July 30 2016, @11:37PM

      by toddestan (4982) on Saturday July 30 2016, @11:37PM (#382102)

      Until recently, the airlines had to use quad-engined planes on some routes, such as South America to Australia where there really is no place to make an emergency landing for a large portion of the flight. The idea being of course that having four engines is better if one or two of them quit on you. Though recently the regulations have been lifted so that some twin-engine airplanes can now be used for those routes, the idea being that the planes are so reliable now that the risk with only two engines is minimal.

      At this point I'm not sure who is buying 747's now, unless they are cargo variants where the 747 still has several advantages, such as the nose-cone door to allow for large cargo, and four engines that allow for heavier cargo. Fun fact: The 747 was designed primarily as a cargo plane, with the passenger variant expected to be relatively short-lived as Boeing expected passenger planes to go supersonic in a few years.

  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 30 2016, @06:29AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 30 2016, @06:29AM (#381897)

    When I was a child, the 747 debuted. First year, legend has it, Boeing had one order for the new plane, dubbed "the Aluminum Overcast". This in spite of the pilot taking the new plane through a barrel roll over Boeing Field in Renton, Washington, on the inaugural flight . Boeing engaged in massive layoffs. Huge numbers of persons, including my own family, fled from Seattle, and legend has it that there was a sign downtown that said, "Last one out, turn out the lights! So, it does make me sad to see the old bird go. Forced my family to move elsewhere, so I do not have to pay Seattle rents now a days.

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by mendax on Saturday July 30 2016, @07:02AM

      by mendax (2840) on Saturday July 30 2016, @07:02AM (#381904)

      I think the barrel roll you spoke of was with the the 707 prototype over Lake Washington in 1955. Video of the feat here [youtube.com] To my knowledge no one has intentionally done a barrel roll in a 747, although it certainly is capable of doing it.

      --
      It's really quite a simple choice: Life, Death, or Los Angeles.
    • (Score: 4, Informative) by deadstick on Saturday July 30 2016, @02:34PM

      by deadstick (5110) on Saturday July 30 2016, @02:34PM (#381960)

      A bit of conflation going on here. The barrel roll incident was on the public demo flight of the 707 in 1955; the 747 entered production in 1969; and the "last person out" story came during the downturn of 1971. The sobriquet "Aluminum Overcast" has been attached to any number of large aircraft over the years; today it's most closely associated with a B-17 that tours the country selling $500 rides.

      Fun fact: It's widely believed that the name 707 refers to the cosine of the wing sweep angle, but that's wrong: the angle is actually 35 degrees, not 45.

  • (Score: 3, Informative) by Appalbarry on Saturday July 30 2016, @06:39AM

    by Appalbarry (66) on Saturday July 30 2016, @06:39AM (#381900) Journal

    For those who were wondering, the 747 dates back to 1970.

    Probably will still be flying in another 45 years.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 30 2016, @11:03AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 30 2016, @11:03AM (#381928)

      Probably will still be flying in another 45 years.

      No.

      Anyone caring to see the writing on the wall will realise that the 747 represented a peak in airline demand and development. The reason is right there in the summary: "Lower-than-expected demand for large commercial passenger....." , "...slower-than-expected growth of global freight...". The underlying demand, the underlying wealth and commerce needed to support this aircraft is not there. The 747 will be phased out for "newer" aircraft, which in reality are simply smaller, cheaper, aircraft suited to a declining global economy.

      When Rome declined, so did its famous roads. We are Rome, and the 747 is one of our roads. A great icon of our civilisation, whose upkeep we can no longer afford. In 20 years, the skills, support industries, and maching ability needed to maintain these aircraft will fade away. After that, some of our other "newer" aircraft will follow the same path. In 50 years, a future largely without large transcontinental aircraft is a foreseeable possibility, as global growth dies.

      This recession is permanent. We will no longer be able to live as we once did, and no about of fly by wire, computerization, or digital distraction will be able to mask that fact. When you run out of gas, you can't keep the planes up in the air.

      • (Score: 1) by nethead on Saturday July 30 2016, @06:40PM

        by nethead (4970) <joe@nethead.com> on Saturday July 30 2016, @06:40PM (#382010) Homepage

        In 20 years, the skills, support industries, and maching ability needed to maintain these aircraft will fade away.

        As an aerospace worker in Everett I can only laugh at your post. Our local schools are pumping out aerospace machinists and engineers at an astounding rate. There are jobs waiting for them.

        --
        How did my SN UID end up over 3 times my /. UID?
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 30 2016, @07:52PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 30 2016, @07:52PM (#382033)

          What you need is pumping out chemists (no pun intented) of the kind capable of figuring a CO2 neutral and highly scalable (industrial, not lab level) way to produce fuel for the airplanes. Otherwise all those machinists and engineers will be like past students of other countries: current and future waiters and chefs.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 31 2016, @05:40AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 31 2016, @05:40AM (#382179)

          Los Angeles area ex-Aerospace engineer here.

          Most of the jobs here are gone. Where I worked is now a church and welfare center, along with some car accessories businesses. ( Beat the swords into plowshares, I suppose ).

          One of my cohorts worked as a counterman at Ford Electronics ( Commonwealth ave in Fullerton ) until it closed.

          Aerospace employment is pretty damn fickle if you ask me.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 31 2016, @03:28AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 31 2016, @03:28AM (#382152)

        We got The Donald's speech writer up in this thing. What a downer.

  • (Score: 1) by jrial on Saturday July 30 2016, @06:45AM

    by jrial (5162) on Saturday July 30 2016, @06:45AM (#381901)
    This was article 74/74 in my feed reader's queue. First 3 numbers spell out 747, and isn't that last 4 associated with death in Chinese IIRC? Just caught my eye, thought it was kind of an amusing coincidence...
    --
    Install windows on my workstation? You crazy? Got any idea how much I paid for the damn thing?
    • (Score: 1) by nethead on Saturday July 30 2016, @06:41PM

      by nethead (4970) <joe@nethead.com> on Saturday July 30 2016, @06:41PM (#382012) Homepage

      Interesting, my phone number is (NPA) 474-7474, what do you make of that?

      --
      How did my SN UID end up over 3 times my /. UID?
  • (Score: 2) by davester666 on Saturday July 30 2016, @06:52AM

    by davester666 (155) on Saturday July 30 2016, @06:52AM (#381902)

    once we stop producing 747's, we will also halt production of all parts for it.

    We thank everyone for upgrading to newer models.

    • (Score: 2) by mendax on Saturday July 30 2016, @07:09AM

      by mendax (2840) on Saturday July 30 2016, @07:09AM (#381905)

      The US Air Force buys retired Boeing 707's and keeps them in a boneyard so they they have spares for the KC-135 midair refueling tanker and the EWACS radar planes. Both are based on the 707, more or less. Omega Air, a private refueling tanker company, also uses retired 707's, and it got into 707 parts spare parts business in order to have a ready supply of parts. The same thing will happen with the 747's. And no doubt Boeing has a a warehouse or two full of parts, one that will last for a while.

      --
      It's really quite a simple choice: Life, Death, or Los Angeles.
      • (Score: 1) by anubi on Saturday July 30 2016, @08:03AM

        by anubi (2828) on Saturday July 30 2016, @08:03AM (#381909) Journal

        I would not be too surprised, knowing how robotics is being integrated with manufacturing, if you have the CAD/CAM files for the part you want, have the machine make you one.

        I feel the day spare parts for older cars will be ordered from a few people who make anything you can imagine to order with the ease of a short-order cook. Stuff that has windings in it may take a little longer.

        Water pump for a 1948 Ford? Print one out, assemble, and ship.

        We are not quite there yet.... things like high stress parts such as turbine blades for the jets still need some work.

        Hopefully, Boeing knows which parts are literally consumables, and will make plenty of 'em while they have the facilities lined up to make them.

        --
        "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
        • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Kell on Saturday July 30 2016, @04:50PM

          by Kell (292) on Saturday July 30 2016, @04:50PM (#381987)

          While that might work for automotive and consumer components, that most certainly does not work for aerospace, where the metalurgical treatment of the parts is as important as their geometry. We are not yet at the point where we are doing selective computer controlled thermal processing of parts (that I am aware of; although that would be fascinating). This is one of the things that stops third parties from simply measuring and replicating things like jet turbines and fighter aircraft.

          --
          Scientists ask questions. Engineers solve problems.
          • (Score: 1) by nethead on Saturday July 30 2016, @06:56PM

            by nethead (4970) <joe@nethead.com> on Saturday July 30 2016, @06:56PM (#382018) Homepage

            Very true. Also the non-metallic parts have to be flam tested and certified. Even the sticker telling you where your life-vest is has reams of paperwork behind it. At least a quarter of any aerospace shop is just QA people.

            --
            How did my SN UID end up over 3 times my /. UID?
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 30 2016, @04:50PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 30 2016, @04:50PM (#381988)

          ...until the part you want is the skin of the aircraft which has too many cracks to continue in service. Then the plane is done, and the other parts might be sold as used, to be fitted onto a different airframe with lower number of pressurization cycles.

      • (Score: 2, Informative) by fustakrakich on Saturday July 30 2016, @03:29PM

        by fustakrakich (6150) on Saturday July 30 2016, @03:29PM (#381967) Journal

        Firefighters still use 70 year old DC-4s. They still have stacks of engines just as old that have never been unwrapped yet. The 747 can probably remain in service for a hundred more years. Some 80 year old DC-3s are still making money today. I think they should junk the A380 first, just for being so butt-ugly.

        What I remember most about the 747 is the dead quiet in 1st class (not upstairs though). Nothing made since comes even close, though I do suspect that the A380 is just as quiet in front on the lower level.

        --
        Ok, we paid the ransom. Do I get my dog back? REDЯUM
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 30 2016, @09:26PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 30 2016, @09:26PM (#382059)

    If I'm flying overseas, I'd feel more comfortable with 4 engines instead of 2.

  • (Score: 2) by requerdanos on Saturday July 30 2016, @10:28PM

    by requerdanos (5997) Subscriber Badge on Saturday July 30 2016, @10:28PM (#382082) Journal

    Production of the 747 will therefore been reduced just six planes a year

    There are words missing here (in? from?) the original that would make this a proper sentence (or independent clause, as the case may be). Is production reduced only by six, to a current level of x - 6, x being a previous production level, as this phrase says? Or to (x - x) + 6, as the previous copy contradictorily indicates? They can't both be right.