Boeing delivered its 1,500th 747 to Germany's Lufthansa Airlines today at Paine Field in Everett, Washington. No other widebody aircraft has reached this milestone. It's a 747-8i model, the longest passenger jet in the world. This aircraft, registered D-ABYP is the 14th 747-8i for Lufthansa's fleet.
The 747-8i is the sixth variant on the 747 line, which first took to the skies on February 9, 1969. I had the rare opportunity to tour the inside of the very first one, in February of this year.
Video of the very first Boeing 747 flight
At the delivery ceremony, Boeing 747 Program VP and General Manager Eric Lindblad said:
"Reaching this milestone delivery is a testament to the capabilities of the airplane and our commitment to continuous innovation. The new 747-8 is delivering on its promise to our customers, and we continue to look at ways to make it even more efficient in the future."
A photo tweeted by @Lufthansa shows the "1500th" commemorative logo.
The aircraft will wear a special commemorative logo, signifying its place as the 1,500th in the venerable line of aircraft that are now flying in their sixth decade.
Lufthansa EVP Fleet Management Nico Bucholz said:
"Lufthansa is honored that the 1,500th 747 will fly with the Lufthansa livery. Lufthansa is an important partner and a valued advisor in developing new commercial airplanes with exceptional economical and ecological performance such as the 747-8. The commemorative logo will be a reminder of our relationship with Boeing, now and into the future."
The 747 is no longer selling very well, and the future of the line is in doubt as orders have all but dried up. Lufthansa's original order was for 19 of the planes, meaning only five are left to deliver. Boeing has slowed production to 1.5 planes per month, in effort to prevent a complete work stoppage. Earlier this month, the Puget Sound Business Journal reported that Emirates Airlines is in talks with Boeing for some of the planes, but an order has yet to materialize. Emirates already flies the 747's competitor, the Airbus A380. The airline will receive their 50th A380 this year.
Air Force One - Photo by Paul Thompson
Many people suspect the next Air Force One will be a Boeing 747-8 model. The current Air Force One is a 747-200 (VC-25A) model, which first entered service under President George Bush in 1990. The Air Force has issued requests for proposal on a future replacement aircraft, but by the time that gets through the congressional red tape, built and modified for all of the presidential and security needs, the VC-25As will be nearing 30 years old. The Airbus A380 would be suitable, but people on both sides of the aisle would throw a fit if the President represented America in a plane that wasn't assembled in America, by Americans. The forthcoming Boeing 777X will also be considered. While it would be somewhat smaller that the 747, it runs on only two engines, making it more economical to operate.
A retired Korean Airlines 747-400, by Alan Wilson (CC Commercial License)
Called the "Queen of the Skies" since entering service, many airlines around the world once used the 747 as the backbone of their international fleets. However, as the previous generation 747-400s are reaching retirement age, most airlines are choosing to replace 747s with other aircraft such as the A380, and the 777.
According to the 747 order database on planespotters.net, there are just 21 747s currently on order. Aside from Lufthansa's remaining five, the other sixteen are sold to cargo airlines. This gives the 747 just over 14 months left in production, unless more orders come in or Boeing slows the production rate again. As an aviation geek, this saddens me.
Top image via Boeing